Well, that didn’t last long.
Saturday Night Live fired new cast member Shane Gillis on Monday, four days after his hiring was announced. The move followed an outcry over videos and audio recordings of Gillis using racial and homophobic slurs on his podcast.
In a statement, an SNL spokesperson on behalf of executive producer Lorne Michaels said that the show was unaware of his history of “offensive, hurtful and unacceptable” language and apologized that its vetting process was “not up to standard.”
“After talking with Shane Gillis, we have decided that he will not be joining SNL,” the statement 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 comedian and his impressive audition for SNL. 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.”
Gillis released his own statement on Twitter immediately afterward, saying that he appreciated the opportunity — but he also took a swipe at NBC’s long-running sketch series: “I’m a comedian who was funny enough to get SNL. That can’t be taken away. Of course I wanted an opportunity to prove myself at SNL, but I understand 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.”
Saturday Night Live announced last Thursday that it had hired three new featured players, including its first Chinese-American cast member in SNL writer Bowen Yang, but that news was soon overshadowed by the resurfacing of a year-old video from Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast. In it, Gillis makes racist jokes about Chinese people and culture, saying, “Chinatown’s f—ing nuts. Let the f—ing ch–ks live there, huh?” He later says that his conversation with Matt McCusker is “nice racism, good racism.” Vulture reports that in other episodes of the podcast Gillis makes homophobic jokes, including one installment in which he calls Judd Apatow and Chris Gethard an anti-gay slur and also “f—ing gayer than ISIS.”
The Gillis controversy also crossed over to the presidential race. In another podcast this spring, Gillis called Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang a “Jew ch–k.” Over the weekend, Yang said that he forgave the comedian and offered to meet with him, tweeting, “I prefer comedy that makes people think and doesn’t take cheap shots. But I’m happy to sit down and talk with you if you’d like.” Yang also noted, “For the record, I do not think he should lose his job. We would benefit from being more forgiving rather than punitive. We are all human.” (UPDATE: Yang tweeted on Monday afternoon that Gillis had reached out to him, noting, “Looks like we will be sitting down together soon.”)
Gillis, a stand-up who was a New Face at this year’s Just for Laughs Festival, first addressed the controversy Thursday night, releasing a statement on Twitter. “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 bad misses. 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.”
today SNL announced the hiring of its first cast member of East Asian descent, and also this guy pic.twitter.com/0FAGJZJUkK— Seth Simons (@sasimons) September 12, 2019
SNL also added Chloe Fineman (Search Party) to its featured players on Thursday. Season 45 begins Sept. 28, with Woody Harrelson serving as host. Later this year, Eddie Murphy will return to emcee an episode for the first time in 35 years.