Chris Kelly Makes SNL History as First Out Head Writer

Chris Kelly

Live from New York, it’s LGBT history!

Saturday Night Live, NBC’s long-running sketch comedy show, has promoted an out gay man to head writer: Chris Kelly.

Kelly will serve as co-lead writer of the show's 42nd season alongside Sarah Schneider, the first woman to helm the writers’ room since Tina Fey left in 2008. The pair have been working for SNL since 2011.

Kelly recently wrote and directed the Sundance and Outfest darling Other People. The production, which comes out in September, stars Molly Shannon as a woman dying of cancer and Jesse Plemons as her son — who happens to be a gay writer who used to work for SNL.

In an interview with the U.K.'s Gay Times, Kelly stressed the importance of LGBT representation in film and television, such as the three-dimensional portraits of gay people that are featured in Other People.

“I think there’s no mystery to writing gay characters. You can just write them!” he said, adding, “There’s all sorts of them! And they eat food and hang out with friends and their mothers die just like all the best straight characters.”

The promotion of Kelly and Schneider could make a new era of pro-LGBT comedy for SNL. Vanity Fair noted that their ascendance — as well as the recent firing of cast members Jay Pharoah, Taran Killam, and Jon Rudnitsky — marks “a huge step away from toxic bro humor” that marred some of its recent seasons. The show has received criticism in the past year for Rudnitsky’s "queened-up" portrayal of out anchor Anderson Cooper and Killam’s repeated use of gay stereotypes and mannerisms.

SNL also courted controversy in 2008 with the “gayest episode in the history of the show,” as reported by The Advocate in an post-airing interview with Seth Meyers. The episode was criticized for its one-dimensional gay characters, to which Meyers responded, “We have gay writers here, and I can sort of speak for everyone who works here that this is a place that feels strongly on the right side of that issue.”

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