SNL is in the hot seat over one of its new hires.
While everyone is celebrating the addition of Bowen Yang, Saturday Night Live’s first East Asian cast member and second openly gay male member, many have a serious problem with the show. First, they’re noting how it took 45 seasons to get an East Asian member and 34 years to get another gay male member. Then second, they’re not so happy with SNL’s other new male cast member choice, Shane Gillis.
While now stationed in New York City, Gillis made a name for himself through Philadelphia’s comedy scene. He was even named Philly’s Funniest Comedian at the Helium Comedy Club in 2016. On top of that, Shane is a regular on Comedy Central Radio’s The Bonfire, co-host on the Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast with Matt McCusker, and has written for Comedy Centrals’ Delco Proper. He also was featured as a 2019 Next comic at Comedy Central’s Cluster Fest and a New Face at the universally loved Just For Laughs comedy festival.
But shortly after being cast on SNL, news sources and Twitter users started pointing fingers at Gillis for continually using homophobic and racist slurs in his comedy. It was Freelance editor Seth Simmons who shared the above videos that are now being played around the world. The videos are of Shane in a 2018 recording of his podcast “Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast” making racist jokes about Chinese restaurants.
““The translation between you and the waiter is such a f*cking hassle, I’m pointing at it.”, Chinatown’s f*cking nuts. Let the f*ckng [Chinese slur] live there,” says Gillis.
The Vulture then found another podcast recording where Gillis and McCusker rank comedians based on race, gender, and sexual orientation.
“White chicks are literally the bottom,” Gillis says. “Ali Wong is making it so Asian chicks are funnier than white chicks.”
The two then discuss comedians who adopt a confessional style to their comedy. They then mock them by using homophobic slurs such as “white f*ggot comics” and “fucking gayer than ISIS.”
After the story of Gillis’ homophobic and racist jokes hit the internet, Philadelphia comedy sources shared their general surprise that Gillis was hired by SNL. Despite being titled the Funniest Philly Comedian by one club in 2016, Kate Banford of the Good Good Comedy Theatre says that it, and other comedy venues, eventually stopped working with Gillis because of his material.
“Good Good Comedy Theatre stopped working with him within the past few years because of racist, homophobic, and sexist things he’s said on and offstage,” said Kate Banford told Vulture, “Just want to say as a comedian who came up in Philly comedy at the time Shane was blowing up, [it] was extremely discouraging! As a queer female-bodied comedian, a man using the language he did and got so much recognition for was really disheartening.”
Perhaps this is why Gillis ended up leaving Philadelphia for New York City.
With all this controversy flying around him, Shane Gillis later released a statement to apologize about his past actions and comments.
“I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries,” he wrote on Twitter. “I sometimes miss. If you go through my 10 years of comedy, most of it bad, you’re going to find a lot of bad misses,” he wrote. “I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said. My intention is never to hurt anyone but I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks.”
But is that apology enough? Will SNL fans and the general public forgive Gillis and SNL? Will this controversy blow over? Or, will the comedy show’s viewer count see some drops over this casting? We’ll see when the show returns later this month.