‘Saturday Night Live’ Star Bowen Yang Talks Painful Gay Conversion Therapy Past

Saturday Night Live is a truly iconic television show. Formed in the seventies and known more commonly as SNL, Saturday Night Live has been responsible for shaping pop culture as well as launching the careers of many of the world’s most popular comedians.

Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Chris Rock, and Chris Farley all became famous on SNL. These days, the show continues to make waves, drawing in viewers week after week.

This year, a fresh crop of young comedians are set to make their mark on SNL, including Bowen Yang.

Yang is quickly gaining recognition as a sharp comedic talent — but what many fans might not know is that Yang’s younger years were quite painful.

Where was Bowen Yang born?

Bowen Yang
Bowen Yang | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Comedy Central

Bowen Yang was born in 1990 in Australia. He was born into a family of immigrants, as his parents had immigrated from East Asia so that Yang’s father could earn a doctorate in mining explosives.

The family lived in Australia for years until ultimately moving to Aurora, Colorado when Yang was nine. It was in Aurora that Yang would spend his formative years.

As a child, Yang was studious and intelligent, excelling at school and doing well in difficult subjects such as calculus.

At the same time that Yang was studying math and science, he also found himself gravitating towards the world of comedy as well. He joined an improvisational group and was even voted “Most Likely to Be a Cast Member on Saturday Night Live” when he graduated high school.

Yang started pre-med school and eventually graduated from New York University with a degree in microbiology. All throughout his time as a medical student, Yang maintained his love of comedy and ultimately decided that he would pursue comedy as a career. 

How did Bowen Yang get started in comedy?

In 2016, Yang started a podcast called Las Culturistas, a weekly comedy podcast featuring special guests as well as mini-rants and comedy routines by both Yang and his partner on the podcast, Matt Rogers.

The podcast became incredibly popular and catapulted Yang to fame. In the years following the launch of the podcast, Yang appeared on TV shows such as Broad City and 2 Dope Queens

In 2018, Yang fulfilled part of his high school prophecy by becoming a writer on Saturday Night Live. He wrote multiple successful sketches, earning even greater acclaim from both established and brand-new fans. The following year, Yang was moved up and officially became a cast member on SNL.

Although he is a relative newcomer on the show, he has become very popular in short order, his charisma and flair for comedy abundantly clear. 

When did Bowen Yang go to gay conversion therapy?

Although Bowen Yang’s background and rise to fame seem incredibly inspiring, the truth of his story contains one very sad episode. When Yang was a child, he realized that he was gay. His parents were traditional and not accepting of his sexual orientation.

Still, when Yang was a teenager, his parents discovered compromising conversations that he had been having on AOL Messenger and confronted him. As Yang revealed in a later interview, his father set up eight sessions with a specialist who worked in gay conversion therapy. 

Yang recalled: “I allowed myself the thought experiment of: ‘What if this could work? Even though as I read up on it, I was just like, ‘Oh, wait, this is all completely crackers.'”

Yang said that he finished up all eight sessions, found them to be pseudoscience, and moved on with his life. Still, Yang’s parents had a harder time accepting him, even after many years.

Yang doesn’t fault his parents, stating that “both my parents are doing a lot of work to just try to understand and I can’t rush them. I can’t resent them for not arriving at any place sooner than they’re able to get there.”