Bowen Yang is moving from the writers’ room to the stage as one of three new Saturday Night Live cast members.
With just a couple weeks before season 45 kicks off, Saturday Night Live has announced three new additions to the cast. Chloe Fineman and Shane Gillis join the show along with writer-turned-performer Bowen Yang.
It didn’t take long for some controversy to swell up following the announcement. As fans and others tried to learn more about the new cast members, clips surfaced of Ellis using racial slurs as well as sexist and homophobic remarks. The comedian and podcast host took to Twitter to defend himself, offering an apology to anyone offended by his attempt to push the envelope and take risks as a comedian.
It is a dark cloud hanging over what should otherwise be a positive announcement from Saturday Night Live. Lorne Michaels and the rest of SNL are surely used to this kind of pushback against any cast member doing and saying anything “risque” like Michael Che or Pete Davidson.
Ellis has two other talented comedians joining him on the cast. Fineman is a Groundlings performer who was recognized at the 2018 Just for Laughs festival in Montreal. She has a handful of videos on YouTube that should give fans an idea of the characters Fineman could bring to SNL.
Bowen Yang’s acting credits include the television series High Maintenance and Broad City. Yang has also appeared in the movie Isn’t It Romantic?.
Yang joined the SNL writing staff last season. He is credited as a writer on several popular sketches including the Brett Kavanaugh post-game press conference, “Cheques,” and “The Actress” with Emma Stone. Yang also appeared in a sketch playing the role of Kim Jong Un.
Clearly Yang is comfortable on stage performing as you can see from this sketch. He manages to steal the show from Sandra Oh and Beck Bennett. Yang also has a strong fanbase thanks to his podcast “Las Culturistas” and a popular Twitter feed. A new cast member coming from podcasting and social media shows you how different the path to Saturday Night Live can be in 2019.
Yang also brings more diversity to the cast which has been a point of concern in the past. He will be the show’s first fully Asian-American cast member and the fifth cast member who is openly gay, joining Terry Sweeney, Danitra Vance, Kate McKinnon, and John Milhiser.
It can be difficult for new cast members to carve out a spot on Saturday Night Live during the first year. It’s not a question of talent or ability but rather just the way the show operates. But after a successful year as a writer, Yang has an advantage over the other two rookies joining the show. Yang is familiar with how SNL works and the process of getting an idea approved. That experience, combined with his own talents, means Yang is poised to be a breakout star in season 45.
Saturday Night Live starts season 44 on Sept. 28 with host Woody Harrelson and musical guest Billie Eilish. Look for Bowen Yang, Chloe Fineman, and Shane Ellis to get a chance to make a first impression on the SNL fans.