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SNL’s Bowen Yang Addresses Distancing Himself From Dave Chappelle

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Bowen Yang and Dave Chappelle.
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Bowen Yang is setting the record straight about whether he intentionally distanced himself from Dave Chappelle during a previous Saturday Night Live episode.

“I stand where I always stand on (goodnights),” Yang, 33, told Variety in an interview published on Wednesday, June 5. “It was not a physical distance that anyone was creating. It had to do with so many things that were completely internal.”

Back in January, eagle-eyed fans of the NBC variety show noticed that Chappelle, 50, hopped up on stage while host Dakota Johnson — as well as musical guest Justin Timberlake and other cast members — said their farewells. Yang, for his part, folded his arms in front of him as he stood on the furthest end of the stage, away from Chappelle.

When asked whether he was happy with Chappelle’s random appearance, Yang replied, “It was about other people’s response in the show. I was just confused, that was it.”

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Fellow SNL cast member Kenan Thompson also weighed in on the situation, noting that people were puzzled because Chappelle wasn’t featured in any sketches during the episode.

Yang first joined the show as a writer in 2018 and subsequently moved to become a full-time cast member. Yang, who’s gay, became the first Chinese American SNL star.

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Chappelle has raised eyebrows through the years for his transphobic and anti-LGBTQIA+ jokes. During his 2021 Netflix special, The Closer, Chappelle made headlines for his controversial remarks — leading employees to stage a walkout.

In the special, Chappelle said he identified as “team TERF” — a term that refers to a trans-exclusionary radical feminist — and specifically addressed the LGBTQIA+ community.

“I don’t hate gay people, I respect the s–t out of you,” he said. “Not all of you. I’m not that fond of these newer gays — too sensitive, too brittle. I miss the old-school gays … the Stonewall gays. They didn’t take s–t from anybody.”

Amid the controversy, Chappelle joked during a 2021 screening of his project Untitled Dave Chappelle Documentary, “If this is what being canceled is like, I love it.”

When Chappelle hosted SNL the following year, he received criticism for perpetuating prejudice during his opening monologue, in which he touched on Kanye West’s anti-Semitic comments.

Jonathan Greenblatt — CEO of Anti-Defamation League CEO, which is a jewish civil rights organization — took to social media to address the remarks.

“We shouldn’t expect @DaveChappelle to serve as society’s moral compass, but disturbing to see @nbcsnl not just normalize but popularize #antisemitism,” Greenblatt wrote via X at the time. “Why are Jewish sensitivities denied or diminished at almost every turn? Why does our trauma trigger applause?”

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