Ego Nwodim Is Continuing the Legacy of Funny Black Female Voices in Late Night Sketch Comedy

Since joining Saturday Night Live in 2018, Ego Nwodim has embodied characters on the long-running late-night sketch comedy series that have become iconic—just ask anyone from Temecula! On the Mother’s Day episode that aired May 11, 2024, we met Nwodim’s Nigerian mom, who seemed prouder than ever to be delivering a one-liner next to her daughter.

“My mother was ultimately very supportive. But it was like a sort of coming out, if you will, where I had to share the news: ‘I’m going to disappoint you, I’m not going to be a doctor,’” the actress shares with EBONY over her decision to go into comedy. “Everyone got on board pretty quickly [after that]. I should also mention I’m the youngest of four. I feel by the time you get to the last child, it’s kind of like, ‘Whatever, just don’t be a criminal.’”

Nwodim follows in the footsteps of just six other Black female performers before her who had been part of the SNL cast; she officially joined as a series regular in 2020. And she’s been making her SNL comedy alum aunties proud. From her character Edith Puthie to a portrayal of Dionne Warwick that gives the real singer a run for her money, Nwodim’s unforgettable performances earned her a 2024 NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.

Of course, as a fellow “Rich Auntie, No Kids,” I was elated to sit down with Nwodim before this year’s season finale, airing May 18, 2024, on NBC, to learn more about the roles she makes so memorable and where she and I have to go on our next “Rich Auntie, No Kids” trip!

EBONY: Take me back to your SNL audition. Did you know at that moment that you had nailed it?

Ego Nwodim: It was my second time testing for SNL, and I felt so free in a way because I’d done this before; I’m not walking into unfamiliar territory. I remember making fun my priority. The worst thing that could happen was that I didn’t get it. And it was on the tail of me having done my solo show, Great Black Women…and Then There’s Me. For my audition, I did a 911 operator gossiping. You would call her needing help, and she’d call her homegirl on her phone and be like, “Let me tell you what’s going on in this house.” At the time, the LeBron James I Promise School was very much in the news, so I did a parent of a student who was trying to get her son in trouble so she could meet King James.

You’ve been on SNL for the past six years, how have you grown personally in this experience?

I feel like I can do almost anything. I didn’t go to medical school, but I feel like I’m in a comedy residency at SNL. It is such a high-intensity pressure cooker week after week, creating a live show and then performing it all within a week. I feel like I’ve been put to the test if you will. I now feel far more confident in my abilities outside of SNL. I’ve figured out how to get my attention span in order. I feel like there are just so many things that I am now equipped to face in terms of the work that I do.

How has the SNL platform grown for Black female comedians, writing and telling our stories through comedy?

I feel so grateful for the opportunity to be in the cast at SNL. It’s been brought to my attention time and time again that I’m the seventh Black woman in the cast of SNL over all these years. (Saturday Night Live premiered 1975). Punkie Johnson is also in the cast now and she’s incredible. It’s great to have our voices and points of view in terms of comedy embraced, and there’s space for that here at the show. Our writing staff has gotten to do the same and be inspired by their own perspectives. I can’t wait to see other Black women join the cast over the years to come.

You have played such memorable characters, like “Lisa from Temecula.” What draws you to them?

Lisa’s so fun. She’s so disruptive and I love playing disruptive characters. I love playing strong and wrong to know what’s going on in those ladies’ heads. They’ve silenced all the noise and think they got it all figured out even if they are a mess. I don’t think I’m strong and wrong, but I might be.

How about Edith Puthie?

Edith Puthie—I also have to be slow when I say it—was born from Streeter Seidell and Mikey Day. They wrote the people in line to change their names at the name change government agency sketch. She was there to change her name, but then I guess she didn’t because she was in the “Boomers Got the VAX” sketch, and she was proudly Miss Edith Puthie. I do love her. I love what she stands for and her message.

And my personal favorite because I am an auntie in real life: “Rich Auntie, No Kids.

Veronda! Yes, I love her. I’m also an auntie in real life, and somebody was like, “What is she based on?” I was like, maybe me, am I this? I really do show up at my brother’s house, and I’m like, “Oh, the holidays.” My sister-in-law cooks the best food, and I’m all “Amazing!” I eat something, go to the basement, go to sleep and I’m like, “Okay, I’m going back to New York!” Terrible, terrible! I came up with Veronda with Asha Ward (in 2022, the Trinidadian-American writer became the youngest-ever writer on the SNL staff), Alex English and Gary Richardson. The holidays were coming, and we wanted to do a “Weekend Update” character, like an auntie with no kids. That is very much a thing, the rich auntie. Veronda was born from that and just pulling nuggets of this woman who is just doing her own thing. She pops in, dibbles and dabbles with the children when she wants to, peaces out pretty properly, living her best life. And she’s so fun. Kind of annoying. You do wish Veronda was your auntie or at least your friend. And she thinks she’s so funny. She thinks she could do Michael Che’s job. Girl, your jokes are mid. Yeah, she’s very confident.

Where would Veronda suggest this Rich Auntie getaway to?

Veronda’s sending you to Jamaica to get your own how Stella Got Her Groove Back. You got to get your groove back. You got to go to Jamaica. Get someone like Taye Diggs, yeah.

Where would Ego go?

Go to Grand Cayman. Didn’t have to think about it for one second. Grand Cayman. I’m obsessed. That’s my spot.

We know that Kenan Thompson is the longest-running series regular actor on SNL. How do you see your future with the show?

I have a ton of hopes and visions for my future. I’ve never been in a position where I say this, and this is so unlike me a person who loves to plan and loves to have all the answers, but I don’t actually know what’s next. I feel very open, and I want to follow the fun and the joy, that’s my that’s my goal. I want to be in films and write TV shows. I want to create platforms for others to write TV shows and films. So I just continue to follow the fun for myself right now, and hopefully, it leads me to more fun and to be in a position to create opportunities for other people because this has been a blast to get to do what I love.

Updated: May 17, 2024 — 6:02 pm