SARAH VEST – STAFF WRITER
The Week Five Chautauqua Lecture Series on “The Authentic Comedic Voice: A Week in Partnership with the National Comedy Center” will open with a conversation between “Saturday Night Live” repertory player Ego Nwodim and NPR’s television critic Eric Deggans. The conversation will be taking place at 10:30 a.m. Monday, July 26 in the Amphitheater.
Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair For Education, said he is “thrilled to start the week with Ego Nwodim, one of the most versatile stars of ‘Saturday Night Live.’ ”
Before she joined “SNL” as a featured player in 2018, Nwodim was a mainstay at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles and her one-woman show, Great Black Women … and Then There’s Me, had a sold-out run at UCB in 2017. She also performed as a New Face at the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal in 2016.
Recently, Nwodim has been seen in Hulu’s “Shrill,” IFC’s “Brockmire” and the feature film “The Broken Hearts Gallery.” She is a fan favorite and regular on the “Comedy Bang! Bang!” podcast. She was recognized by Variety as part of their 2021 New York Women’s Impact Report.
Deggans said that Nwodim has had an interesting career and that “SNL” itself has had an interesting year this year. According to Deggans, other than “The Crown” and “The Mandalorian,” “SNL” received more Emmy nominations than any other program.
Nwodim was promoted from a featured player to a repertory player before “SNL’s” 46th season in 2020. Though she had experience on the show, Deggans is curious to hear more about how it was transitioning between filming episodes at home to moving back in front of a live audience, before any other show, over the course of quarantine. Ewalt is, too.
“From their first experiment with a show entirely via Zoom, with cast members joining from home, to when they finally had a live audience, we saw the cast and crew of ‘SNL’ tell a one-of-a-kind story of producing a weekly live show through a pandemic,” Ewalt said.
Deggans will be giving a solo morning lecture Tuesday about the evolution of Black comedy in television, so he is curious about what it was like for her joining the cast as a Black woman, given that “Saturday Night Live” had been criticized for a lack of Black women in its cast.
“When Maya Rudolph left, and before Leslie Jones joined the cast, there was a real dearth of Black female performers,” Deggans said. “It got to the point where Kenan Thompson has refused to play Black female characters anymore.”
Deggans also hopes that Nwodim will also be willing to talk about what it was like to join the “SNL” cast, given this criticism and how she thinks the show has done in terms of improving diversity.
Deggans points to other cast members like Thompson and Pete Davidson who are starring in sitcoms and movies in addition to being on “SNL.” He wonders if Nwodim is lining herself up for anything outside of her role on the show, something that “SNL” stars have been doing more than they ever had in the past.
“There’s tons of stuff to talk about,” Deggans said. “I don’t think an hour is going to be long enough.”