Just days after NBC announced Shane Gillis would be joining Saturday Night Live for its 45th season, the network has fired the comedian after past derogatory and racist remarks he made on his podcast were made public.
"After talking with Shane Gillis, we have decided that he will not be joining SNL," a spokesperson on behalf of SNL creator Lorne Michaels said. "We want SNL to have a variety of voices and points of view within the show, and we hired Shane on the strength of his talent as a comedian and his impressive audition for SNL."
The spokesperson added, "We were not aware of his prior remarks that have surfaced over the past few days. The language he used is offensive, hurtful and unacceptable. We are sorry that we did not see these clips earlier, and that our vetting process was not up to our standard."
Amid celebration that Chloe Fineman and Bowen Yang were joining the show last week, the moment was soured when attention turned to off-color remarks Gillis made on his podcast, Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast, in 2018.
In a now-viral tweet, freelance comedy reporter Seth Simons posted a few clips of Gillis and his cohost, Matt McCusker, mocking Asian accents.
In the clip, Gillis at one point used a slur, referring to people in Chinatown as "chinks."
In a statement he tweeted shortly after NBC's announcement on Monday, Gillis was defiant, saying he was "a [Mad TV] guy anyway."
"It feels ridiculous for comedians to be making serious public statements but here we are. I’m a comedian who was funny enough to get SNL. That can’t be taken away," his statement read. "Of course I wanted an opportunity to prove myself at SNL, but I understand that it would be too much of a distraction. I respect the decision they made. I’m honestly grateful for the opportunity. I was always a [Mad TV] guy anyway."
In addition to his racism, Gillis made anti-gay comments and stereotyped Muslims on his show, Variety reported. In one episode of the podcast, he and his cohost laugh about "hot Southern boys" being sexually assaulted during the Civil War and likened it to “having gay sex in jail.”
In a different episode, the two talk about "Muslim heaven," with Gillis telling McCusker, “You gotta spill blood. You gotta praise Allah by spilling blood."
Gillis, in a statement posted to Twitter last Thursday, Sept. 12, attempted to address the matter.
"I'm a comedian who pushes boundaries," he wrote. "I sometimes miss. If you go through my 10 years of comedy, most of it bad, you're going to find a lot of misses."
The comedian added that he would be "happy to apologize to anyone who's actually offended by anything [he's] said" and that it was never his intention to "hurt anyone."
"But I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks," he said.
However, prominent voices on Twitter, including author Roxane Gay and film critic Emily Yoshida, called Gillis out for his "risks."
"It's not risky to be racist," Gay said. "It's boring. The material wasn't even funny. Apologize for that."
"Ah yes, 'chink' the word so edgy my septuagenarian social studies teacher felt totally comfortable using it in class 20 years ago," Yoshida said on Twitter. "Spicy stuff grampa."
Unimpressed by Gillis's non-apology, critics still called for SNL to part ways with the comedian, a performer who has a history of telling racist jokes and who was banned from a comedy club for his insensitive approach.
The Good Good Comedy Theatre in Philadelphia said the establishment "deliberately chose not to work with him" because of his "overt racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia - expressed both on and off stage."
In a detailed Vulture article on Gillis's comedy history, an unnamed source commented on how unnerving his comedic rise was.
“Just want to say as a comedian who came up in Philly comedy at the time Shane was blowing up, [it] was extremely discouraging!" they said. "As a queer female-bodied comedian, a man using the language he did and got so much recognition for was really disheartening.”
It appears that Gillis may have tried to delete evidence of his problematic show from the internet prior to his SNL casting announcement, Vulture reported, though there's a now-private subreddit — filled with anti-gay remarks — dedicated to the podcast he and McCusker shared.