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Sasheer Zamata's new special is an ode to women, mental health and witches.

Zamata performs her special that delves into topics like mental health, Amelia Earhart and witches.
Miles Bitton
/
Sechel
Zamata performs her special that delves into topics like mental health, Amelia Earhart and witches.

The SNL alum branches out to explore the subject matter that fascinates her most.

Who is she? Zamata is an actress, writer, podcast host and a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 2014-2017.

  • After leaving the sketch show, she's gone on to star in projects like I Feel Pretty, Agatha: Coven of Chaos, Spree and Home Economics.
  • What's the big deal? Zamata's new special, The First Woman, is her take on all the subject matter she's drawn to, like mental health, relationships, her experiences as a Black woman in America and witches.

  • Zamata worked on the material for the special throughout the pandemic. She feels that the events taking place in the world and in her own life during those years influenced the work more than she would have imagined.
  • "I think that time also really made me feel like I don't have to be so concerned about what other people think. And I feel like that's kind of a general feeling that went throughout most people, where it's like, "Look, life is short. We don't have a lot of time. And we don't have time to suffer fools!" And so far, when I'm just being honest and authentic, people can relate to it. So there's nothing for me to worry about."
  • Some of that candidness includes Zamata confronting her own struggles with mental health, including an anxiety diagnosis that came later in life – a pattern for many Black women who face hurdles to getting adequate medical care.

  • Want more on Hollywood? Listen to Consider This on the potential death of the movie star



    What's she saying?
    Zamata spoke with NPR's Juana Summers about the process of writing her special, and what she learned about herself.

    On where the focus on witches comes from:
    Essentially, in its core, a witch is a person – usually categorized as a woman – who is independent and doesn't follow the rules and kind of, you know, moves at the beat of their own drum.


    On learning about her anxiety diagnosis, and working it into the special:

    It kind of felt a little freeing, and it was definitely, like - gave me some security because I have this lingering question of, like, what's happening to my body? What is this? And I've had these [heart] palpitations for years but just didn't know what they were. And people kind of brushed it off and were like, oh, it's probably nothing or you know, it's fine to have an irregular heartbeat. And then it wasn't until recently when people were like, oh, there actually might be an explanation for this. And just having some kind of answer helps and makes me feel a little more aware of what's going on inside of me. And even having the knowledge of that, oh, my anxiety can turn into a physical reaction, helps me when it happens.

    If I do have palpitations, I'm like, oh, OK, I might be anxious about something. Let's think about that. What could that - be happening right now? And yeah, it's been immensely helpful just to have a name to the reaction as opposed to a mystery where I'm like, am I dying? What's happening?

    On filming the special in Washington D.C

    Oh, it was wonderful. D.C. is such a great comedy crowd. I have had the best shows in D.C., and I wanted to film my special in a place where I felt the love. And I was like, well, I've always sold out in D.C. I've always had fun there. And there was some sort of, like, ironic justice happening because I filmed the special when we were amidst having our reproductive rights being stripped away from us. And it felt kind of nice to be, like, shouting about my [expletive] in D.C., like, with all these other women in the crowd who are also talking about their bodies and their anatomy. And, yeah, it felt really good.

    And on how politics and identity intersect with her comedy:

    You know, I've actually been labeled a political comedian for most of my career, which is funny 'cause I don't think I talk about politics in the way of, like, the government or specific politicians or anything.

    But I do talk about my life being a Black woman in America, and that kind of offhand is political just because of legislation or history or things that this country doesn't address - or addresses, but not appropriately. So it's kind of my default. Like, I can't not talk about it.

    That's kind of what the stand-up's job is: to analyze what's happening in society, but also to talk about themselves. And what I am sometimes is at the center of politics.

    So, what now?

  • The First Woman is out now.
  • Learn more:

  • Billy McFarland went to prison for Fyre Fest. Are his plans for a reboot legal?
  • In 'BS High' and 'Telemarketers,' scamming is a group effort
  • The viral song 'Rich Men North of Richmond' made its way to the RNC debate stage
  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Manuela López Restrepo
    Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.