Meet Bowen Yang, SNL's First Asian American Cast Member

Okay, yeah – Fred Armisen and Rob Schneider have Asian heritage. But you have to admit the announcement of new cast member Bowen Yang fills a pretty big void at SNL. Because while they will go out of their way to get Alec Baldwin to guest star as Trump, they used to just put Bobby Moynihan in a black wig and have him talk in stilted, formal English as Kim Jong-Un. Because another time, SNL did a skit on exploited Chinese factory workers played by their more racially ambiguous cast members (Armisen included) in black wigs and talking in accented English. Because they had to use Melissa Villasenor as Elaine Quijano and Aidy Bryant as Manny Pacqiao. Because the big joke in their Star Trek sketch was that no one recognized the Asian guy, Akira Yoshimura (one of SNL’s production designers), playing Sulu. And that last one was funny because it cut through the tension of an uncomfortable truth. SNL had never featured an Asian American as a regular, until now. Bowen Yang has actually been working at SNL for a year now, first joining back in 2018 as a staff writer.

It took 44 years for SNL to hire an Asian American cast member. By contrast, it took only hours for a racist video of fellow new cast member, Shane Gillis, to resurface. It’s from a September 2018 episode of Gillis’ podcast. In it, Gillis goes back and forth with a friend, complaining about the chinks living in Chinatown. The clip speaks for itself. I won’t waste any more time on Gillis. Instead, here’s a few fun facts about Bowen Yang to get you excited for his historic spot in this season’s cast.

1. He has a podcast called Las Culturistas

As seen on the Las Culturistas Twitter

Co-hosted by fellow comedian Matt Rogers, the podcast hilariously breaks down pop culture with amazing guests like Ilana Glazer, Alice Wetterlund, and more! Catch the episodes on the Forever Dog website.


2. You may have already seen him on SNL before

In the episode Sandra Oh hosted, Yang starred as the supreme leader Kim Jong-Un (somebody had to step up after Bobby Moynihan left, I guess). Bowen hilariously steals the show with Sandra Oh playing his translator. He also made a briefer appearance in the Jason Mamoa Red Wedding sketch.


3. On top of joining the SNL cast, Yang has another upcoming show

Yang will star alongside Awkwafina, B.D. Wong, and Lori Tan Chinn in an upcoming Comedy Central show based on Awkwafina’s life titled, Awkwafina is Nora from Queens. Yang will play Awkwafina’s cousin. It’s all still under production but should be gracing our screens around January!


4. He’s done some great stand-up, including a set on 2 Dope Queens

Not much to say here except, go watch it!


5. He’s hilarious on Twitter

Again, not much to say here except, go follow him! It’s all hilarious and relatable stuff to uplift your day. He also went viral a little while ago for his impeccable lip syncing to Devil Wears Prada.