Using the Power of Comedy to Reflect on America’s Economic Caste System – Black Girl Nerds


Sasheer Zamata has fun playing Denise in Domestical economya new representation of the “social class” experienced by millennials, which audiences do not normally see represented on network television. Domestical economy is about three adult siblings with varying incomes living in San Francisco. BGN recently spoke with Zamata via Zoom about his new role and the power of comedy to create social change.

In addition to being an actress, writer, and stand-up comedian, Zamata is an Artist Ambassador for the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. “I think comedy is a really good way to break down walls,” she says. “People feel more comfortable when they’re laughing and it’s easier to talk about social justice issues when you’re relaxed. If people feel like they’re being lectured, talked down to, or have to read something, they’re like, “Oh my god…please don’t make me not. But if you make a joke about it or try to find common ground, I feel like people are more open to listening.


“I’ve been labeled a ‘political comedian’ but really, I’m only talking about myself. It’s pretty self-serving work. I tell stories about what I’ve been through in my life, and that includes my darkness and being a woman. I’ll have people coming up to me after my set and saying, ‘Whoa, I’ve never heard that perspective.’ Or, ‘I’ve been through this, and I’m so glad you brought it up on stage.’ I’ve even had people say, “I love Trump and I didn’t even know I was going to love you, but I loved everything you said.” And that’s not even my goal! I’m not trying to put everyone on the same page, but I want people to feel they can relate to what I’m saying. I hope it spills over into their own lives where they can have more mindful conversations and being more open to different perspectives and points of view.

Since the beginning of television, American sitcoms have turned to comedy to address the American caste system. The 1950s reflected the white working class of New York in Honeymooners. In the 1960s, Green Acres took the glamorous couple from New York and transplanted them to a farm. The 1970s reflected views of black life in Chicago housing projects in Good time and Manhattan’s Upper East Side, find the comedy inside The Jeffersons and upward mobility. The 1980s were a decade obsessed with money and class. The networks were filled with rags-to-riches sitcoms like Different shots and silver spoons. And Family ties amplified the class divide of the time within one family – with the 1960s liberal hippie couple dealing with their Reagan-era Republican son and materialistic daughter.

HOME ECONOMICS – ABC’s “Home Economics” stars Sasheer Zamata as Denise. (ABC/Peggy Sirota)

Domestical economy easily fits into this tradition, using humor to reflect how families live with their finances in the 2020s. Sasheer Zamata notes, “It’s a cool way to talk about money, finances, and the relationships that surround them. Relationships are affected by finances. I can see my family in this family.

The Writers Room reflects the diversity we see in America, and the scripts don’t shy away from grounding the humor in real-life reality. For example, the apartment Denise shares with his wife Sarah (Caitlin McGhee) and their two children Shamiah (Jordyn Curet) and Kelvin (Jecobi Swain) is tiny. It’s actually the kind of apartment Denise, a teacher, would share with her unemployed therapist partner who works with underserved children in San Francisco.

Zamata shared her favorite part of Denise’s role. “I love her wardrobe. The costume team are really authentic in designing what we wear. Denise and Sara wear second-hand clothes or things that are inexpensive or gifted. She’s very into crystal, talks to the moon, is energy working, and so am I. I love that she’s kind of an anchor unit for this family. She’s the voice of the people who watch the show, helping the audience understand what what happens with the story.

Each episode title has a price tag attached. “I think it’s a funny thing that the creators came up with to remind you that it’s about money. We’re going to talk about money on this show. And it’s funny how much the thing is cheap or how expensive something is depending on which character on the show bought it. Connor bought the bouncy house, definitely expensive. Sarah bought a book – it’s going to be pretty cheap.


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