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SNL's Bowen Yang answers a 'Wild Card' question

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Each week on Wild Card With Rachel Martin, a well-known guest draws a card from the deck and answers a big question about their life. This week, we hear from "Saturday Night Live" cast member Bowen Yang. He's known for his roles on "SNL" like the iceberg that sank the Titanic, also the intern at the Tiny Desk Concert - obviously a big fan favorite here at NPR. He's also had successes outside "SNL," acting in movies like "Fire Island" and "Bros" and co-hosting the hit podcast "Las Culturistas." But comedy wasn't always going to be the career path for Bowen Yang, as he discussed with Wild Card host Rachel Martin.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: What was a moment in your life when you could have chosen a different path?

BOWEN YANG: Oh, I went to school at NYU. And the pathway was going to be, you're going to major in chemistry, you're going to take your MCAT, you're going to go to med school. And the comedy stuff is sort of, like, being relegated to a hobby. That was my way of sort of putting a lid on things until the top kind of just blew off right as I graduated college. I remember commencement, being with a lot of students who were just so excited about the next thing, and I felt none of that.

And then I retook my MCAT. I took it twice. And so I remember being in the testing center at a computer. And I just remember an interview with Steve Carrell where he said he was going to apply to law school. And then once he got to either the written portion of the LSAT or something on his law school application that he just realized he couldn't do it. And then, like, that moment, that interview flashed before me in the testing center.

MARTIN: Oh, whoa.

YANG: And then I was like, I can't do this.

MARTIN: Yeah.

YANG: Walked over to the proctor, said I'm going to void my test. Thank you very much. And I think he was pretty perplexed because we were, like, well into, like, hour four...

MARTIN: Right. It's not like the...

YANG: ...Of the test.

MARTIN: You just sat through four hours.

YANG: Exactly.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Just finish it.

YANG: He's like, it took you this long to realize? I know. He was like, you might as well just, like, close it up, whatever. And I remember calling my parents outside, telling them what had happened.

MARTIN: Yeah.

YANG: I was fearing the worst. I was fearing them just being complete confounded.

MARTIN: You've let us down, yeah.

YANG: Yeah. And they were pretty delicate with me.

MARTIN: I'm glad.

YANG: Yeah.

MARTIN: Yeah.

YANG: Yeah. But that was a moment. That was a moment where, you know, like, the door slid. Like, it was like it could have really gone one way or the other, yeah.

MARTIN: Yeah, yeah. You could be a heart surgeon right now or...

YANG: A bad heart surgeon.

MARTIN: I hope in the other life, you're a good one.

YANG: Yeah, well, a heart surgeon whose, so to speak, heart wasn't in it, you know?

MARTIN: (Laughter) Right.

KELLY: (Laughter) And you can hear more from Bowen Yang's conversation with Rachel on the Wild Card podcast from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.