When Saturday Night Live returns for season 44, the comedian Ego Nwodim will be the newest featured player on the late-night sketch series. She will also be the sixth black woman to join the cast in the show’s history.
Ego Nwodim’s Upright Citizens Brigade profile describes her as “an actor-writer-improviser-cupcake connoisseur from Baltimore” who graduated from the University of Southern California (where she studied biology, not film or acting). She wrote her own one-woman show, called “Great Black Women…and Then There’s Me,” in 2017, and performed it at UCB in New York, before nabbing the attention of the Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels.
Before Nwodim makes her SNL debut, you might want to familiarize yourself with some of her previous work. Besides her bit parts on multi-camera television comedies like 2 Broke Girls, and the Disney series Liv and Maddie and K.C. Undercover, Nwodim tried her hand at making content on the web-series front. In 2017, she and fellow comedian Kim Cooper co-created a series called Egg Kelly, which follows two awkward best friends and roommates as they navigate the ups and downs of living and working in Brooklyn (sound familiar?), while addressing the absurdity of social performance at the coffee shop, in the workplace, or at the hair salon.
Of course, she’s also active on Instagram, where she shares the occasional bit, as well as sketches from her time onstage at UCB.
Saturday Night Live has not had the best track record with hiring people of color to be featured players on the show. When Tiffany Haddish hosted SNL in 2017, she was only the 12th black woman to host the show in its 43-season history. That season also began with the departure of the comedienne Sasheer Zamata, who became the show’s sole black female member after joining in its 39th season. Aside from Zamata, there have only been four black female cast members on SNL, including the seven-season veteran Maya Rudolph (who was also one of the 12 black female hosts), Ellen Cleghorne, Danitra Vance, and Yvonne Hudson.
SNL’s creator, Lorne Michaels, has received flak for the lack of multicultural representation on the show and in the writer’s room (the Insecure writer and star Natasha Rothwell recently gave an interview to NPR about her short stint in the SNL writers’ room, maintaining that the comedy institution is not set up for people of color to succeed), so the addition of Nwodim to the cast is monumental. She will also be joined by four new writers—Alan Linic, Alison Gates, Eli Mandel, and Bowen Yang, an Asian-American comedian who, in recent months, has gained prominence for his lip-sync videos of monologues by influential women and characters in pop culture (this clip of Yang as Sandra Oh’s Grey’s Anatomy character, Dr. Christina Yang, is a good primer).
The addition of Nwodim and Yang to the Saturday Night Live team this season will not solve the problem that is the lack of diverse representation on the stage and in the writers’ room, but it will hopefully make a somewhat stale 44-year-old television sketch series more in touch with the reality of the zeitgeist.