When I found out Saturday Night Live finally hired a black female player, I didn’t know whether to say “Congrats, girl!” Or “‘Bout time, SNL!” Or both. Either way, I’ll be watching Jan. 18 for Sasheer Zamata’s mid-season debut.
I grew up on those side-splitting sketches with Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer, Jimmy Fallon parodies and Tina Fey weekend updates. My friends and I would sometimes call each other, tying up our parents’ lines, and howl at the sketches during the late night hours. This recent news was welcomed, indeed.
I try not to think in black and white, or brown and yellow, because so many other descriptors can define us. But in light of the revelation that SNL had merely four black female players in nearly four decades, I said, “That’s a low down, dirty shame.”
Sasheer, an alumna of the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe in New York, is the first black female cast member since Maya Rudolph. She exited the stage in 2007.
In terms of appearance, Lorne Michaels gave us the opposite of Maya in Sasheer. I wonder if Lorne thought, “You want black? I will give you black.”
Sasheer boasts a rich, dark chocolate skin tone and a name that seems to hail from the Motherland.
Lorne didn’t give us Half & Half. He didn’t give us café con leche. He gave us café americano – Black coffee, no sugar, no cream. That’s the kind of girl I need down on my SNL team. (R.I.P. Heavy D).
And I hope SNL doesn’t give us so much more. Should SNL address the proverbial elephant in the room or act like it’s just another Saturday night in the heart of New York City?
Well, here are seven roles I don’t want Sasheer to play on SNL.
The video vixen.
Drake is both the host and musical act during her debut. The last thing I want to see is Sasheer sashaying in a shiny mini dress during a recreation of one of his videos. Lord, no.
Michelle Obama, Oprah or Dr. Maya Angelou.
There are other melanin-rich women of power. Find some new ones. How about Janelle Monaé? A sketch with her and Jay Pharoah as Jay Z could be a hit.
The lip-smacking, red weave-wearing, loud chick.
No thank you. Over the years, I’ve seen that role played by Oscar winner Halle Berry, Oscar nominee Queen Latifah and, most recently, Emmy nominee Kerry Washington. Please don’t have any more talented women of color perpetuate these stereotypes. Use their power for good.
The reality TV star.
(See above.) I don’t want nary a NeNe impersonation or a reference to that new show with Melyssa Ford. I think it’s called Hell on Heels in New York, or something like that. Those ladies have other platforms. I’d like to hold the SNL stage at 30 Rock in higher esteem.
The loose women or mistress.
The Jezebel stereotype. Need I say more?
The domestic workers or slave.
“The Help” was a great book and film, but I’m done with it. I would not find any maid references funny on Saturday night. Also, Lupita Nyong’o played the heck out of the role of a slave woman in “12 Years a Slave” so no other women would have to reprise it.
The heavy-accented African lady.
Writers, please stretch.
Actually, don’t stretch. Stick with sketches about everyday folks who happen to be black. I pray that you consider Sasheer for all of the other roles given to Aidy Bryant or Cecily Strong that aren’t race-specific. You know? A lady that likes to bring it on down to Omeletteville. A lady that can’t get a word in edgewise on “What’s Up With That?” A young, black lady like me.
SNL Team, I pray that you all allow Sasheer to perform sketches she’s conceived or written.
No matter what, I’ll be watching next Saturday.
Sasheer, congrats, girl!
Dioni L. Wise is a writer and editor based in North Carolina.