Bowen Yang already made Saturday Night Live history when he was cast as the show’s first Chinese-American featured cast member in 2019. Now, he’s reached another milestone, becoming the first featured player ever to be nominated for an Emmy.
Of course, no one who has been watching the show recently should be surprised. Yang has been responsible for some of SNL’s most viral, meme-able and talked-about sketches of the past couple years. As pals like Joel Kim Booster and Julio Torres send their congrats, we decided to take a look back at some of the sketches that undoubtedly earned Yang his nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
After her divisive Netflix series introduced Fran Lebowitz to a whole new generation, Yang stopped by Weekend Update to deliver a spot-on impression of the notoriously cantankerous New York fixture. Not only was his cadence and inflection perfect, he somehow managed not to break in the face of Kyle Mooney’s hysterical impersonation of a hysterical Martin Scorsese. Unfortunately, it seems Lebowitz herself was none too pleased with the performance. But then, what the hell is she ever too pleased about?
In the wake of this spring’s dramatic rise in anti-Asian hate crimes—including the massacre of eight Atlanta area spa employees by a white gunman—Yang again joined Colin Jost on Weekend Update to parody the memes that masquerade as meaningful action on social media these days. “What can I say to help how insanely bad things are,” he told Jost, sounding genuinely fed up. “If someone’s personality is punching an Asian grandma, it’s not a dialogue.” We got some laughs about Yang’s thirst for Steven Yeun and his scrapped 20-minue performance of Gay Passover Bunny, but the take-home was serious: jiāyóu, do more.
A couple months later, Yang returned to Weekend Update with another iconic impression, not of an actual person this time, but of the iceberg that sank the Titanic. “This is always a really weird time of year for me,” he said, referencing the anniversary of the tragedy. Turns out, there was a lot churning beneath the surface for the most infamous chunk of ice in western history, as Yang’s unhinged performance revealed. “Everyone’s talking about me! No one’s talking about the water!” Yang wailed before performing the iceberg’s new single, “Lover Boy.”
This sketch from 2019 probably wasn’t technically eligible to factor into Emmy voters’ decision to nominate Yang this year, but it is nonetheless iconic. Written by Yang and Torres, the, again iconic, sketch pairs Yang and Cecily Strong as Sara Lee management who have to confront an employee (the iconic Harry Styles) about using the company’s Instagram account to post horny comments. Just watch, it’s…iconic.