After nine Emmy nominations and 10 seasons of skillful political impressions and gay AF sketches, Kate McKinnon departed NBC’s Saturday Night Live (SNL). Even though SNL has featured its fair share of offensive comedians and problematic jokes, McKinnon’s run on the show was a significant win for lesbian representation on TV that warmed queer hearts like mine across the nation.
When McKinnon first joined SNL in 2012, she became the show’s first openly gay female cast member since SNL started in 1975. At the time, the United States was on the verge of legalizing same-sex marriage, and McKinnon’s presence on SNL provided mainstream lesbian visibility.
McKinnon’s presence on SNL was impactful not just because she is openly gay, but also because of the queer sketches that she performed in. Fresh off her stint on Rosie O’Donnell’s The Big Gay Sketch Show, McKinnon starred in and created numerous queer sketches on SNL, including “Dyke and Fats,” where McKinnon and her castmate Aidy Bryant rightfully remind the cops that only queer people can call themselves dykes.
I don’t think I started watching SNL until about 2015, when the country was in the thick of the presidential primaries. I turned to SNL as a coping mechanism for the world that was crumbling beneath me, and McKinnon was a huge part of that. Her impressions of Hillary Clinton were spot-on, and her rendition of “Hallelujah” the weekend after Trump won the election will remain in my etched into my brain forever. I still get chills just thinking about it.
As the country turned to chaos, McKinnon continued with her impressive impressions, taking aim at conservative figures like Kellyanne Conway, Betsy DeVos, Lindsey Graham, and Jeff Sessions (who I’m sure loved being portrayed by a queer woman). The anti-LGBTQ+ actions that the Trump administration took hurt like hell, but at least we had McKinnon to soften the blow.
In the last several years, McKinnon has been featured in many hilarious queer sketches, including “Cherry Grove,” a lesbian version of Logo’s gay reality series Fire Island, as well as “Lesbian Period Drama,” which spoofed lesbian films Ammonite and Portrait of a Lady on Fire. I also screamed pretty loudly in 2017 when Kate McKinnon and Gal Gadot made out in a sketch parodying Wonder Woman, living out all of our truest fantasy.
Thanks to the addition of Bowen Yang in 2019 and Punkie Johnson in 2020, SNL has also gotten even gayer with sketches like the “Pride Month Song,” which called out the commercialization of Pride. Earlier this year, out queer actress Ariana DeBose also hosted the show, where McKinnon fist pumped DeBose while singing the lyric “gay” in “I Feel Pretty.” The two also starred in a super gay sketch about the Greek poet Sappho.
More recently, McKinnon used the Weekend Update desk to speak out against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida, which I really appreciated. McKinnon joked: “I am deeply gay—sorry, concerned. . . It just feels like this is gonna make kids gay and trans—sorry, depressed and suicidal—and I think these laws are lesbians. Sorry! Unconscionable.”
On a show where LGBTQ+ people can sometimes be the butt of the joke (I’m looking at you, Michael Che), watching SNL always left me longing for queer content. Every Saturday night for the last few years, I sat myself down in front of my television, with dreams of the gay crumbs that McKinnon would leave for viewers like me across the country.
On McKinnon’s final night, she reprised her role as alien abductee Colleen Rafferty in the show’s cold open. Towards the end of the sketch, McKinnon said: “I always felt like an alien on this planet anyway.” Well, Kate, as a queer person, you never made me feel like an alien at all. And for that, you will always have a special place in my heart.