Fellow Canadian-Asian actors Simu Liu and Bowen Yang have a number of things in common, certainly. Both raised in Canada. Both of Chinese descent. Both born around the same time. And both currently dealing with the inevitable and distracting hype of being “Asian firsts,” as depicted in their pre-taped segment from last night’s Liu-hosted Saturday Night Live.
Cast member Yang greets his co-star for the week with an awkward, “What’s up, my fellow yellow fellow?,” before the two confess to being a little tired of constantly being held up as the “first Asian” employed by their respective, historically lily-white entertainment institutions. Yang, with a framed dressing room article touting his role as “First Fully Asian Cast Member On SNL,” holds up a magazine proclaiming the Shang-Chi And The Ten Rings star the “First Asian Marvel Lead,” while the pair commiserate over what a big deal everyone keeps making of it all.
Still, groundbreaking Canadian-Asian actors are still actors, and the duo soon try to out-humblebrag each other concerning the many, many awards they’ve been receiving for being the “first Asian” in various fields. And, okay, diversity is important and no laughing matter, but that doesn’t stop Yang and Liu from shrugging off the praise they’ve received for being (in Yang’s case), the first fully gay Asian cast member to mispronounce a particular word. Or, for Liu, the first Asian snapped being super-casual while hurtling down Splash Mountain. And while it turns out they both got an award for “First Asian To Blow Up A Dragon From The Inside” (whoops, spoilers), Yang notes that his was for “something else.”
Nonchalantly proud they may be about their unasked-for accolades, neither Yang nor Liu could ultimately resist competing for an unclaimed trophy as “First Asian Man To Do A Cher Impression On NBC.” Tough luck, Bowen, although, as he noted in finally trumping Liu’s seemingly insurmountable edge in performatively self-congratulatory corporate representation awards: “Congratulations. But just remember, Simu—whatever first thing you do, I’ll always be gay.” Yang for the win.