Bowen Yang of ‘S.N.L.’ is a Smash. And a Mensch.


Once the therapy was complete, his father let Bowen go to New York University, where his sister, already a student there, could “chaperone” him.

“The irony of it all is I went to the gayest undergrad in the country,” he says, smiling, about his alma mater, which he mocks in stand-up routines as “a real estate firm,” “celebrity day care center” and “a multicomplex head-shot studio.”

“I spent freshman year trying straightness on for size and failing miserably,” he says. “I sort of tricked myself into having a crush on a girl but it was just kind of a weird, weird, weird pit stop. Then I would look at a boy and be like, ‘Oh, I want to talk to him.’” Mr. Yang has a tattoo on his arm, drawn by a nonbinary Chinese tattoo artist, with ancient signets. They represent his parents’ last names. He never got mad at them.

“I had this second coming out with them while I was in college and went through this whole flare-up again with them, where they couldn’t accept it,” Mr. Yang says. “And then eventually, I just got to this place of standing firm and being like, ‘This is sort of a fixed point, you guys. I can’t really do anything about this. So either you meet me here or you don’t meet me.’

“It never got to the point of, ‘I won’t come home again.’ I was just like, I’m not going to argue with them. Like my dad every now and then will be like, ‘So, when are you going to meet a girl?’ And I’ll just calmly be like, ‘Dad, it’s not going to happen.’ I mean, it’s O.K. Both my parents are doing a lot of work to just try to understand and I can’t rush them. I can’t resent them for not arriving at any place sooner than they’re able to get there.”

His parents and sister proudly came to his first show as a cast member last fall.

Bowen went to pre-med classes, got a chemistry degree, and took the MCAT, partly influenced by the character played by his idol Sandra Oh on “Grey’s Anatomy.”


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