Comedian Punkie Johnson has been added to “Saturday Night Live” for the upcoming season, representing the first out Black lesbian member to join the late-night comedy show.
Johnson has made a career as a comedian while also starring in TV shows including “Space Force,” “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” “Corporate,” and “Adam Ruins Everything.”
Johnson has not shied away from discussing her own sexuality. During stand-up comedy events she has opened up about her long-term relationship with her wife and joked about the ways in which the couple has utilized role-playing to maintain a spark in their love life.
Johnson is joining the show as part of a wave of new additions announced on September 16, including Lauren Holt, who has starred in a Los Angeles-based LGBTQ web series called “The Filth,” and Andrew Dismukes, who has spent the last several seasons as an “SNL” staff writer. Actor Jim Carrey will take on the role of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in the upcoming season.
While Johnson is becoming the first out Black lesbian on the show’s staff, Danitra Vance was a Black lesbian woman who starred on “SNL” in the mid-1980s. However, she was not publicly out before she died of breast cancer in 1994.
The show has had a mixed record on LGBTQ issues over the years due to anti-LGBTQ jokes and the hiring of cast members with records of homophobia. In September of last year, Bowen Yang became the first Asian person and first gay Asian person to join the show, but that announcement coincided with the news that comedian Shane Gillis would be joining the show just months after he used homophobic and racist slurs. The show quickly backpedaled on that move, firing Gillis just days later.
At the same time, some out cast members have become mainstays in the show. Out lesbian cast member Kate McKinnon has starred on the show since joining the cast in 2012, drawing acclaim for her portrayal of a wide range of characters including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and others.
Other out LGBTQ cast members have included Terry Sweeney, who became the first out gay man on the show in the mid-1980s, and John Milhiser, who was a cast member for the 2013-2014 season.
The new season will launch with five straight shows on every Saturday in October, including on Halloween.
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