The search is over!
EW has confirmed that Sasheer Zamata, a New York-based comedian, is joining the cast of Saturday Night Live when the show returns from hiatus January 18. Zamata will be the first black woman to appear regularly on SNL since Maya Rudolph left the series in 2007.
Her casting marks the end of a hunt that began after SNL was criticized for its lack of diversity last fall, when executive producer Lorne Michaels welcomed six new featured players to the show – five of whom were men, and all of whom were white. That criticism, along with widely panned remarks made by longtime cast member Kenan Thompson in a TV Guide interview (“Like in auditions, they just never find [black women] that are ready”), led Michaels to pledge to add a black woman to the cast by January 2014. (Interestingly enough, Zamata was not among the 11 black women who tried out for SNL in a semi-secret audition held in Los Angeles this past December – though she and auditioner Nicole Byer are friends who collaborate on a UCB web series.)
Like many of SNL’s recent and past hires, Zamata is an alum of New York City’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theater community. She’s also a standup comedian and a writer whose work has been featured in publications including The New York Times and Jezebel. Just days ago, Cosmopolitan put her on their list of 13 funny women to watch in 2014. And like any good millennial comedian, Zamata’s got a thriving web presence as well – this slightly NSFW video has garnered over 100,000 views, as well as an endorsement from Lena Dunham: