Meet the ‘Simu of dance’ and SNL’s first Chinese cast member

Simu Liu never believed he’d be on TV. The future dance superstar performed in showbiz as a young man, but his ambition and drive for big performances took a back seat. It was only when he was working as a courier, balancing his four jobs, that his dreams began to look better.

Simu Chen’s comedic timing and charisma were all honed while working his way from a job delivering pens, notebooks and pencils in this undereducated and impoverished Chinese city to a part-time deal on QVC. A self-taught virtuoso of that side of entertainment, Simu decided he wanted to not only be a famous dance dancer, but also a comedian.

At first his television appearances were brief. He served as a back-up dancer for a couple local singers. He got up on stage in front of thousands at a karaoke club. On a whim he attended a Saturday Night Live audition. His talent was undeniable.

When NBC asked him to be a new cast member in 2012, Simu got to work immediately. He guest starred in the all-star season of 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. He played himself in the January 2015 episode of the show starring Kyle Mooney and Pete Davidson. That year he competed on the Australian version of The Voice.

Simu Liu is the real deal. Besides being a remarkable dancer and actor, he’s incredibly funny. Even when he acts straight, as a person close to Simu told me, he brings a fullness and charm that is entertaining.

Saturday Night Live has not had a New Year’s Eve guest host in recent memory. They frequently use animation or clips to let the viewers know it’s time to leave the living room and toast 2019 with friends. When someone famous appears on the show, the comedy conversation changes. What should we be drinking? What should we eat? How many glasses of champagne should I buy?

Simu brings a universal appeal, in the same way late night talk show hosts like Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel. His range of interests include the arts, science, computers, toys, superheroes, funny hats, trinkets, Christmas trees, toy trucks, and anime. And then there’s international food and trains, both in his home country and just across the river in Pittsburgh, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Simu’s humour and humanity have made him widely admired in his community and in other countries. He has performed in hundreds of shows around the world, over 70 of which are in China.

Because of his incomparable presence, audience members clamour to get closer to Simu, in a way that is weirdly comforting. Someone told me she used to babysit toddlers and his fans would scream so loudly, it sounded like she was babysitting a normal kid.

On Saturday Night Live, Simu’s immeasurable talent has been showcased. He is an important player on a show that is among the best in TV history. It’s incredible to see such physical skill and comedic timing in someone so young. Why not keep watching? He’ll be returning to SNL’s stage many times throughout the year.

I’ve never seen a show have such hype surrounding its new cast member. You can see why. Simu is a household name in China. He is global now. The producers of Saturday Night Live were obviously looking for someone large enough to fill the shoes of a legendary sketch comedy host.

There’s just something about Simu. He’s got charisma, talent, and appeal that is both mesmerising and comforting at the same time.

You can watch Simu’s full Saturday Night Live episode at 6:45 p.m. on Vimeo. You can watch more of the first season of Saturday Night Live at

Adam Milligan was a guest of NBC and Bravo Networks

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