Bowen Yang's Incredible Year Leading Up to His First Emmy Nomination

The Saturday Night Live star has made history with his first Emmy nomination, in addition to making TIME's 100 Most Influential People list and scoring even more accolades

01 of 12

Viral Moments on Saturday Night Live

Michael Che, Bowen Yang as Fran Lebowitz, and Kyle Mooney as Martin Scorsese during Weekend Update
Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Yang could not have had a better year on SNL. His portrayal of Fran Lebowitz had everyone belly laughing and even got the attention of the New York City icon, who said her answering machine was filling up with people talking about the sketch.

When asked about the parody by the Los Angeles Times, Lebowitz said, "If you've never had a caricature drawn of you, you might think this is a great thing [to be parodied] — but no one likes them."

Yang reacted to the feedback on Late Night with Seth Meyers, saying, "That's confirmation that she's seen it and that she doesn't care for it, and I think that's the highest compliment you could possibly get from someone like Fran."

02 of 12

'We Ride at Dawn, Grandmas!'

Bowen Yang
Saturday Night Live. Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

During a Weekend Update segment, Yang brought attention to the anti-Asian hate crimes that have been occurring throughout the U.S., specifically spotlighting a 75-year-old Asian American woman named Xiao Zhen Xie, who used a wooden board to fight back after she was punched by a white man in San Francisco on March 17.

He ended his powerful monologue with some humor, rallying the crowd by saying, "So everyone get in, buckle up, it's no pee breaks. We ride at dawn, grandmas!"

A month earlier, he announced that he was matching $10,000 donations to the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance as "we advocate for the civil and human rights of AAPIs, immigrants, and all people of color."

03 of 12

Bowen THEE Iceberg

bowen yang
Will Heath/NBC/Getty

Another unforgettable character that will absolutely be sold out as a Halloween costume this year was Yang as the iceberg who famously sank the Titanic. The Iceberg came on Weekend Update to defend himself from years of unfair slander — and to promote his music career.

"It's 12 tracks. No skips. Swear to God," is the line that truly won us over, so we'll be buying three copies of the album.

04 of 12

The Elton John We Didn't Know We Needed

Bowen Yang
Rosalind O'Connor/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

When Yang appeared as Sir Elton John during SNL's "Stu" sketch, featuring Pete Davidson parodying Eminem's song "Stan," we screamed. The short but brilliant cameo revealed Yang hammering away at the piano, performing with all of John's cadences down to a T, and ended with the famous John and Eminem the-war-is-over arm raise from the 2001 Grammys.

05 of 12

Edmund's Back

In March, the star announced that he'll be back on Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens as Edmund, Nora's cousin and partner in crime. Fans reacted with "ThankGod!" and "😱😱😱 Cannot wait!!!" in his comments.

06 of 12

Shifting the Culture

Bowen Yang
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

In April, Yang was named one of HuffPo's Culture Shifters Who are Shaping Our Future. Writer Matthew Jacobs profiled the star and dissected his impact on SNL (so far) and his successful pop culture podcast Las Culturistas with fellow actor/comedian/BFF Matt Rodgers.

Jacobs wrote of Yang, "Because Las Culturistas is so personality-driven, and because it underscores the cultural vocabulary of its time, and because Yang has made such an instantaneous splash on TV, he seems like someone who is crystallizing the next decade of comedy right before our eyes — the familiar and the new rolled into one exciting package."

07 of 12

Entertainment Weekly Cover Star

Bowen Yang
Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images

Bow down to EW's 2021 Pride Issue cover star, who revealed that the "gayest thing he's done so far" on SNL was his 2019 "Sara Lee" sketch he co-wrote with Julio Torres for Harry Styles. In the cover story, writer David Canfield touched on Yang's versatility and talent on the show, commenting on his powerful anti-Asian hate Weekend Update segment followed by his "Iceberg That Sank the Titanic" sketch, writing, "Such a one-two punch is rare for a featured SNL player — and, as breakouts, they showcase Yang's capabilities in both writing and performing."

08 of 12

Leading a Sticky Situation

At the start of June, Yang announced that he joined the all-star, all-queer cast for Adam Goldman's audible original Hot White Heist, the bio for which says it's the "first and only podcast about a sperm bank heist. What else do you need to know?"

The hilarious fictional podcast follows Yang as Judy Fink, who attempts to steal sperm samples from the greatest minds in history with a group of misfits. The rest of the cast includes Cynthia Nixon, MJ Rodriguez, Jane Lynch, Alan Cumming and Margaret Cho.

09 of 12

Another Day, Another Leading Role

Variety announced in June that Yang and actor-comedian Joel Kim Booster will star in an Andrew Ahn-directed romantic comedy called Fire Island. Inspired by Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, the film, which was written by Booster, will be exclusively released on Hulu in the U.S. and on Disney+ globally.

10 of 12

The Las Culturistas Culture Awards

Throw away the Academy Awards because the Las Culturistas Culture Awards are here and there is a category for everyone. The creators of the wildly popular Top 200 Moments in Culture History, podcast hosts Yang and Matt Rodgers, came back with 100 categories of culture that ranges from the Little Mix award for being absolutely fierce boots to most colorful color.

(For the record, we're campaigning for aquamarine.)

11 of 12

Emmy King

Bowen Yang
Jim Spellman/Getty Images

Yang is up for his first-ever Emmy for supporting actor in a comedy series for SNL at this year's awards, airing Sept. 19 on CBS. His nomination marks two historic feats: one for being the first Chinese American male acting nominee in the category and two, for the first SNL featured player to receive the nomination.

12 of 12

TIME's 100 Most Influential

Queen Sandra Oh did the honors of writing about Yang and his ranking as one of TIME's 100 Most Influential People of 2021. In her essay, she described Yang to be "quick-witted, hilarious and absurd, with an elegant heart." If being listed as "most influential" of the year wasn't enough, Oh signed off her note, writing, "I am so proud to see him finding his way on his own terms. I hope he has whatever he needs to come to full fruition, because he's mega."

She added, "I am fully prepared to be his aunt. He can text me anytime. anytime."

We are fully jealous.

Related Articles