Interview: Sasheer Zamata

Friend of the show, Andy Hoglund, recently had a chance to talk with SNL alumnus Sasheer Zamata. He’s distilled his thoughts into the following article, and has also provided us with the exclusive audio of his interview.

Catch, hit, field: Sasheer Zamata is versatile, savvy, and perhaps a little guarded—which only contributes to her unique status in comedy and entertainment.

By Andy Hoglund


The latest 30 for 30 remembers the curious case “Neon Deion” Sanders, and his quest to play in two separate professional sports games within a 24-hour window. Like “You Don’t Know Bo” and “Jordan Rides the Bus” before it, “Deion’s Double Play” is a snapshot of an athlete pushing the limits of ego and physical ability, redefining what it means to excel at the highest level. Sometimes it worked; and even when it didn’t, you had to awe at the versatility. To play professionally is impressive enough. To shift gears (seamlessly, mostly)? It’s a whole other stratosphere.

That’s the kind of respect I have for Sasheer Zamata. She’s got this untapped range fans perhaps never fully appreciated or took stock of during her SNL tenure. But, subtly, Zamata is redefining what it means to be a black comedienne, on her terms, and is doing so via competing platforms.

You might catch her on Adam McKay and Kal Penn's new show, The Giant Beast That is the Global Economy (now out on Amazon), or popping up on NPR, or contributing a voice to Bojack Horseman. She also has served as a celebrity ambassador for the ACLU, and has been unafraid to speak out on the issues she’s passionate about.

I’ve seen Zamata live now a few times, festivals and things like that. The last time was at the Kennedy Center on Catie Lazarus’ live talk show, Employee of the Month, which also featured Vox founder Ezra Klein. I expected the usual antidotes, maybe some portion of her standup, Pizza Mind or something. Instead, the audience was treated to this remarkable cover of Amy Winehouse. (The song: “Tears Dry on Their Own.”)

I recently sat down with Zamata to discuss her subtle range, and especially her burgeoning film career. Even in movies, you can sense her pioneering, quietly creating a new lane for black women in comedy. In both The Outdoorsman and The Weekend—which was recently shown at SXSW—she's the romantic lead. (Boomerang and a handful of exceptions aside, the universe of black women appearing as the lead in comedies, or romantic comedies is still… disturbingly small.) So, in an era of headlines championing Black Panther and BlackKKlansman, it’s important to remember the ways her film work is also contributing to the modern black moviemaking renaissance.

For those who are interested in listening to Andy and Sasheer's conversation in its entirety, you can stream or download the audio below.

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Andy Hoglund writes for The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The Daily Beast, Slate and Vulture, among others. Andy also writes SNL in Review, which discusses the film careers of Saturday Night Live alumni post-SNL. Connect with Andy on Twitter: @SNLinReview