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Saturday Night Live casts its first-ever out Black lesbian comedian. It’s only taken them 45 years

Lily Wakefield September 17, 2020
Black lesbian comic Punkie Johnson joins snl

Punkie Johnson performs onstage at the 2019 Clusterfest on June 21, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Clusterfest)

Punkie Johnson is the first out Black lesbian comedian to join the regular cast of Saturday Night Live (SNL) after 45 years on air.

On Wednesday (September 16), Saturday Night Live announced three new cast members for its 46th season: Lauren Holt, former SNL writer Andrew Dismukes, and queer Black comic Punkie Johnson.

According to them, Johnson uses her queer experience as inspiration for her hilarious comedy sets, including her 18-year relationship with her wife.

The only other openly lesbian comedian to have ever been cast by SNL is Elizabeth Warren impersonator Kate McKinnon. 

Danitra Vance was the first lesbian and queer Black person to perform on the show, between 1985 and 1986, but her sexual orientation was not made public until after her death in 1994.

SNL also announced that Jim Carrey will play Joe Biden in the show’s parodies of the upcoming election.

The new season will see the return of all regular cast members from the previous season, bringing the total to 20.

Saturday Night Live has a troubled queer history.

Despite making recent progress when it comes to queer representation, SNL has a rocky history.

Gay comedian Bowen Yang joined the cast in 2019 and in March this year RuPaul became the first drag performer to grace the SNL stage.

But the show has often relied on homophobic stereotypes for laughs, including repeated jokes about a gay relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

In November 2016, a week before the election, the long-running series aired a scene in which Trump kissed Putin on the lips.

Since then the same jokes have been repeated, with a 2018 sketch portraying the world leaders as lovers in a hotel room, and  a NATO cafeteria sketch last year saw Jimmy Fallon, playing Justin Trudeau, joke that Putin “likes” Trump.

In 2020, while spoofing Mike Pence, head writers Colin Jost and Michael Che leaned on tired, droll tropes of anti-gay folk being gay themselves for canned laughter.

SNL comedians Michael Che and Pete Davidson are also known for making anti-LGBT+ jokes.

More: lesbian comedian, Punkie Johnson, saturday night live, SNL

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