Meet SNL's Celeste Yim, the clever writer (and Emmy nominee) behind the memorable 'It Gets Better' sketch
It's one thing to score a coveted writing gig on Saturday Night Live during the pandemic. It's quite another to earn an Emmy nomination for it.
But that's not all that happened over the past year to Celeste Yim, a Korean-Canadian stand-up comedian who, at 25, was the only writer to be hired by SNL last season. Yim also made a startling discovery about hosiery. "I didn't know about L'Eggs," says a surprised Yim, who turned the revelation about drug-store nylons into a memorable sketch during the 46th season. "Aidy Bryant explained them to me. This was a reference I am too young for. Now every time I go to a Duane Reede, I see them. Aidy has opened up my eyes to a lot of things that I miss in my daily life. I thank her for that clarity."
Yim, in turn, has brought their own level of lucidity to the writers' room. The non-conforming playwright, who was the 2019 recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Canadian Women Artists' Award, excelled at interjecting issues of race, gender, and age into SNL's brand of comedy this season — which in turn helped the late-night NBC show earn its near-annual Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series.
"It was such an interesting year to join the show," Yim tells EW. "Obviously, I would have preferred that Covid had not existed in any form and we didn't have to take all these safety precautions. While I was the only new writer they hired last year, I was somewhat comforted by the fact that I wasn't alone in having to learn anything for the first time. Last year, everybody who worked on the show had to learn to do the job in a new or different way [because of the pandemic]."
Here, Yim looks back at their favorite episodes to work on during the 46th season.
"It Gets Better" (with writer Anna Drezen)
"I grew up with the It Gets Better Campaign. Now that I'm an adult, it's sort of a bizarre thing to look back at the way the marketing of queer people has tipped. It's sort of scary because there is still so little queer media out there and the few examples you do see are presented in a sanitized way. A lot of what you see is like, if you are gay then you are happy! There's not a lot of complexity in that. Sketch comedy about queer people is funny to the people who wrote it, but it's [odd] to me how my own identity is misrepresented and sold back to me. I'm being advertised these things like, if you are gay you are happy and you should wear these shirts that will make you happy! All of the cast members felt like they were living out these unreal fantasies of how they could have been represented, these funhouse mirrors of who they really are." The sketch also features a hysterical Kate McKinnon as a character who regrets owning an iguana. "It was Kate's idea. She had a pet iguana growing up that absolutely wreaked havoc on her life."
"L'Eggs" (with cast member Aidy Bryant)
After learning about the existence of hosiery that's sold in a plastic egg, Yim teamed up with Bryant to write a sketch about two women trying to make L'Eggs cool again. "It pretty much made no sense from the beginning of writing to the end," Yim explains. "The kids targeted by these women are in an afterschool rap group, which also makes no sense. The tragic thing about that sketch is that we actually had a L'Eggs vending machine made for the end and we ended up cutting it." But at least they got to introduce L'Eggs to a whole new generation of viewers. "That is the political legacy of my work on the show," Yim jokes.
"The Christmas Conversation" (with writer Jasmine Pierce)
"Jasmine asked if I had that conversation with my mom and I said yes. It became clear to everybody in the writers' room that everybody had the same conversation. It was one of those weird moments like, 'does everyone have the same parent?'"
Weekend Update: "Bowen Yang on the Rise of Anti-Asian Hate Crimes" (with Yang)
"So many times this year it felt impossible to parse through the barrage of information, let alone the feeling of pain and grief and anger attached to that information. I felt, personally, in that noise I couldn't make out what felt like anything helpful or hopeful. Bowen, who is a collaborator and friend, has a special gift. When he speaks, it's highly specific and very passionate. So whenever he talks, people listen. Writing with him is so easy because he can make anything compelling. It's really hard to speak truthfully because your writer-ly instinct is to editorialize and talk about how you want to feel or how you should feel. Even during that week, we didn't know how to feel. So we didn't worry about what would be the best thing or most hilarious thing to say. We just went with the most truthful representation of how we felt in that moment."
"College Panel" (with Bryant and Drezen)
As a non-conforming person of color, this was a subject that hit close to home for Yim. "It was in the season finale of the show. It was a panel of a cast of a very diverse TV show that was being interviewed by these two NYU students. They have all these cutesy questions for Pete Davidson's character, but for everybody else, they have extremely personal and traumatic questions about identity, gender, race, and sexuality."
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