NBC's Saturday Night Live parts ways with recently hired cast member Shane Gillis after past racist comments surfaced in the wake of his hiring. Last week, Gillis was announced as part of the SNL season 45 cast, but shortly after his hiring, clips of him using racist slurs surfaced on social media sites like Twitter. In the most widely shared clip, taken from an episode of Matt & Shane's Secret Podcast originally posted in September 2018, the comedian and his co-host Matt McCusker spoke about New York City's Chinatown, with Gillis saying, "Let the f—ing ch-nks live there." Gillis responded to the racism controversy, writing on Twitter, "I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries. I sometimes miss. … I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended…” Other clips with racist, sexist and homophobic language have also been shared.
The clips gained mainstream attention, with Hollywood celebrities like Daniel Dae Kim and recently hired Marvel Studios actor Simu Liu openly criticising Gillis' language and SNL's hiring of the comedian. The Asian slurs were particularly glaring since SNL season 45 is the first time in the sketch comedy show's history that it will include an Asian cast member, fellow recent hire Bowen Yang. Now, SNL has made a decision about Gillis' future with the show.
As reported by Variety, SNL has decided to part ways with Gillis following the racist remarks that surfaced after his hiring. A statement from an SNL spokesperson on behalf of Lorne Michaels said:
After talking with Shane Gillis, we have decided that he will not be joining SNL. 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 has also posted a statement on Twitter about his departure from SNL, writing, "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." See Gillis' full statement below.
In the days since Gillis' firing and the widespread sharing of his past racist, sexist and homophobic comments, there has been a great deal of discussion surrounding SNL's vetting process. Many have asked how SNL missed these clips while vetting Gillis before hiring him in the first place. Though SNL's statement doesn't offer much explanation for how these comments slipped through their vetting process, it's likely the show will be more vigilant in the future to avoid similar situations. After all, if folks on Twitter could find clips of Gillis using "offensive, hurtful and unacceptable" language, surely SNL and NBC should have been able to as well.
As for Gillis, the comedian has gained a great deal of attention since this controversy began, and there's a good chance he'll be able to translate his newfound notoriety into other career opportunities. What those opportunities might be - and whether he's learned from this experience - remains to be seen. For now, SNL is likely looking to hire another new cast member to replace Gillis in season 45. Whoever that is will join Yang and Chloe Fineman as new SNL castmates. With SNL mainstays like Leslie Jones having exited between seasons, SNL season 45 is going to kick off with some new faces and a controversy of their own to address.