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Kate McKinnon: Who is SNL's first openly lesbian cast member?

The 28-year-old Upright Citizens Brigade and Big Gay Sketch Show alum will make her debut "Live from New York" on April 7. Here's what you need to know

With Saturday Night Live It Girl Kristen Wiig likely to ride her rising star out of Studio 8H at the end of this season, Deadline is reporting that SNL creator Lorne Michaels is adding a new female cast member to the venerable late-night comedy series. Kate McKinnon, 28, will make her debut as a featured player on the April 7 episode. Here, a brief guide — with video of her best comedy bits embedded below — to the new kid on the block, the show's first openly lesbian player: 

Who is she? McKinnon is best known as a cast member on The Big Gay Sketch Show, an SNL-esque LOGO network series that is produced by Rosie O'Donnell and has "a unique LGBT perspective." McKinnon is also a regular performer with the Upright Citizens Brigade, the improv comedy troupe that counts Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Will Ferrell among its alums. She also starred in the popular web series Vag Magazine, about a "fictional third-wave feminist magazine." (Watch the video below.) In 2010, she was nominated for the Emerging Comic Award by the ECNYs, which celebrates excellence in comedy in New York City.  

Why is SNL hiring a new actor? According to Nellie Andreeva at Deadline, the future of SNL's biggest star, Kristen Wiig, is "up in the air," due to intense interest from Hollywood after her movie Bridesmaids' blockbuster success. Cast member Abby Elliott has also expressed interest in leaving at season's end. With two performers potentially departing, producer Michaels has no choice but to "add reinforcements."

Is anyone else being considered for an SNL spot? Possibly. Deadline also reports that three other women were considered for McKinnon's spot: Jessica Joy from NBC's short-lived drama The Playboy Club; Lauren Lapkus from Are You There Chelsea?; and Elaine Carroll from Very Mary Kate, a College Humor web-series that parodies Mary Kate Olsen. Three male performers have also auditioned over the past several weeks.

Will McKinnon be a good fit? Sure, says Cassie Murdoch at Jezebel. "She's hilarious." Just look at her Barbara Walters impression for proof. (Watch the video below.) She also does a spot-on Jane Lynch, says Sean O'Neal at The A.V. Club, "and you don't often see a Jane Lynch impression." Expect that to be developed into a regular sketch. She also already has the Twitter endorsement of former SNL cast member Rachel Dratch. Still, considering that former cast member Maya Rudolph is called on to guest star any time a sketch requires a Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfrey impersonation, several bloggers were quick to ask whether SNL really needed to hire another white woman. Regardless, says Trish Bendix at After Ellen, "this is a landmark of its own."

How does her being gay figure into her work? In an 2007 interview with After Ellen, McKinnon, who's the first openly gay woman hired by SNL in its 37-year run, said that her sexuality actually helps her comedy. "As minorities, we're on the fringe, and there's just something so wonderful about that perspective, something so inspiring."

Can I see her in action? Sure. Watch videos of her Walters impression, an episode of Vag Magazine, and a bachelorette party spoof titled "Girls Night Out," below.

Barbara Walters impression:

Vag Magazine, Episode 1:

Vag Magazine Episode 1: "Fumbling Toward Ecstasy" - watch more funny videos

"Girls Night Out": 

Sources: After Ellen, A.V. ClubDeadline, Huff. Post, JezebelLogo TV, Outtake, Twitter

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