You may have heard the news that Vanessa Bayer and Bobby Moynihan have both left Saturday Night Live. This past weekend’s episode, the 42nd season finale, was their last as cast members. If you hadn’t heard that yet, I’m sorry to be the one to break the news.
The episode was an emotional one, with special attention being paid to giving these two a good send-off. Personally, I didn’t think the episode itself was that stellar, but the writers seemed to have a running M.O. of “lovingly humiliate the crap out of Vanessa” all night, and that made my heart swell.
Moynihan got one last “Drunk Uncle” appearance during Weekend Update.
But it turns out Sasheer Zamata also saw her last episode Saturday, with considerably less fanfare—without any recognition at all, really. Entertainment Weekly didn’t even have the official confirmation that she’d left until Sunday morning.
It’s not entirely unusual for some cast members to get less attention than others, especially on a night with multiple departures. Andy Samberg left the same time as Kristen Wiig, and didn’t get the same “on-air party disguised as a sketch” as Vulture called it. And with Moynihan having been on the show for nine years and Bayer seven, maybe Zamata’s relatively brief four-year stint was enough reason to keep her out of the crowded spotlight.
Even if it was a mere issue of seniority, the lack of recognition in Zamata’s departure reflect the issues seen on the show itself. Zamata wasn’t shy about discussing the strange way she entered the show. If you remember, her hiring was the result of the internet banding together to shame SNL for its lack of black woman cast members. Lorne Michaels held a very rushed, very public audition, and Zamata was hired as the show’s first black woman since Maya Rudolph had left in 2007.
At the time, she told Vanity Fair, “It was weird to have a very public audition in that way. No one else gets that. There’s no other kind of mass call for cast members. I was in the press for just auditioning.” Earlier this year, she described the experience with even more candor. Describing how she was gearing up for the show’s usual summer auditions, her plans got interrupted in January when outrage hit the internet. “And then blogs started picking up this trend. When one topic gets trendy, everyone starts picking it up, and we all have this induced fake rage. Everyone’s like, “Oh! Now we’re all mad about this!”
That doesn’t sound like her take on her forced-hand hiring was 100% congenial, does it?
Since then, she’s played numerous real-life public figures, but I can think of exactly one original recurring character she’s done–her vlog sketch character, Janelle. (Feel free to chime in below if I’m forgetting any. I hope I am.)
Given that she’s been required to, and succeeded in, nailing impressions of nearly every black female celebrity out there from Rihanna to Michelle Obama (and don’t forget her spot-on Carmen Sandiego’s The Chief!), it’s hard not to think that she’s spent four years being underused and under-valued. After four seasons, someone with her talent should be leaving with a giant Hollywood stepping stone of a legacy.
Zamata, who also serves as an ACLU Ambassador, described her ideal next job as big-budget superhero-based. “I want to be in a Marvel movie” she told Vulture. “I want to be a superhero. I want to kick ass and be like an action star. I want that Marvel money, I want a Marvel franchise, and I want to work for the next 11 years knowing I got jobs coming up.” We want all of that for her.
As for SNL, who knows what their cast will look like next season. Hopefully not another half-decade relying on Leslie Jones as the sole black woman. Now that Melissa Villasenor has been brought on as the show’s first-ever Latina cast member, maybe they’ll even get brave enough to finally cast their first Asian cast member. I mean, it’s only been 42 years. Some* people might say it’s about time.
(Psst, Lorne, that “someone” is everyone.)
(image: screengrab, NBC)
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