May 10, 2021

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Bowen Yang adds a new eclecticism to late-night comedy

To read about the rest of the Cultural Transformation Program, including television writer Cord Jefferson and activist Maria Moore, refer to the full list here.

In 2014, when Kim Jong Un was absent from public life and rumored to be seriously ill, Bobby Moynihan portrayed North Korea’s Supreme Leader in the cold open film “Saturday Night Live.” Moynihan’s impression was typical: loud, irritable, a little playful. He jumped around the stage and flogged himself in a frenzy.

Five years later, Bowen Yang played the role of Kim during his “SNL” camera debut. Yang’s approach was completely different. Instead of treating Kim like a loud bloat, Yang made him petty. Frowning, rolling his eyes, came across like a bitchy gossip.

Saying this is not a misrepresentation of Moynihan’s talents Yang drawing He who commented. Putting the dictator down as a blatant narcissist is a no-brainer; Finding cynicism in his character is transgressive.

Yang had already spent several months writing for the show, but his debut as an actor showed his ability to reinterpret old concepts with new disdain. His funniest recurring character is the fictional Chinese bureaucrat Chen Biao, A. Pleasant splurge Who calls himself the “Queen of Crisis” and once transformed Megan Thai Stallion’s words into a communist manifesto. When Elton John, politician Andrew Yang and former writer Fran Leibovitz is mocked, Yang’s behaviors morph into well-calibrated cartoons, highlighting the strange (and sometimes obnoxious) intimacy drawn from specific celebrity personalities.

Part of Yang’s uniqueness stems from the fact that he is the first Chinese-American cast member on the show (and he’s only the fourth member of Asian descent in his 46-season history). This is one of the many traits that make the 30-year-old different from most SNL veterans. He’s also gay, highly browsable on the internet and owns the scary absurdity common among millennial humors.

For example, Yang’s popular podcast “Las Culturistas” ends with a segment titled “I don’t think so, dear,” in which he and co-host Matt Rogers embrace 60 seconds of pseudo-rage about vulgar topics like plant care, toenail smell, 5G, and the taste of Meryl Streep movies. . In an increasingly absurd capitalist world where survival depends on building a “personal brand”, performative discontent has found a comic groove – and Yang’s version of it is smarter than anyone else, as evident in his recent viral transformation as “Iceberg That” sank the Titanic. .

“Las Culturistas” gave me the space to speak up on the impromptu and try out different perspectives and aspects of my personality and literally just try to do that, Yang said during a conversation at Zoom recently. “With ‘I Don’t Think So Honey,’ we’re just like, ‘Let me try to fake a strong negative opinion about, you know, trucker hats or whatever.”

The podcast had a humble start in 2016. Shortly after Yang joined SNL, he and Rogers signed a contract with iHeartMedia giant to fund the series, placing them in the same fields as Will Ferrell, Shonda Rhimes and Questlove. It currently averages half a million downloads a month, according to an iHeartMedia representative.

When Yang was still young, he and his friends would hear the same name: “A very good place.” They would go to exams or presentation meetings and come up with what could easily appear as a “very strange”, “very small” or “not very white” symbol. But with the rise of Yang, the deceptively quick, fiery, and cultured intuition of the popular culture of comics in their twenties and early thirties could no longer be regarded as an outlandish thing. It is the moment and perhaps the future. Las Culturistas alone spawned a handful of copycats, with Rogers and Yang leading a burst of comics changing the way Mike Nichols and Ellen May did in the early 1960s.

However, Yang completely disagrees that “SNL” has suddenly become more strange than it has been before. Sure, his yet unforgettable drawing (co-written with the great Julio Torres) Superstars Harry Styles As gay social media manager Sarah Lee, she has busted posting sexy comments (“Wreck me daddy”) on celebrity photos on Instagram. (Fun fact: Yang wrote a follow-up letter to Chef Boyardee under the title Pandemic on Timothée Chalamet, but it has been cut short.) He believes that the online “snark Gallery” does not give the series enough credit for its long-term progress, referring to gay alumni like Paula Bell and Chris Kelly, Terry Sweeney, Sam Jay and James Anderson, who wrote for “SNL” from 2000 to 2020.

