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Let’s talk about SNL’s most important new cast member: Bowen Yang

Don’t let the conversation around a certain new SNL cast member overshadow the celebration for Bowen Yang, the hilarious comedian, podcaster, and SNL writer who just got promoted to featured player on the show.

Let’s talk about SNL’s most important new cast member: Bowen Yang
Bowen Yang [Photo: Alex Schaefer/NBC]

For about five hours on Thursday afternoon, Bowen Yang was the toast of the internet and the broader world of comedy beyond.

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An enormously talented stand-up comic, SNL writer, and podcaster, Yang had just been announced as one of three new featured players on Saturday Night Live, and his many fans, peers and heroes were excited for him. Aside from the fact that he would be the show’s first Asian-American cast member ever, and a rare LGBTQ presence on the program, it’s always refreshing to see an alt-comedy all-star earn a mainstream big break.

For awhile, Yang was a trending topic on Twitter, and the accolades were pouring in from all over.

And then, suddenly, they weren’t. Because another new SNL cast member started trending, for the reasons every comic fears, and inadvertently hijacked the entire conversation.

We are not here to litigate the vetting process at Saturday Night Live, or give the cancel-culture discourse any more oxygen, but rather to tip our caps to an exciting new addition to the show. For anyone now more familiar with Shane Gillis’s widely circulated jokes in light of his overshadowy controversy, here is a brief primer on Bowen Yang, the new guy to watch out for this coming season. (Congratulations to the other other new cast member, Chloe Fineman, too, though. She seems great!)

In his first season writing for SNL, Yang has already written some memorable, funny sketches like “Cheques,” starring guest host Sandra Oh, which he co-wrote with Los Espookys’ Julio Torres.

He also co-wrote this funny bit on Weekend Update about that White House press intern who, in a doctored video, appeared to have been assaulted by reporter Jim Acosta. (Remember that? From 1,000 years ago?)

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The writer made an on-camera appearance as Kim Jong-Un in that Sandra Oh episode, and it’s a character we can probably expect him to reprise in the coming season.

He is obviously plenty capable of many other character types, though, as demonstrated in this Comedy Central sketch in which he plays a fashion designer.

Here’s the comic doing standup on HBO’s 2 Dope Queens. I’d give it roughly 90% odds that we see Yang doing Weekend Update desk pieces that are thinly disguised standup bits by the third episode this season.

Yang has also built up a Twitter following for his uncanny lip syncing abilities. Here he is doing Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada and that Bagel Boss weirdo from earlier this summer (remember him?) You can go down the full rabbit hole of these videos here.

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Are there any comics left who don’t have podcasts? If so, Yang is not one of them. He co-created with fellow comic Matt Rogers the comedy podcast, Las Culturistas, which in turn birthed the indispensable one-minute pop culture rant “I Don’t Think So, Honey.” This segment has proven so popular that Rogers and Yang regularly tour it, getting however many local comedians they can muster (like, 50 of them) to go off on their own IDTSH rants.

And finally, Yang is also an actor, with appearances in the movie Isn’t It Romantic? from this past spring, and a part on Awkwafina’s upcoming Comedy Central show.

If you’re going to spend part of the day talking about a new SNL cast member, consider talking about the hilarious one who has a lot of exciting things going on more so than the one who said the bad things. Congratulations, Bowen. Fast Company will be watching.

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