Punkie Johnson Is the First Out Black Lesbian to Join Saturday Night Live Cast

This afternoon’s Saturday Night Live press release ahead of their new season came with some interesting tidbits: Jim Carrey will be recruited to play Joe Biden, if that’s your thing; they will go back to performing in front of a (limited) live studio audience inside Rockefeller Center — which sounds more dangerous than I’d be willing to be for 90 minutes of comedy, but hey maybe that’s just me; and one of my favorite players Ego Nwodim is finally getting her well-earned promotion to main cast member.

By far THE MOST EXCITING NEWS is that this season of SNL is about to get very real about who’s all gay here… adding self-proclaimed “brutally honest Southern lesbian” Punkie Johnson to the ensemble!

Punkie Johnson is the first out black lesbian cast member in Saturday Night Live History. Here she is on a street corner in New York looking handsome in a baseball hat.

I personally feel great about this development. And her hat game.

Let’s run some stats on that: With the addition of Punkie Johnson, SNL just got roughly 100% more lesbian than last season, joining Kate McKinnon for a record breaking two (lol, yes TWO!) out lesbians in the cast at the same time. Punkie and Kate will obviously also be joining out gay cast member and writer Bowen Yang, which certainly makes this the gayest ass season of SNL yet — and it hasn’t even started yet. But wait! There’s more! Punkie Johnson will officially become first out Black lesbian in the show’s 46 year history. Gay gasp!

She’s not the first Black lesbian to become a Saturday Night Live repertory player — that was Danitra Vance, who joined the cast in 1985, although she was not out at the time. Vance was the second-ever lesbian cast member, after Denny Dillon, who also was not out. She was cast the same year as Terry Sweeny, the first openly gay male cast member of SNL, marking the first time there were two LGBTQ+ cast members at the same time. Vance left the show a year later, reportedly “frustrated with being relegated to stereotypical black female roles.” She passed away in 1994 from breast cancer.

Punkie Johnson also adds her name to the small cohort of only just 22 Black cast members that have worked over the course of ensemble comedy behemoth’s 46 years. That group includes only seven Black women: Yvonne Hudson (1980–1981), Danitra Vance (1985–1986), Ellen Cleghorne (1991–1995), Maya Rudolph (2000–2007), Leslie Jones (2014–2019), Sasheer Zamata (2014–2017), and Ego Nwodim (2018-present).

From the press release, here is Punkie’s bio:

Punkie Johnson is a comedian and writer whose recent credits include “Space Force,” “Corporate,” “Adam Ruins Everything” and “Bill Burr Presents: The Ringers.” She was a New Face at the Just for Laughs Festival in 2019 and is a proud paid regular at the world famous Comedy Store in Hollywood.

Hot damn!

You might also know Punkie from her NOTABLE guest starring role in last summer’s A Black Lady Sketch Show where she competed as the “dance biter” in what was easily one of the show’s most iconic and gay sketches (thank you to Autostraddle TV writer and noted Internet research sleuth Natalie for the hot tip):

While we’re here, let’s go ahead and peep this stand-up of Punkie talking about how role playing saved her marriage:

I don’t know a lot about Punkie just yet. Luckily, I have a month to obsessively learn everythiiiing possible to there is learn! SNL comes back on October 3rd. Personally I look forward to getting on my Issa Rae and:

A gif of Issa Rae at the 2017 Emmy Awards. She is wearing a red dress on the carpet and says: "I'm rooting for everybody Black."

Carmen is Autostraddle's Deputy Editor and a black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 223 articles for us.

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