Sasheer Zamata, the actress, stand-up comedian and former “Saturday Night Live” player, doesn’t think of herself as a political comedian. “I talk about my life, and being a woman, and being a black woman in America,” she said.
But on a bright morning in early fall, she tucked her leopard-print high heels under the table at the no-frills offices of the American Civil Liberties Union in Lower Manhattan. As an artist ambassador for the A.C.L.U.’s Women’s Rights Project, she had come to talk politics.
“I love you because you’re our pre-Trump ambassador,” said Jessica Weitz, the A.C.L.U.’s director of artistic engagement, who also works with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Alyssa Milano and others. “Before it was cool,” Ms. Zamata added.
The plain conference room, decorated with a few wilting plants and a “Women’s Rights Are Civil Rights” poster, overlooks New York Harbor and the helipad where the president sometimes lands.
Ms. Zamata was in town to promote “The Weekend,” a new movie about a comedian, Zadie, who plans a weekend getaway with her ex and his glamorous new girlfriend. Zadie thrives on chaos. Ms. Zamata, who joined AmeriCorps right out of college, prefers getting organized.
The A.C.L.U. recruited her in 2015. She meets with its civil liberties attorneys every year or so. They update her on current cases, supply statistics that she thinks she might use in her act, and brainstorm ways that she can amplify the project’s work. Because social justice needs jokes, too.
“I feel like that’s a really healthy and constructive way for me to channel some of this energy,” she said.
Does her work feel more urgent since Trump got elected? “It was all urgent then, it’s all urgent now,” she said.
Ms. Weitz handed Ms. Zamata a folder of newspaper clippings and a blue A.C.L.U. ribbon. Seated around the table were five female attorneys and one male intern who were dressed in varying shades of black, blue and gray.
Ms. Zamata, progressive even in her fashion, wore an apple green dress with an asymmetrical skirt and earrings that looked like straightened paper clips.
Louise Melling, the A.C.L.U.’s deputy legal director, began with an overview. “The A.C.L.U. had been busy working toward racial, justice, criminal justice, women’s rights,” she said. “So we have our hands full, but they’re super good hands.”
Sandra Park, a senior staff attorney in a no-nonsense blazer, explained the first order of business. The Department of Housing and Urban Development wants to make housing discrimination harder to prove. The A.C.L.U. was drafting a letter to oppose the change.
Would Ms. Zamata be the lead signatory? “Yes,” she said.
“This is how we get stuff done,” Ms. Weitz said enthusiastically. She used a stronger word than stuff.
Stuff also needed to get done about the targets of sexist school dress codes, like the 17-year-old girl in Florida who was reprimanded for not wearing a bra to school (she had a severe sunburn) and the teenager in Alaska who was disqualified from a swim meet when her suit was deemed too revealing, even though it was the team uniform.
“And as unfunny as all of that is, part of me just feels like this could live in your act,” Ms. Weitz said. She suggested they work on a video.
Ms. Zamata was intrigued. “I don’t think there’s enough things from the students’ perspective,” she said. She also thought she could pitch Samantha Bee’s show a segment on Facebook’s discriminatory algorithms.
The meeting moved on to a campaign to press Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and to fight against the sexual harassment of McDonald’s workers.
“Oh man,” Ms. Zamata said. “That was a lot of upsetting information.”
“Welcome to our world,” Ms. Weitz said
Ms. Weitz asked whether Ms. Zamata had any free time in the coming months. “My schedule is very fluid right now,” she said. She was working on new material for a stand-up routine.
“I have a huge chunk about sexual health in my act,” Ms. Zamata said. “I mean I never stop talking about it. Also there’s a portion where I’m talking about how mental health professionals don’t always listen to black women when we talk about our pain.” She told a story about being hit by a car in college and how she was ignored by doctors in the emergency room.
“And you’re somehow going to make that funny,” Ms. Weitz said.
“People have been laughing,” Ms. Zamata said.