I’ve been watching Saturday Night Live for a long time now—most of its nearly 40-year existence. I remember the last two black female cast members (Ellen Cleghorne, back in the 1990s, and Maya Rudloph just a few years back) but I don’t remember them arriving on the show as anything but cast members.
So I’m nervous for Sasheer Zamata, who is joining SNL as just the fifth black woman to ever be in the show’s cast. Her arrival comes about, in part, because the show’s two black male cast members were tired of doing drag—and in part because it became a huge controversy: Really? Lorne Michaels couldn’t discover more than one funny black woman in a generation? Yet he still found time to give us Rob Schneider?
Zamata’s arrival is thus weighed down by all sorts of political expectations, and that’s too bad. Her job is to be funny. Full stop. And from the videos that she’s appeared in online, there’s every reason to think that’ll be the case.
They can be funny and thought-provoking:
Funny and sexy:
And, you know, funny as a straight woman:
It’s ridiculous that SNL hasn’t had more black women in the cast. Now that Zamata’s been hired, though, let’s just give her a chance to be funny.