This weekend saw the much-anticipated Saturday Night Live debut for comedian Sasheer Zamata, who joined the show as a featured player following months of controversy over the show’s lack of diversity. Back in October, when cast member Kenan Thompson announced that he would no longer play female characters and that Jay Pharoah didn’t want to either, it reignited debate about the topic — Thompson’s decision would effectively mean there would be no black female characters on the show because there was nobody to play them.
With Zamata’s hiring this month, that’s no longer the case.
For her first episode, in which she appeared in more than half of the non-musical segments, SNL made good use of its new range of possibilities. Near the top of the show, Zamata played Rihanna and host/musical guest Drake’s aunt — and then went on to appear as a variety of characters for whom race was irrelevant.
Here’s the full list of her roles:
1. Okay, not a sketch, but her first appearance was in the opening credits.
2. Drake’s things-you-didn’t-know-about-Drake opening monologue included a flashback to the host’s culture-clash-y bar mitzvah, at which Zamata appeared as a member of his father’s side of the family. Her first line on SNL: “Mazel tov!”
3. In a BET Hip-Hop Classics “before they were stars” sketch, which paired hip-hop stars with un-hip-hop pop culture, she appeared in two examples — once as Rihanna in a reboot of the show Blossom.
4. She demonstrated her song and dance chops in a song about the difficulty of keeping a New Year’s resolution.
5. In her first sketch with substantial lines, she played the host of a tween sleepover party at which one girl creepily thinks her dad (Drake) is hot.
6. In another installation of class with Vanessa Bayer’s recurring loopy-poetry-teacher character, Zamata played a small role as a student in detention.
7. Again, not a sketch, but the night ended predictably for Zamata: with lots of hugs during the episode’s close.
Watch Zamata in the “Resolution Revolution” skit:
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