Improvising with Sasheer Zamata

Sasheer Zamata is a comedian, actress, writer and a four-season cast member on Saturday Night Live. She just released her first one-hour special, “Pizza Mind,” to rave reviews. She received improv and sketch training from the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) Theater, and performs stand-up at colleges and clubs across the country. Upright Citizens Brigade All-Stars is a 90-minute, unscripted and totally improvised performance from the company at the forefront of improvisational comedy. Three of UCB’s featured main-stage performers will team up with UCB alumna Zamata at the Ridgefield Playhouse May 4 at 8 p.m. to perform a high-energy show full of surprises and hilarity. Andrea Valluzzo spoke with Zamata about her comedy career.

Andrea Valluzzo: How did you get started with Upright Citizens Brigade?

Sasheer Zamata: I was a fan of improv when I was younger, and I started an improv group when I was a student at the University of Virginia. The UCB touring company performed at my school and we had a Q&A session with the group after the show. Someone asked, “How do you get a career in comedy?” and Bobby Moynihan said, “Move to New York, go to UCB and work really really hard,” and I did just that.

AV: Where do you find your comedic inspirations/material?

SZ: The things I write about in my material come from personal experiences. Things I’ve encountered with my family, friends or relationships. Or I’ll talk about things that confuse or upset me and I’ll try to dissect them on stage.

AV: Looking back on the history of comedy, who are some of your role models or favorites?

SZ: Richard Pryor, Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, Chris Rock, Whoopi Goldberg and Sarah Silverman.

AV: What’s the best thing about doing improv?

SZ: The best part of improv is that it feels like magic. A group of people can combine their skills and brain power to create whole worlds together, and I think that’s pretty amazing.

AV: And the most challenging?

SZ: I think the most challenging part of improv is trying not to control everything. You have to trust your scene partner and fall into the scene together as opposed to mapping it out in your head by yourself.

AV: Tell our readers a bit about what the show at the Ridgefield Playhouse will be like.

SZ: The show will be something that has never been done before and never to be seen again. It’ll be fun and funny, and you won’t want to miss it.

AV: You did the Pizza Mind special last year and have done a bunch of acting roles recently. What else are you working on these days?

SZ: I just shot a pilot for NBC called “So Close” and we’re waiting to hear if the network will pick it up for more episodes. I’m starring in a movie called “The Weekend” and you should keep an eye out for that. And I’ve been taking my variety show “Sasheer Zamata Party Time” on the road, which has been very fun.

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