Bowen Yang downplays Dave Chappelle, Shane Gillis SNL "controversy"

Kyle Grillot for USA TODAY

Bowen Yang stands as one of the faces of Saturday Night Live after the show wrapped its 49th season. So it's no surprise that so many eyes are on the talented cast member. But that came at a cost during the season when Yang was caught up in multiple controversies.

During the January 27 episode hosted by Dakota Fanning, comedian Dave Chappelle appeared on stage during the goodnights. It was unusual since Chappelle didn't cameo in the episode. And it's not like a star of his magnitude would be invited to do a sketch only to have it cut for time.

But much more was made of Bowen Yang's body language during the goodnights. He stood on the opposite side of the stage, arms folded. Some concluded that Yang was unhappy with Chappelle's presence, given the stand-up's history of transphobic and homophobic jokes.

In an interview for Variety, Yang finally spoke on the night in question. “I stand where I always stand on good nights. It was not a physical distance that anyone was creating,” he told Variety. “It had to do with so many things that were completely internal.”

“It was about other people’s response in the show. I was just confused, that was it," Yang concluded.

Bowen Yang and Shane Gillis finally shared the Saturday Night Live stage together

The Chapelle incident wasn't the only time Yang had his name dragged into a largely manufactured controversy. Comedian Shane Gillis hosted on February 24, just a few years after SNL fired him before ever appearing in the cast.

Gillis' controversial comments on a podcast, including the use of Asian stereotypes, caused a firestorm that led SNL to cut ties with the comedian. Gillis was set to join SNL at the same time as Yang, linking their names in the media ever since.

“Anytime our names are in the same sentence, at least in a journalistic way, it always feels deleterious," Yang told Variety. "It feels like one person is trying to undo the other. I was just really curious about what that show would be like and if it would be an opportunity to really move past it,

“I think he and I have done enough things in our careers now to really not [have] that be the definitive beginning or the thing that casts a pall over everything else that we do going forward.”

For what it's worth, Yang and Gillis embraced during the goodnights. It was a stark contrast from the Chappelle "incident," although the two situations were much different.

Yang's comments put to end fan theories and speculation about how he felt about both incidents. It's a reminder of just how connected some SNL fans feel toward Yang. But there does need to be a line somewhere when it comes to parasocial relationships and how damaging assumptions can be.