Featured Artist In Action: SNL's Sasheer Zamata

Over the last few years, Sasheer Zamata has been on fire! Not only has she garnered acclaim and fans for her improv, sketch, and stand-up work with UCB, CollegeHumor, and MTV, in 2014 she joined the rarified ranks of the Saturday Night Live cast.

In 2012, when she was on the brink of major success, Sasheer took the Path Course. I recently had the pleasure to ask her about that experience and what "path" her career has taken since then.

What brought you to the Path Course back in 2012?

In 2012 I was performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater (UCB). I was on house improv teams, writing and acting on sketch teams, hosting a variety show and doing stand up throughout the week. My manager was sending me out for commercial and TV auditions. I was auditioning a lot, but not booking a lot. I was doing well and keeping busy with all my projects, but I wanted to be more focused with my goals and activities.

What were the goals you set when you took Path?

The one-year goals I set during the Path class were to book a national commercial, have a one-person show running at UCB, finish my webseries (Pursuit of Sexiness), shop a pilot around to different networks and audition for SNL. I reached all of my goals. Some of them happened sooner than I hoped, some happened later, and some happened but didn't turn out the way I hoped but that ended up being okay. I did finish putting together my one-person show and I auditioned it for a run at UCB. The theatre passed and I didn't get a run, but I was glad I completed it, and later I put up a half hour of stand up at the theater, which ended up being a better way for me to get my material out anyway.

I booked a national commercial within the year and that financially helped me to work on other goals. Nicole Byer and I did complete our webseries within the year, I think we released it the following year, and we went around to different networks to shop our pilot idea. No bites from the networks, but we did get a lot of attention and positive reactions for our webseries and we're still continuing it.

And I auditioned and got cast on SNL. In 2012 I wanted to be called in for a screen test for the show, that didn't happen, but it happened in 2013 and I got cast in 2014.

What’s your life like today?

Most of my schedule consists of SNL during the season, and when we're off most of my time is dedicated to writing and performing stand up, and auditioning for other projects. Life is really great right now. I feel very lucky that I get to make a living by doing what I love.

Have you encountered unanticipated challenges and roadblocks? How did you handle them?

I still have to deal with rejection. There's a lot of that with the business I'm in, but not taking it personally and using that energy to focus on other things helps. If I didn't reach a goal, or if I reached the goal but didn't get the result I wanted, I would reassess what I wanted and try a different thing. And sometimes by working on another goal, I end up getting other goals along the way.

What was the most valuable thing you took away from your Path experience?

I didn't think about the idea of celebrating my success until the Path class. Before I would just go go go and if I accomplished a goal it was like "Great. Got it. Now on to the next thing." But I would rarely take a moment to acknowledge the thing I accomplished and be proud of it. That helps. I have a lot more reflective moments where I'm like "Oh yeah, I wanted to do that thing, and then I did it." And I'm rewarding myself more, which feels necessary in order to have perspective on how much progress I've made.

Also being able to break down tasks into manageable bites is very valuable. I still have to remind myself to do that. It's easy to get overwhelmed with goals like "write a movie," but if I start with "write a logline for a movie" it's a bit easier to start the project.

What advice do you have for those who struggle with a loud inner critic?

I don't know if that inner critic will ever go away. It's hard. It's easy to think about all the things you're not doing and the things you "should" be doing. But you can use that inner critic to analyze what's going on with your behavior. Like instead of getting mad at yourself for not doing a thing, take a moment to think about it. Maybe you're not doing a thing because you don't want to do that thing. Maybe you haven't finished your pilot because you don't actually like it, or maybe you're just more excited about something else at the moment.

What do you know now that you wish you knew then?

I wish I knew not to be so hard on myself. I can get really down on myself for not living up to my own expectations, but no one else has those same expectations for me. I'm my biggest critic and biggest nag, and I could've been a nicer to myself. I also wish I took more time to chill out. Not everything is so serious, and there are no real deadlines. It's good to make deadlines, for sure, but also time isn't real, so what am I even worried about?

What’s next for you?

I'm going on a stand-up tour in July, Nicole and I are planning to film another season of Pursuit of Sexiness, and I'm excited to do more work and create more.

Get to know Sasheer even more with this video Q&A from SNL's 40th Anniversary celebration!