Saturday Night Live adds black lesbian Punkie Johnson to roster
The NBC comedy show Saturday Night Live will start off its 46th season this October with the addition of its first out Black LGBTQ cast member, Punkie Johnson.
However, Johnson, a native of New Orleans, will only be the second out lesbian cast member following Kate McKinnon, who is the recognized first out lesbian cast member.
Punkie Johnson’s background before Saturday Night Live
Johnson is considered a a triple threat with her background in standup comedy, acting, and writing. She was a regular performer at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles.
Likewise, she was the featured new act in Just For Laughs Festival last year in Montreal.
Johnson has made appearances in a number of TV shows, web series, and short films. She was in the Neflix series “Space Force,” as well as the Sundance Film Festival feature film, “The Ride.”
It should be noted that it was Danitra Vance who was the first black lesbian cast member of the show in 1985-1986, though she wasn’t out publicly yet.
Likewise, while McKinnon is recognized as the first out lesbian cast member, Denny Dillon was the actual first in the early ’80s but only came out publicly later on.
Punkie Johnson as an out comedian
As an out comedian, Johnson uses her LGBTQ identity in her material. At the Just For Laughs festival, she had a set about how role play saved her marriage to a woman she has had a relationship for over 17 years.
In this role play, they play a ‘heterosexual couple.’ She said, “We like this game because it makes us feel like we’re part of the real world.”
“Everything is a joke to me. I was and still is the person that jokes and laughs in the midst of despair,” she said in a 2016 interview with the website Film Courage.
“I would always make up these crazy, wild funny stories and others kids at school would actually believe me. I had and still have a big imagination. I am still a child,” she added.
She said that when she was younger, she would always get in trouble telling off-color knock-knock jokes to nuns when she was attending Catholic school.
However, now that she’s older, she’s still a playful child but “with adult bills.”
Other changes in Saturday Night Live
Aside from Johnson, two new faces will join her: Lauren Holt and Andrew Dismukes. Holt is an actor, comedian, singer, and improviser. Dismukes is a stand-comedian and SNL staff writer since season 43.
Meanwhile, the entire SNL cast from season 45 will return for the coming season, for a total of 20 members.
Also returning feature players include Bowen Yang and Chloe Fineman. Likewise, featured player last season Ego Nwodim has been promoted to repertory player.
Internally, Anna Drezen– who was the supervising writer of the SNL writing staff– has been promoted to co–head writer.