‘Saturday Night Live’s Newest Cast Member is a First For the Show

Fans of Saturday Night Live have been sorely missing hearing their favorite words for months: “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” SNL returns for its 46th season in October, and three new cast members are set to join the increasingly diverse lineup of players. One of the new additions, though, holds a distinct honor.

Lorne Michaels and cast and crew of 'Saturday Night Live' at the 71st Emmy Awards
Lorne Michaels and cast and crew of ‘Saturday Night Live’ at the 71st Emmy Awards | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

‘Saturday Night Live’ has an increasingly diverse cast

Saturday Night Live has always welcomed comedians of all kinds to its stage, and in recent years has elevated many from underrepresented groups to be full-time cast members on the show. Last year, SNL welcomed staff writer Bowen Yang as its first Asian cast member, as well as its first gay Asian comedian. In 2016, SNL welcomed its first Latina cast member, Melissa Villaseñor.

With season 46, SNL is welcoming three new members to its cast, including one who is a “first” in her own right. Stand-up comedian Punkie Johnson is the first out Black lesbian to be cast on SNL. Johnson, however, isn’t the first Black lesbian to join the show in its history. The late Danitra Vance became the first Black woman on the cast in 1985, but her sexuality wasn’t revealed until after her death in 1994.

With Johnson, Yang, and Kate McKinnon, this season of SNL has the most LGBTQ cast members at any given time in the show’s history.

Punkie Johnson performs onstage at the 2019 Clusterfest
Punkie Johnson performs onstage at the 2019 Clusterfest | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Clusterfest

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Who is Punkie Johnson?

A New Orleans native and self-described “brutally honest Southern lesbian,” Punkie Johnson is no stranger to the comedy game. Johnson has been building her comedy chops for several years now, and is set to bring some great new energy to the SNL family.

Johnson began her career at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles as a paid stand-up comedian. From there, she began appearing at comedy festivals like Just For Laughs in Montreal and Clusterfest in San Francisco.

Johnson also brings a unique set of skills to the table. She’s a triple-threat actor, writer, and comedian, and has appeared in many different TV shows, including A Black Lady Sketch Show, Adam Ruins Everything, Corporate, and Space Force.

Is Punkie Johnson married?

Punkie Johnson has been open about her sexuality for many years, and has even told jokes about her own relationship. She’s been with her wife since 2002, and her set at the Just For Laughs festival was all about how they’ve had to spice up their marriage.

She confesses that role play saved her marriage, but there was one role-play scenario in particular that worked wonders for them. “Role-playing has saved me and my marriage, I’m not even gonna lie,” Johnson confesses. She divulged that their favorite fantasy is to role-play as a “heterosexual couple.”

“We like this game because it makes us feel like we’re a part of the real world,” Johnson joked.