Watch: Out 'SNL' Star Bowen Yang Reveals Hidden History of Iconic 'Iceberg' Sketch with Jean Smart

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday June 17, 2021

Out "Saturday Night Live" cast member Bowen Yang opened up about the surprising idea — and last-minute creative frenzy — that led to the show's instantly classic "gay iceberg" sketch. Yang made the revelation in an interview with "Hacks" star Jean Smart for Variety.

Calling the skit "Bowen Yang's greatest breakthrough moment on the last season of 'Saturday Night Live,'" Variety summarized the sketch's concept as a "Weekend Update" appearance by the iceberg that sank the Titanic in 1912 and "a glacial mass who wants to be known for all his other accomplishments."

"I wrote that with one of our head writers, Anna Drezen, who I've known since college," Yang recalled to Variety. "She texted me in February and said, 'Maybe for the April 10th show, because the Titanic sinking anniversary is around that time, you come on Weekend Update as the iceberg that sank the Titanic and you're just really annoyed that people still associate you with that.'"

Yang's first reaction was skepticism — "In the back of my mind I thought, I don't really see it" — but, not unlike the famed ship of yore, he and Drezen proceeded full speed ahead with the idea.

"We vomited out this draft in a few hours," Yang told the outlet. After a table read, Yang and Drezen waited to hear whether their idea would go forward. "By Friday afternoon, we hadn't heard anything, so I texted Anna, 'RIP iceberg,'" he said.

But Yang had spoken too soon: "Friday night at midnight, I got a text from Colin Jost saying, 'I think we're gonna try this iceberg thing.'"

With little time, and despite the late hour, Yang and Drezen got right to work, "texting the departments" of the show that would need to prepare for the segment. As Yang recounted, Saturday was a blur of rewriting the sketch "and just trying to punch up jokes, and then multiple times we turn to each other and just burst out laughing because we were like, there was no way this was gonna make it onto TV."

The sketch took form and the iceberg solidified into an aspiring pop persona looking to promote an EDM album, but who grows angry and defensive when prodded to talk about a moment of infamy from years earlier. "Everybody's talking about me, and nobody's talking about the water!" Yang's iceberg says in the four-and-a-half-minute sketch, adding that though the victims drowned, "nobody's canceling the ocean!"

The sketch received acclaim and comparisons to Bill Hader's popular Stefon character. Not to mention, it garnered millions of views when the segment was published on YouTube. Critics and audience members alike went nuts for the sketch, which — as EDGE reported at the time — saw Yang "[m]ade up in icy hues and wearing the peak of an iceberg on his head," portraying a "gay iceberg" in the "gayest moment" of an episode that also featured a parody of the lesbian period romance, "Ammonite."

"How did we stick the landing on that?" Yang marveled.

Rewatch the sketch below. Also below, Bowen's comments about the sketch with Smart.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.