Why Bowen Yang Is Devoting Extra Attention to His Inner Circle This Pride

Saturday Night Live's Bowen Yang exclusively spoke to E! News about his "Summer of Extra," the power of Kristen Wiig and his advice to newcomers of the LGBTQ+ community.

By Cydney Contreras, Adrienne Roy Jun 28, 2021 9:56 PMTags

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This Pride Month, Bowen Yang is being extra in the best possible way. 

Typically a term reserved for those doing the absolute most, the Saturday Night Live star has a different perspective on his newfound M.O. inspired by Bonobos' summer campaign, aptly titled the "Summer of Extra." Bowen and his La Culturistas podcast co-host, Matt Rogers, teamed up with menswear brand for a collection you can shop below.

So what exactly does Bowen's "Summer of Extra" entail? Well, the actor says he's doing more of those things we "we were deprived of for a long time," like spending time with friends and going out in public spaces.

Of course, Bowen said he's indulged in "moments of rest" but after more than a year of quarantine, the comedian says he's "excited to start wearing a suit again."


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However, the suit has to have a pair of "breathable pleated pants," according to Bowen. As he put it, "That's the dream. I'm establishing my summer style but I'm also like, that is an aspiration as well."

Thanks to Bonobos, Bowen gets to celebrate Pride in the pants of his dreams, while also soaking up every delicious moment of extra. To hear how the comedian is practicing gratitude and setting an example for others, check out the exclusive Q&A below!

E! News: What does Pride Month mean to you, especially in 2020 and in 2021?

Bowen Yang: Pride for me has always been about holding a personal vigil within your own relationship, with nuclear being under the queer umbrella or being an ally wherever you land. My favorite part of Pride is always community building and checking in with people in your circles, outside your circles and [meeting]  people.

I always end up making friends at Pride and like, I see them throughout the year, but then you always have that nice, fond memory of, 'Oh my goodness I saw that person at this march, or this event.' That was definitely true last year. We were either keeping in touch with people, despite incredibly hard circumstances, or meeting people out in the streets. I feel like that's what the spirit of [Pride] has always been about. To carve out space for and acknowledging the history of a critical issue, and connecting with people you care about.


E!: You are one of three openly gay cast members in the history of SNL. If you could tell your younger self how you would make history, what would you have thought?

BY: First of all, I wouldn't have really been able to really conceive of it. Even if someone had told me that things would be what they are, it would feel so foreign to me. I couldn't even visualize it back then. Not in terms of representation or anything. In terms of being like, how do I go from being a preteen who watches Conan O'Brien like every weeknight after bedtime, to working on the show that I watch every week? And working on a show that's really given me a sense of what pop culture is like, growing up in a household where the cultural things were not handed down to us. Because my parents really weren't plugged into what was happening in life. But they're watching us now and got an understanding of what's going on in the world and seeing it through a comedic point of view. I wouldn't have believed you. Like I said, it's hard to do but if you can work with people you love and if you do what you love to do, then it's heaven on earth. Like, my God, I feel lucky to be able to experience that. I'm so lucky to be doing what I do with people I really love and that's all it is, there's no intention or agenda or grand master plan for me to be like, 'Oh, I'm gonna make shows by being more likable in terms of the queerness,' but I'm doing what I love to do with people I love. It's really simple as that.

E!: When was the first time you felt like you saw yourself or could identify with somebody in entertainment? Who was that person and how did you identify with them?

BY: Margaret Cho is definitely one of the people, like just watching or hearing her stand up back in the days when stand-up albums were pretty prolific. Seeing her in Carnegie Hall was pretty revolutionary for me to be like, 'Oh, this Asian person talking about her sexuality,'. Then, other people's sexuality, the way she talked about gay men typically back then just felt fresh and I never heard anything like that. It was in alignment with what I kind of thought I was but wasn't sure yet and just seeing her, such a huge deal. 

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E!: Say you were given the gold key to Hollywood. What would be your first move to make things more inclusive or to widen that open door to everybody?

BY: I would never even presume to have any answers that are applicable. I was talking to B.D. Wong, who is a friend of mine and he's on the show Nora from Queens with me and I was talking to them about how amazing his career has been and that he is sort of someone who kind of was the model for a lot of people. And he was like, 'Well, you know, you must deal with this too when you get on stuff.' Being an Asian person on SNL, when people are like, 'Why did it take so long?' It's sort of a question that doesn't fully understand the idea that there is no developmental experiential process for a queer Asian person to get into comedy in a way that feels inevitable. 


Like if I were to be the golden key to the industry, I would try to make things more inevitable for people. Try to make things not be constant question marks at every step of the way. I mean, that's how the industry works a lot of times in terms of people getting in. So much of it has to do with things that are outside the person's control. I would love to make a group of those people feel like they can inevitably find some measure of success.

E!: For those that are coming of age within the LGBTQ+ community, what wisdom or insight might you have for them?

BY: I feel like they're on a whole great new journey for themselves where they are figuring it out and how they relate to other queer people. That's kind of the first true, meaningful moment for someone who is able to realize their queerness. They took the most beautiful part of realizing their queerness, start externalizing it to other people and they start to build out a community. If you're coming of age, or especially if you're somewhere where you need other people, just really, really keep some patience going. This is something that takes time, it's always an investment. This doesn't happen overnight. You're gonna put yourself in strange situations, you're going to feel sort of vulnerable putting yourself out there, but please do it. It will always be worth it. Just because you got to start. You got to be able to talk to other queer people in order to survive any of that.

E!: This past season on SNL there have been iconic guest hosts that are also legendary former cast members. Did any of them share wisdom or advice that has impacted your time on the show?

BY: 100 percent. When Kristen Wiig hosted that was something that I really built up in my head, in a way that felt almost unhealthy because I was like, this is someone I feel is just kind of legendary in the way of her tenure and the way that people remember the show internally. People are like, 'Oh, you know Kristen is coming back. Wow.' And then meeting her, she exceeded my wildest fantasies because she was so—I felt so taken care of by her. She made a point to check in with me and work on our sketch and come up with new ideas and make it better and to make it more fun for the both of us. So that was just something that I never expected. I never expected people on her level to put in the level of attention and care and engagement. I truly did feel connected to her in a way that I never could have imagined, even in my wildest dream.


And then, after she hosted she reached out over text like, 'All I can tell you is that this is the funnest job in the world. That you have the funnest job in the world. And even on the bad days, even though you feel like it's hard, you still have other stuff in the world that does not change.' And then she said, 'Once it's over, you'll miss it.' So, I mean that hit me like a ton of bricks because I was like, 'Oh my god, like I'm getting like Manna from the God.' She's telling me her whole, like, philosophy around being at this place, and I was just like, 'How lucky am I to be able to hear that directly from her?' But I think that definitely changed everything about how I'm approaching the job. Just to be grateful for it while I have it and  have a good time while you can because it will never lead you astray. I really have to remind myself of that as I go forward.

E!: Who would be your dream SNL host?

BY: Cher, 100 percent. There's a writer, James Anderson. He left the show after being up for 20 years, but he's a good friend and one of the funniest people in the world. But he pulled a prank on me. Every now and then he'd be like, 'Oh my god, I saw on the board Cher is hosting,' I'd be like WHAT! I would fall for it every time. Just because it would be so emotional. For sure Cher, yeah.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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