(Photo courtesy of UCB)

(Photo courtesy of UCB)

Sasheer Zamata learned she was SNL’s newest cast member just minutes before you probably did. “It was pretty wild because that day they called her [at] Monday at like 3 p.m. and it was on the Internet at 3:30,” said Josh Sharp, her friend and one of her frequent comedy collaborators. That night, 20 or 30 improvisers and writers from the Upright Citizens Brigade feted the 27-year-old with champagne and cocktails at The Drink, near her home neighborhood of East Williamsburg. Bedford + Bowery spoke with six of her peers to ask what Sasheer was like before she got the call from Lorne Michaels.

On her style
“She’s the most stylish human being I’ve ever seen. Oh my God, just incredible outfits. She can pull off some crazy Victorian blouse with a vest and then acid-washed jeans. Amazing clothes. She loves shopping and she loves thrifting.” Time Out New York wrote about how great her clothes are.” Stephanie Bencin

On her name
“She does a stand-up bit about it. A lot of people mispronounce it because they think it’s like an ‘ethnic’ name, but her parents got the word from an episode of Star Trek. People think it’s an African name but it is very much a nerdy, Trekkie name.” Josh Sharp

On coming to NYC
“When she was at UVA [majoring in drama] she saw a UCB Touring Company show that had Bobby Moynihan in it, and she got to ask him a question afterwards. And she was like, ‘How should I do comedy?’ and he said, ‘Go to New York City and study at UCB.’ And she was like ‘OK.’ Then like a month later he got on SNL, so she was like, ‘This guy is right.’ She followed his footsteps.” Nate Dern, who shadowed Sasheer and four other up-and-coming comedians for the documentary On the Cusp, Off the Cuff

On her improvisation with the trio Doppelganger

“It was just fast, smart, funny — it was a voice that UCB didn’t quite have because a three-black-women improv group didn’t exist. It was rare that UCB had that diverse of a group. At that time there was nothing like it. And [Sasheer, Nicole Byer, and Keisha Zollar] were just ballsy and hilarious, and it was great. They had a long run at [the weekly UCB improv showdown] Cage Match and then they got their own slot. Amy Poehler emailed UCB and she was like, ‘These guys are great and they should be seen more.’” Frank Hejl

“It was the thing to go see Doppelganger. And they have put on some of the most spectacular improv shows I’ve ever seen.”Corinne Fisher

“I was a judge at the Friar’s Club Improv Competition when Doppelganger performed. I voted for them all the way [another group ended up winning]. Shasheer is dazzling onstage and people watching SNL can expect unbridled commitment and fun, vivid characters. She is starlight to watch.” Christina Gausas

On her characters

“Her Nicki Minaj is hilarious.” –SB (seconded by everyone)

“I remember in an SNL showcase a couple of years ago, she did an impression of Eartha Kitt on hold with some kind of service line, I can’t remember what it was: I just remember it was Eartha Kitt on hold. And it was so funny.” –FH

On her stand-up

“You wouldn’t expect her to be as absurd and physical as she actually is, which is why she’s so funny.” –JS

“There are very few UCB people who can do stand-up and improv. But she’s somehow been able to do both very successfully. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who’s done it that well.” –ND

“She’s definitely warm and friendly. She does the storytelling thing. I like watching her because she doesn’t talk a lot about a lot of super-female-y stuff, it’s not like vag-tastic. But it’s also not about being black.” –CF

On her attitude
“She’s extremely positive — it’s like contagious positivity — and she’s extremely ambitious and just talented and beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything negative out of her mouth. It’s just, ‘Alright, let’s go!’” –FH

“At one point, I put her on a house improv team, I gave what became Doppelganger a run at the theater, she was a writer/actor on a sketch team, and she co-hosted a weekly variety show, School Night. So she was incredibly involved at the theater, at much or more than anyone else. And on top of that she’s doing her own projects and doing stand-ups and making her own web series. She’s kind of an example of natural talent, charisma, plus work ethic.” –ND

On her change of plans
“It’s kind of funny because she was supposed to move to LA this month, and we had her ‘last show’ in December. We got her flowers, there was a standing ovation — a big to-do about it. We went out to celebrate at McManus and we got drunk and had fun. And then she had to wait it out because she didn’t know what was going to happen [after her SNL audition]. And she finally heard. She said, ‘Well I’m staying in New York and by the way…’” —FH

On her place in SNL history
“It has become so much like, ‘She’s a black girl on SNL,’ but she’s a fucking human being. She worked super hard.” –CF

“There’s so much pressure on her, there are so many eyes on her, [but] for a long time she was the only black woman on Harold night at UCB New York. And she doesn’t play like she’s the only black female, she plays like she’s just another great comedian. She’ll be just another great cast member who happens to be a black female.” —ND

“I think Sasheer always knew she was going to do something awesome.” –JS

“We know exactly how hard she worked and what a good person she is, so we’re just so psyched to see her. I know she’s going to kill it.” –FH

Correction: the original version of this post misidentified Zamata’s neighborhood as Greenpoint.