“The thing about ‘SNL’ is that this is a container in which all sorts of different things coexist, ” Yang said.“ I don’t think there is a new phenomenon that suddenly there is a strange feeling in the show. Maybe it was at a different volume, and we raised some of those tracks. “

In general, Yang chose to distance himself from the midfielder on the Sunday morning accompanying “SNL”. Scroll through Twitter after a new episode and you’ll see a lot of bloated folks declare the show irrelevant – despite clearly monitoring each step. Inspired in part by Jenny O’Dell’s book How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, Yang left the stage (in one form or another) because he anticipated what she would do to his sense of self.

He said, “I’m not saying this Snark fair is flawed the way it has been around all this time, but it doesn’t have to be beneficial for me as a player to drown myself in the trap of all of it.” “Not for the sake of painting this terrible capitalist metaphor, but SNL is Amazon and the graphics and the people in it are products, and everyone just leaves reviews – but the way Amazon reviews do it has this tune where it sounds,” Well, I hate this thing because it came In broken mail.It’s the same frequency as people are like, “Let me speak my mind because they are granular units of things that I can attach my opinion to because I’m going to see something and consume it in four minutes.”

As one of the actors who has staged everywhere from the noisy basements in Brooklyn to HBO shows,2 queens queensYang used to evaluate in real time. But when the audience’s direct reaction is fleeting, a tweet or part of the criticism can last forever. Sometimes the comments include his identity, like when he saw someone say, “Bowen only plays Asians. He can’t do anything but play Asians, ”which made him think,“ Well, you say there is a lack of being an Asian. “Ultimately, this rhetoric tinted with self-esteem, no matter how famous you are, and so like other SNL stars, Yang had to walk away.

Yang said, “It was quite logical to me why the people who have been on the show for so long who are still on the cast, like Keenan for example, are like,“ I don’t care. ”It sounds kind of rough and maybe a little bit harsh, But it is necessary and healthy to do. “

However, Yang found validation of his peers. (He’s closest to Eddie Bryant, Cecily Strong, Ego Nodem, and Heidi Gardner.) He was encouraged by seeing mainstays from the New York comedy scene, like his friend Patty Harrison, achieving their own reputation. Whatever it’s worth, he’s also received confirmation from unlikely sources. Take, for example, Andrew Yang, who impersonated him during the 2020 presidential race. After Dave Chappelle’s show after the election in November, he and Nodim were shooting in the locker rooms when Yang got a phone call saying that else Yang (unrelated) was downstairs and wanted to meet him. He was there for the record. It was a “lovely” conversation. They exchanged numbers.

About a month later, as Yang was about to shower in his Clinton Hill apartment, his phone rang. “I heard on the other line,” Hey Bowen! It’s Andrew Yang! “I’m like, ‘Oh my God, how are you?’ He was in Georgia at the time helping out on the run-offs, and he was telling me, ‘I’m going to announce my candidacy for mayor.’” People were speculating enough up until that point, so I wasn’t surprised. I was just like, “Great! Well, that’s happening. I wished him all the best, but I was naked when he said to me.”

It’s not uncommon for politicians to hook up with comedians who roast them, especially on SNL, where President Gerald Ford once gave the introduction to “Live From New York …” and Tina Fey got a seismic career boost after appearing alongside Sarah Palin . But there is something in Bowen Yang that makes people desire it To get to know him beyond the enchanting spell that casts fame. Because “Las Culturistas” is motivated by a very personal character, because it emphasizes the cultural vocabulary of its era, and because Yang has sparked such an instant broadcast on television, he looks like someone crystallizing the next decade of comedy right before our eyes – the familiar and the new in one package. Exciting.

“I’d like to welcome myself or introduce myself to the audience,” Yang said of his upward momentum. “I feel like I’m with people who say, ‘I listen to you on’ Las Culturistas, ” ‘I’m a fan,’ Well, you have a better sense of who I am than someone like, ‘I loved you in’ Nora of Queens. ‘There isn’t a whole lot of other things that It can be departed from other than “Thank you for watching”. People who say they listen to ‘Las Culturistas,’ I’m a fan, ‘Well, thank you, what do you think of’ Bling Empire? ‘ “