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Bowen Yang Is Changing the Late-Night Comedy Landscape

He’s only the third out gay man in SNL’s cast, but a lot has changed since the first one starred in the show.

5/24/2021 7:53:00 PM

He’s only the third out gay man in SNL ’s cast, but a lot has changed since the first one starred in the show.

At the end of his second SNL season, Yang has carved out a space for queer characters whose sexuality isn’t always a punchline.

. “I’m a firm believer in repetition,” he told NPR. “The more you see this, the more you’ll get used to it, and then the less you’ll have, like, an averse reaction.” This is an attitude he’s taken from his personal life, having grown up in a family that sent him to conversion therapy camp at 17. As he told the New York Times, “They just

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sat me down and yelled at meand said, ‘We don’t understand this. Where we come from, this doesn’t happen.’ ” Despite this, Yang’s relationship with his parents today is a healthy, supportive one. They’ve learned to accept him for who he is and have been making an active effort to understand him as best they can.

AdvertisementAlthough Sweeney’s coming out to his family was a lot less volatile, he also had to deal with a significantly less diverse, less understanding environment behind the scenes ofSNL. Although he mostly got along with the other cast members and writers, he had to put up with a lot of jokes and comments that wouldn’t fly in today’s

SNLwriters room. The most famous example was when Chevy Chase, upon having Sweeney confirm he was gay, responded by telling him, “You can start by licking my balls.” Chase also pitched a sketch where Sweeney’s character would have AIDS and they’d have to weigh him every week. Chase was forced to give Sweeney a begrudging apology for his behavior, and would go on to host the show four more times and make several more cameos. Sweeney, meanwhile, was fired at the end of the season, and he never returned.

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