Sasheer Zamata, a graduate of New York's Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe, has been named "Saturday Night Live's" newest cast member.
But that's not the big news. That would be this: She's black.
New Yorker Zamata becomes only the fifth African-American female cast member on the show over its 39 seasons -- a blind spot that was widely noted (and criticized) before the outset of this past season, when six new cast members, all white, were named. The show's two black male cast members, Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah, also weighed in, saying they would no longer perform in drag to portray black women.
In response to the criticism, show creator Lorne Michaels held what trade publications on Monday called "historic" bi-coastal cast auditions with the goal of redressing the omission.
After graduation from the University of Virginia, Zamata moved to New York in 2009, where she began performing at the UCB's West 26th Street theater in Chelsea. She got some good press -- she told Brooklyn Magazine, which named her one of the 50 funniest people in the borough, that "being a comedian in New York means you're doing a lot of different things," and noted that besides standup, she was also working on a screenplay. She also wrote and produced a video -- about being flashed -- that went viral on Jezebel.com.
The other black "SNL" female cast members were Yvonne Hudson (1980-81), Danitra Vance (1985-86), Ellen Cleghorne (1991-95) and Maya Rudolph (2000-07), who is biracial.
Zamata will debut on the Jan. 18 edition, when Drake hosts and performs.
Some Zamata clips. (App users, view them at newsday.com/tvzone.)