Published Jul 20, 2017With its mix of music, animation, personal anecdotes, and truly astute social commentary, Pizza Mind shows off Sasheer Zamata's tremendous gifts as a comedic force. It's a re-affirmation for longtime fans but also a startling revelation for those who know her best, as a (now former) cast member on Saturday Night Live.
She explores parental weirdness by telling stories about her mother, who seems to be enjoying a cultural renaissance of sorts; she's suddenly engaged in acting and joke-telling that in many ways, throws her daughter off. How awkward could it be to endure your mom telling dirty sex jokes? Or to delve into the complex history of an African-American woman growing up in Arkansas as the civil rights movement was just attempting to overcome racism, bit by bit?
For Zamata, such fodder results in multi-layered bits like "Why My Mom Doesn't like White People" and "Talking About Race." She makes the point that the rise of the fringe right and the destruction of decorum might actually be healthy for America.
The overt, blunt form of racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia that we're all now exposed to in the media and on the streets is obviously threatening and uncomfortable but Zamata argues that this is the only way for America to truly deal with itself. Of course, she accomplishes all of this with a healthy mix of satire and killer jokes about these issues.
There's a certain uncompromising defiance in Zamata's material here and a sense that she's relishing this opportunity to truly express herself. She sings the title track of this record with Jean Grae and punches up one story with a complementary cartoon. She's making the most of what Pizza Mind offers her, as a platform to communicate to a world that may not really know what she's capable of.
She alludes to her role as an SNL cast member (Zamata recorded this special before she, rather unceremoniously, departed the show at the end of this most recent season) fleetingly and primarily to make fun of a fan who came to see her do standup but was disappointed she didn't do any of her "SNL impressions."
At the risk of reading too much into that and other observational bits about the problematic nature of show business for a black female artist, Pizza Mind does feel like an assertive warning shot. Sasheer Zamata is coming for us comedy fans and, given her talents and drive, we best pay attention. (Comedy Dynamics)