Bowen Yang is ready for a scorching summer
Shit, I’m dried out. I know you are too. That’s why on ELLE.com’s Thirst Trap series, we ask tough questions like “Why are you so gorgeous?” and “How does it feel to be an oasis in the desert of life?” Drink! You’re welcome.
Bowen Yang prepares for a scorching summer. He has just finished an exceptional season on SNL, and now headlined the hot new movie fire island, a gay romantic comedy inspired by Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice. Yang is also the new face of Absolut’s Out & Open campaign, which brings together independent gay and lesbian bars and helps fund the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) to ensure social spaces for queer communities continue to thrive. .
“The first time I walked past a gay bar, I knew there was something special going on there, before I could even walk in,” Yang told ELLE.com. (He wrote a love letter to that bar, a famous downtown New York tavern called the Eastern Bloc, as part of his campaign duties.) “I didn’t even know how to order a drink,” laughs -he. “But I knew this place had my back. We need to make sure we keep them open so that the next generation can also be awkward, amazed and supported.
here is the A 31-year-old’s advice on getting a bartender’s attention, keeping your head held high in a day job and how to get invited to a party SNL after the party.
Do you remember the first gay bar you went to?
Of course. I had come to New York to go to NYU. I was living with my sister at the time, and I was walking past this bar called Eastern Bloc in the East Village. It had this fascinating brutalist aesthetic, and, you know, even from afar, I could tell it was a place where people could be themselves, no matter that meant.
So you snuck out when you were 18…
Would you believe, I really did not have a fake [ID] At New York? I feel like I deserve the key to the city for that! But once I was 21, I explored everything the bars… but Eastern Bloc never left my heart, you know? Now we really mourn the closure of these places, so I think there’s something really special about what Absolut does. They’re doing these stories in queer contexts, and the more people watch, the more we can collectively help LGBTQ+ bars and businesses exist in the future.
What was your first drink order?
Do you like whiskey sours and fuzzy navels? I know, like really, really amateur hour stuff. But once I felt a bit sophisticated and somehow cultured, I’d make an absolut vodka martini with a twist. It was my next level drink.
What’s your best tip for getting a bartender’s attention, especially on a crowded Pride party?
I have no advice to offer, because, bartenders? They still ignore me.
Nope! Now that you’re famous, surely you get served first?
I do not know! I think that’s the beautiful thing about a gay bar – there’s something democratizing about it. Unless you’re like… who shall I say? Like, Matthew Bomer. Unless you’re him, or look like you got pulled from the Calvin Klein ad or something. Unless it’s like that, my advice is to just maintain eye contact, like really lean in and just, like, shoot them down with your mug. The other thing you can do is the double bend wing. Bend over with both elbows on the bar as if you were about to tell a story around a campfire. That’s how they know you’re ready.
Drink before a comedy, yes or no?
I haven’t recently. But once in a while, on Tuesday evenings [during SNL rehearsals]sometimes you’re taken to the host’s dinner party, when some cast members and Lorne [Michaels] and some producers eat with the host. And sometimes, if you’re a cast member and you still have sketches in the mix, you’re expected to go back to work and write until witchcraft time. In that case, I’ll have an espresso martini because I can get back to work! It’s a super functional cocktail.
Did you get to drink with Kim Kardashian when she was hosting?
I did it! I had a drink with Kim… Actually when I ordered my drink [at the after-party], I was a little disgusted because my skit with her had been cut. They put it on the internet the next day, and it had a life of its own, which I can appreciate. But at the time, I was a little morose. And so I ordered, like, a bourbon on the rocks. And then I hear a voice behind me: “What are you drinking? Drink champagne with me! And I turned around from the bar, and it was Khloé Kardashian, saying, “That’s so sad! Do you drink bourbon on the rocks? Drink champagne!” And I was like, “Whatever you say, Khloé! I’ll do anything you say. So I got called for my drink order, which I love. And then started drinking a few flutes of champagne.
True or False: You worked at One King’s Lane before landing SNL.
I did it! I did it for five years!
Do you have any advice for people who still have day jobs? How do you make room for your creative pursuits when you’re also working hard to pay the bills?
I have advice, but it’s nothing more than the general “KEEP DOING IT”. There really is no secret other than tenacity. Go on and absolve yourself of the guilt you feel for not devoting more time to daily work or devoting enough time to the passion project. Just try to get rid of the guilt on either side as much as possible. I mean, New York in general is “doing something to do something else”. Exactly. I remember watching Shonda Rhimes’ keynote speech at Dartmouth, and that was the whole point. She said, “Do something now so you can do something later.” Nobody wants to start like that, but that’s exactly how we start!
Your Instagram account is @FayeDunaway. Did the real Faye Dunaway say anything about it?
I have a reliable source that, yes, she has reached out to people at SNL hoping to confront me on air. That tells me she’s aware of the hilt and who I am… And that would all be fun, of course, but I mean whatever equivalent mental version of a Marvel movie workout I need. I need to fortify my mind for this encounter…I mean, share space with Faye Dunaway, mentally? She is incredible. It’s an icon. So I really need to prepare myself.
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