4 reasons why Bowen Yang will become first ‘SNL’ featured player to win Emmy

Few sketch performers have had the kind of meteoric rise of Bowen Yang in his first two seasons as a performer on “Saturday Night Live.” The actor came out of the gate strong with a slew of memorable characters like Chen “Trade Daddy” Ciao and impressions of Kim Jong-un and Andrew Yang. He has also made a huge mark on Weekend Update, appearing in two of the most memorable segments of this past season, as himself to discuss anti-Asian violence in America and, mere weeks later, as the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. This versatility helped Yang become the first “SNL” featured player nominated for an Emmy. Here are four reasons why I believe Yang has a strong chance of making history again by being the first featured player who will win an Emmy.

1. He’s having a moment

Since the change in voting in the 2010s, the Emmys have rewarded actors with buzz, those who are capturing the attention of TV watchers, and it’s hard to argue that Yang had many people talking throughout the 2020-21 TV season. Both the iceberg and anti-Asian violence monologue moments made headlines the day after they aired. Yang’s idiosyncrasies and unique perspective as a performer have helped him stand out among the 20-player cast at “SNL,” amassing the kind of positive attention that Kate McKinnon received as she grew in prominence, leading to back-to-back Emmy wins in 2016 and 2017.

2. Voters still love “SNL”

Even after 46 seasons, “Saturday Night Live” has not slowed down in collecting dozens of Emmy nominations every year. Actors are especially loving the show, showering the NBC variety series with five nominations for its cast and six more for guest hosts. While no cast members have won a supporting category since McKinnon in 2017, “SNL” already made a killing at this year’s Creative Arts Emmys with seven wins, the most for the show since 2018. That positive sentiment may continue into the main telecast, helping Yang and his fellow nominated castmates.

3. The configuration of nominees in Best Comedy Supporting Actor may help

Best Comedy Supporting Actor this year has four actors from “Ted Lasso” and two from “SNL.” Those who believe in vote-splitting would naturally gravitate to Carl Clemons-Hopkins (“Hacks”) or Paul Reiser (“The Kominsky Method”) as beneficiaries, but neither has the kind of buzz typically required to win this category. If voters feel that there isn’t a clear frontrunner among the “Ted Lasso” guys, that leaves Yang and his castmate Kenan Thompson as potential winners. While Thompson has put in decades on “SNL,” many would argue that Yang had a far more memorable season this year.

4. He’s laugh-out-loud funny 

Even looking past the history-making potential of his win — he would also be the first gay male “SNL” player to win an Emmy and the first of Asian descent — Yang can, most importantly, make you laugh out loud. Not every featured player finds their groove as quickly as Yang did, and his confidence as a performer and writer, having penned most of his sketches, is infectious, as evidenced by the loud response he tends to get from the live audience at Studio 8H. When you look at Comedy Supporting Actor winners of the 21st century, there are over-the-top performers (Sean Hayes, Eric Stonestreet) and those whose humor comes from sharply-observed witticisms (David Hyde Pierce, Dan Levy), and Yang manages to fall into both categories, which should make him a huge threat to make history at Sunday’s Emmys.

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