Sasheer Zamata joins ‘Saturday Night Live,’ first African-American woman in 6 years

Posted at 5:35 PM, Jan 06, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-06 17:36:55-05

(CNN) — Sasheer Zamata will join “Saturday Night Live” this month, making her the first African-American female in the show’s cast in six years, a show rep said Monday.

Zamata will make her debut on the late-night sketch comedy show on January 18, when hip-hop star Drake is scheduled to host, the rep said.

The comedian has been honing her skills with the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York since graduating from the University of Virginia with a drama degree in 2009, according to her official biography.

Producers of the NBC show have been criticized for the lack of diversity since Maya Rudolph left the cast six years ago.

In October, “SNL” cast member Kenan Thompson told TV Guide the show had difficulty finding qualified black female comedians to hire. He insisted that the talent pool was limited because so many of the women were not seasoned enough for the job.

Executive Producer Lorne Michaels told The New York Times last month he was holding audition and that a black woman would be added to the cast in January.

“All told, we’ve seen about 25 people,” he said. “A lot of the people we saw are really good. Hopefully, we’ll come out of the process well.”

Zamata, whose name was one of those floated in media reports, is known for her comedy videos online in which she writes and performs.