Gay Asian comedian Bowen Yang makes an instant impact in his historic debut on SNL

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Bowen Yang has made his first appearance on Saturday Night Live, becoming the first Asian comic to join the show’s cast.

The comic made his debut on the September 28 SNL season premiere, portraying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the opening skit, as well as a brief appearance as fringe Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang.

The latter impersonation apparently went down well with Andrew Yang himself, who tweeted: “Haha great to see @bowenyang as me on @nbcsnl!”

Bowen Yang is first gay Asian comic on SNL.

Bowen Yang, whose parents are from China, is best known as the co-host of gay comedy podcast Las Culturistas, as well as for his viral lip-sync videos to dramatic monologues.

The comic has previously served as a staff writer on the show during its 44th season, co-writing a skit that featured Emma Stone as an actress who is cast in a gay porn film as the cheated-on girlfriend.

Bowen Yang as Andrew Yang on SNL
Bowen Yang as Andrew Yang on SNL

His casting was announced at the same time as Shane Gillis, who was sacked from the show before the premiere after podcast recordings resurfaced in which he used anti-LGBT slurs and racist language.

According to Varietythe initial decision to hire Gillis was taken because SNL creator Lorne Michaels had been searching for a right-wing figure to “counteract the appearance of liberal bias” on the show.

An SNL spokesperson later said: “We hired Shane on the strength of his talent as comedian and his impressive audition for SNL.

“We were not aware of his prior remarks that have surfaced over the past few days. The language he used is offensive, hurtful and unacceptable.

“We are sorry that we did not see these clips earlier, and that our vetting process was not up to our standard.”

Lack of out gay men on SNL has been called out.

SNL has previously been called out for its lack of gay male comics, with 1980s staple Terry Sweeney and short-lived 2014 cast member John Milhiser among the only out men to have appeared.

James Adomian, who is known for his viral impersonations of Bernie Sanders, said in 2018: “We are in a golden age of gay male comics, at live shows, around the country and at festivals.

“We are very well-presented at live shows and on the internet. Television? Not so much.

“It’s sad for me to see these guys and go, ‘Oh my God, this is great!’, and then you realise, ‘Oh f**k, there’s a brick wall in front of them…’ it would be nice if they put a gay man on camera on that show.”

He claimed that execs including SNL’s Lorne Michaels were afraid of putting gay men on TV, adding: “[They’re saying], I’m not homophobic, but I’m afraid that my audience is.”

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