'SNL' Adds First Black Out Lesbian Cast Member for New Season

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday September 21, 2020

The long-running comedy sketch show "Saturday Night Live" is heading into its 46th season, but is still pushing the envelope - in part, by adding its first out Black lesbian to the show's ensemble, NBC News reports.

Comedian Punkie Johnson is joining the cast as one of the few openly lesbian cast members in SNL's four-and-a-half decade history, and the first to join who is already out. (NBC News noted that although Danitra Vance, who was part of the ensemble in 1986-87, is now openly LGBTQ, she was not out when she was on the show.) Johnson's hiring has the feel of art meeting the challenges of reality; NBC recalled that in an interview from 2016, Johnson characterized her comedy as a kind of gallows humor. "I was and still is the person that jokes and laughs in the midst of despair," she told Film Courage.

She's one of three new ensemble cast members, with Lauren Holt and Andrew Dismukes reportedly also joining the on-camera crew. (Dismukes has been a staff writer for the show for several seasons.)

The entire cast from last season will also be returning, making for the largest ensemble in the show's history.

At the same time, as , SNL will be undertaking another historic task: The production of five new episodes in a row in the lead-up to the presidential election, a longer string of consecutive weekly premieres than any the program has attempted before.

"And sadly," Michaels added, "if the election gets extended, then we'll be doing six or seven shows in a row."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.