Bowen Yang breaks silence on that Dave Chappelle SNL moment

As a regular (and consistently hilarious) cast member on SNL, Bowen Yang has had to rub shoulders with controversial guests, like Dave Chappelle and Shane Gillis. This puts Yang in an unfair position, with the constant expectation that he should react or comment on someone else’s queerphobic controversies. In a recent interview, Yang discussed these instances and why his professional vicinity to these comedians should not define his work.

In one viral incident on the Jan 27 episode of SNL, Chappelle came onstage as the cast bid farewell to the audience. The moment was a complete surprise, given that Chappelle had not appeared anywhere else in the episode.

Media outlets quickly noticed that Yang was in the background of the cast, appearing to distance himself from Chappelle. Much attention was paid to the fact that Yang was not smiling and had a whispered conversation with fellow cast member Sarah Sherman, who subsequently turned to look at Chappelle.

In a new interview with Variety, Yang explained that his position on set was not planned. “I stand where I always stand on good nights,” he said. “It was not a physical distance that anyone was creating. It had to do with so many things that were completely internal.”

This makes sense, given Chappelle’s appearance was a surprise. “It was about other people’s response in the show,” Yang added. “I was just confused, that was it.”

The following month, comedian Shane Gillis was brought on to host SNL. Gillis and Yang were both cast at the same time back in 2019, but Gillis was subsequently fired when past homophobic, racist, misogynistic, ableist and Islamophobic slurs on his podcast surfaced. The choice to invite him back as host earlier this year drew widespread criticism.

“I’m going to give Lorne Michaels some credit to that meta-narrative,” Yang said. “There’s a story around the show now, and it’s his show. He gets to do whatever he wants.”

Getting more serious, Yang explained why he’s ready to move on from the association. “Anytime our names are in the same sentence, at least in a journalistic way, it always feels deleterious,” he said. “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.”

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