New SNL cast member Bowen Yang made his debut on the "Weekend Update" segment this weekend, and fans were loving it. Yang rolled out to the desk playing the Chinese trade representative Chen Biao, and brought a specific attitude to the obscure political figure.
Yang riffed with Saturday Night Live head writer and "Weekend Update" co-host Michael Che. He played a representative of the Chinese government there to discuss the the country's ongoing trade war with the U.S. His flamboyant performance was punctuated with the kind of memorable, quotable one-liners that have been SNL's bread and butter for generations.
"You guys increase taxes on our imports. We increase taxes on yours. Meanwhile, I’m in the middle of it all, and you know I hate the attention," he said at one point. "JK! I’m balling out right now!"
"I’m basically the Lizzo of China right now," he added later on. "And turns out I'm 100-percent that trade daddy."
After the skit, fans praised Yang, particularly as a new member of the cast. They saw this as a strong break-out moment for a comedian that many fans were eager to see in action, and many SNL viewers were curious about.
"Great addition to the cast!" one person wrote.
He made me laugh so hard I had tears streaming down my face. I had to grab a box of tissues.— 🇬🇧🍸PreciselyPoltergeisty👻🍸🇬🇧 (@TheatreChick76) October 6, 2019
"[Bowen Yang] is brilliant! More of him please!" added another.
Yang got big praise from critics after the show as well. Vulture reporter Charu Sinha wrote that Yang "gives us something we didn't know we needed" in this character, pointing out that the bit managed to be political, informative and funny all at once. It stretched the audience's attention beyond the usual satire of the show to something many do not think about quite as often.
In another review for The Washington Post, Travis Andrews wrote that this was the beginning of a long and illustrious SNL career for Yang. He noted that the skit was particularly funny "in the midst of a lackluster episode" that "desperately needed laughs."
And with no frame of reference to the actual person! So good! 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻— Ayel (@MBono24) October 6, 2019
The reviewers also noted that SNL and Yang have already shown the value of a diverse cast in this sketch. Yang is the first Chinese-American ever to join the variety show, so this bit could never have worked without him. If the response is any indication, it is already well-worth it to have him aboard.
Yang first joined SNL as a staff writer in 2018, and was added to the cast just this year. Before that, he made appearances in TV shows including Broad City, 2 Dope Queens and Shrill, among others. He is also a podcast host and a viral sensation on Twitter. He spent much of Sunday morning responding to SNL fans there.