Bowen Yang, 28, is one of the newest additions to Saturday Night Live debuting in Season 45. He is the show’s only full-time cast member who is Asian-American.
NBC made the announcement on September 12, 2019. Yang had been a staff writer for the show since 2018 and had already made his on-camera debut. He portrayed Kim Jong-un in a sketch alongside one of his icons, actress Sandra Oh in early 2019.
Season 45 of SNL debuted on September 28, 2019. Yang portrayed Democratic candidate Andrew Yang during a sketch of a DNC Town Hall for the season opener.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Bowen Yang Says He Grew Up Watching SNL But Had Never Imagined Himself On the Show Due to a Lack of Diverse Faces
Bowen Yang says he grew up watching Saturday Night Live and was pumped to visit the studio at 30 Rockefeller Center when he was a kid. He shared with NBC News in 2018, “I was the kid who at 12 years old went to NBC studio tours, and I would just answer all these trivia questions on the tour that the pages would ask about ‘SNL’. I was that kid. The show was just this incredible fixture in my life that I had to know everything about.”
However, Yang said he struggled to imagine himself ever joining the cast. He told NBC that it wasn’t something he envisioned because growing up, he didn’t see many comedians featured on the show that looked like him.
Yang explained that his perception changed dramatically after he was hired as a writer in 2018. He explained that the staff included many people “behind-the-scenes and working these very, very vital jobs” that were Asian.
2. Bowen Yang Majored In Chemistry at NYU; He Aspired to Become a Doctor After Watching ‘Grey’s Anatomy’
Bowen Yang attended New York University. In an interview with NPR, Yang explained that his older sister also attended NYU; when he would visit her on campus, he used to ask around about whether there were any improv groups he could join.
But when Yang arrived for his freshman year, he didn’t go the acting route. Instead, he chose to major in chemistry. He said he was inspired to become a doctor because of the show Grey’s Anatomy. Specifically, he wanted to be like the character ‘Cristina Yang,’ portrayed by actress Sandra Oh.
But Yang said he wasn’t all that great at science, describing himself as a “mediocre” chemistry student. He ultimately graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry, not a Bachelor of Science. Yang explained that he eventually figured out that he wanted to like Sandra Oh, not ‘Cristina Yang,’ and pursue a career in entertainment.
Fast forward a few years, and Yang got the opportunity to work with Oh. She appeared on SNL on March 30, 2019. Yang appeared on-camera in that episode as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Oh played the role of his translator. Yang and Oh enter the sketch at 2:46 in the video embedded above.
Yang said he first met Oh after the 76th annual Golden Globes, which Yang worked on as a writer. He explained that he had the opportunity at an after-party to tell Oh that she had been an inspiration for him. Yang described their encounter as “beautiful” and that Oh graciously said, “thank you.”
3. Bowen Yang Met Matt Rogers, the Co-Host of His Podcast ‘Las Culturistas,’ In College But They Weren’t Friends At First
Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers have been co-hosting their podcast Las Culturistas in 2016. The two first met as students at NYU, but they say it took time to get used to each other.
In the aforementioned interview with NPR, Rogers explained that they had clashed over a girl before they both separately came out as gay. The animosity continued into their sophomore year because they were in rival theater groups. Rogers was in a sketch comedy group while Yang performed improv. They joked in the NPR interview that the rivalry was comparable to the Montagues and Capulets.
Yang and Rogers said they also resisted efforts by other friends to connect them. They resented the notion that they should be friends simply because they were both gay men. But they did eventually become friends thanks to a shared love of Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass.” They realized they both knew all of the lyrics during a Halloween party and it served as a bonding experience.
These days, they host Las Culturistas on a weekly basis. The comedy show was named by Esquire as one of the “Top 10 Podcasts of 2017.” The magazine described the show: “Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang are a pair of comedians and pop culture obsessives who devour the best—and worst—of the entertainment world. Each episode features a special guest… joining to chat with the hosts about a variety of pop culture topics without breaking Rogers and Yang’s brilliant, rapid-fire chemistry.”
Time Out New York named Las Culturistas the #1 Comedy Podcast. TIME also included the show on its “50 Best Podcasts to Listen to Right Now” list in early 2018.
Yang and Rogers end every show with a segment called “I Don’t Think So, Honey!” The hosts and the guests complain about and rip apart something in popular culture that is driving them crazy. They’ve also turned this format into a live show.
4. Yang Was Included On Forbes ’30 Under 30′ Entertainment List In 2019 & Has Appeared In Shows Including ‘Broad City’
Bowen Yang was honored with a spot on Forbes “30 Under 30” Hollywood and Entertainment list in 2019. In an interview with the magazine, Yang was asked whether the recognition was beneficial in his career as a comedian. He answered, “No, broadly speaking there is no average age in comedy, which is very refreshing. Any stress over success vis-à-vis age in comedy is just a matter of giving up short-term gains in favor of the long haul.”
In addition to his podcast, Yang also performs standup comedy in New York and Los Angeles. His television acting credits include guest roles on shows such as “Broad City,” “The Outs,” and “High Maintenance.”
Yang has also developed a following for his lip-synching social media videos. In the video embedded below, Yang followed along with a Grey’s Anatomy episode and mouthed actress Sandra Oh’s lines.
5. Bowen Yang’s Parents Were Immigrants From China
Bowen Yang is the son of Chinese immigrants, according to Out magazine. Online records suggest that his parents live in Colorado.
Yang posted a photo of his parents to Instagram as they celebrated their wedding anniversary on May 24, 2018. He wrote in the caption, “Fools in love!!! Happy anniversary to my hot, stunning parents.”
Yang also has an older sister named Yang Yang. (She joked on her own Instagram account, “girl so nice they named her twice”). Yang shared a photo of them together as children on her 30th birthday in February of 2018, praising her as “my most wonderful sister! She is the only reason I know anything about anything and in Oprah’s words, she is the sister everybody would want.”
Yang’s sister now has a daughter of her own named Ellie. Yang loves to share pictures of his adorable niece.