As He Pushes the Envelope on 'SNL,' Bowen Yang Recalls his Gayest Skit

Thursday May 6, 2021
Originally published on May 5, 2021

Bowen Yang has had several milestones as a "Saturday Night Live" regular: The first Chinese American to star on the show and the first open LGBTQ gale male performer to appear beyond one season. "You might not even notice how radical his sensibility has become, as he's eased into his second year as a featured cast member," Entertainment Weekly wrote in an interview with the 30-year-old actor and comedian.

"I went in thinking, 'I'm going to try to do everything,' " he said. "But I've learned what my wheelhouse is, that it's okay to home in on some specific tone or material or lexicon." Take a number of his recent skits. On the March 28 episode, he appeared on the "Weekend Update" sequence where he offered "a rare earnest moment on this weekend's episode as he commented on the recent wave of anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States," reported People Magazine. "If someone's personality is 'punch an Asian grandma,' it's not a dialogue," he said. "I have an Asian grandma, you want to punch her. There ain't no common ground, mama," he said in the routine, which was co-written by Celeste Yim and Sudi Green.

"It was a very emotional experience to write. On average, people work on two to three things a week; that was the only thing I worked on that week. I had spent seven hours on that first draft. It was really hard... I had never been that microscopic with a piece more than I [was] with this," Yang told Entertainment Weekly.

Two weeks later, Yang returned to "Weekend Update" in something completely different — an ingenious skit (he co-wrote with Anna Drezen) in which he played the iceberg from the Titanic. Appearing to promote his new EDM album, the discussion quickly dissolved into him reluctantly taking a question about the sinking of the ocean liner.

"By the next morning, the sketch would trend on Twitter from coast to coast, a smash hit. Such a one-two punch is rare for a featured SNL player — and, as breakouts, they showcase Yang's capabilities in both writing and performing. (He joined the series in 2018 as a writer before shifting to the cast the next year.)," wrote Entertainment Weekly. Yang describes his easing into "SNL" as "coming in at the right place at the right time."

Yang also said the gayest thing he's done on the show so far was the 2019 skit in which guest host Harry Styles played a social media manager for Sara Lee, who confuses his very sexual IG account with that of the corporation and must explain it to his managers, played by Yang and Cecily Strong. In the skit, which Yang co-wrote with Julio Torres (the star of the HBO series "Los Espookys"), Styles' character posts sexually explicit and inappropriate photos and comments to promote the food giant's product. To Entertainment Weekly "Yang proudly describes it as 'about the intersection of being horny and sad.' He remembers saying to Styles and costar Cecily Strong backstage, just before they went live, 'I can't believe this is about to be on TV.' "