Bowen Yang on Teaming Up With the Who's Who of Queer Hollywood (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
Bowen Yang is no stranger to collaborations. In fact, most of his recent work has seen him teaming up with the who’s who of queer Hollywood on everything from his Las Culturistas podcast co-hosted by Matt Rogers and featuring guests like BD Wong (who also co-stars with Yang on Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens) to Saturday Night Live, where he’s co-written some of the best sketches alongside fellow breakout Julio Torres and most recently teamed up with all the out LGBTQ cast members and music guest Lil Nas X on “Pride Month Song.”
Additionally, he’s part of Hot White Heist’s all-star cast, which includes Alan Cumming, Cynthia Nixon, Jane Lynch, MJ Rodriguez, playwright Tony Kushner and many, many more. And when it specifically comes to the Audible podcast created by Adam Goldman (The Outs) and directed by Cumming, “It’s a murderers' row of queer talent, I never thought, I never dreamed I would be able to work with,” Yang tells ET.
Described by the SNL star as a “very broad, funny” story, Hot White Heist follows Jude “Judy” Fink (Yang) and a crew of misfits from across the LGBTQ+ spectrum as they attempt to steal frozen sperm of some of the greatest minds in history from a secret bunker beneath Seattle, Washington’s Space Needle.
Needless to say, it’s a far cry from Goldman’s breakout internet series about gay men living in Brooklyn. But Yang commends Goldman for creating The Outs, noting how it was “really, really important for that show to come out when it did.” And that’s exactly why he wanted to be part of this farce. “I just trusted Adam so much on a writerly level,” he continues. “There’s just a level of care there with me and with the project that I thought, there's really no way this won’t be a great experience.”
Because it’s so rare to have such a large openly queer cast on a major platform, hearing Yang alongside the likes of Cumming, Nixon and others is just as exciting as it was to see him appear in an SNL sketch alongside Kate McKinnon and Punkie Johnson. The three recently teamed up in the finale on “Pride Month Song,” which he says was very much about “lived-in experiences about the spiraling we all go through” during June.
While it harkened back to the days when all the female cast members would get together for songs (“(Do It on My) Twin Bed,” “Back Home Ballers”), Yang noted how SNL has never done anything specific like this to commemorate Pride. “We thought, ‘Oh yeah, we haven’t had a Happy Pride moment.’ We’ve had to, at SNL, do nice little commemorative skits for Mother’s Day or other holidays,” he says, explaining that they had a “lovely opportunity, considering who the musical guest was” to do something special.
Yang adds, “It was nice to just write something that was truthful and by queer people.” And when it comes to having more moments with all of the out performers, he “definitely hopes [they] can do more of that in the future.”
While SNL is on hiatus until the fall, fans can look forward to seeing his contributions as a writer on the summer Apple TV+ series Schmigadoon!, a musical comedy about a backpacking couple (Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key) who gets lost in a magical town living in the golden age of musicals.
While working on the series required him to watch a lot of Rodgers and Hammerstein productions as they researched the era they were sending up, for Yang, the best part was that Cumming was also part of the cast. Between Schmigadoon! and Hot White Heist, he has been able to develop an important connection with “someone I’ve looked up to for so long.”
And when considering how he’s been able to build on one collaboration after the next, it’s not something Yang takes for granted. “It’s hard early on to feel like you are developing a support system as a queer writer, performer, director or what have you. But then you sort of develop these relationships on many different projects,” he says, adding, “It’s something that I really, really cherish.”
Hot White Heist, which is produced by Broadway Video, Club Cumming Productions and Adam Goldman, premieres Thursday, June 17 on Audible.