Shane Gillis may have been fired from Saturday Night Live before he even began, but some big name comedians are in his corner. The world of comedy has always been a controversial place, but arguably never to the degree to which it currently stands. Some view this as progress, but others aren’t so sure.
The recent SNL firing of newly hired comedian Shane Gillis came about as a result of past racist, sexist and homophobic comments he made during a podcast, which were spread via social media after his SNL hiring was confirmed. SNL apologized after terminating Gillis’ contract, saying that they should have looked into the comedian’s past before committing to hiring him. Calling Gillis’ language “offensive, hurtful and unacceptable”, the decision by SNL to part ways with Gillis was applauded by many – particularly since this year marks the first time in the legendary sketch comedy program’s 45 year history that an Asian American cast member was hired, in newcomer Bowen Yang.
Despite the controversy that Gillis’ statements have created, however, a new controversy has now cropped up in the wake of his firing. A handful of comedians are now speaking up in Gillis’ defence, insisting that not only should the comedian not have been fired for past statements, but also bemoaning the current state of comedy as a result of the ongoing presence of so-called cancel culture. Among the comedians to speak out are Jim Jefferies, Bill Burr, as well as former SNL cast members David Spade and Rob Schneider, who commented on the firing during Spade's Comedy Central show Lights Out.
Jim Jefferies: “This is just cancel culture. The guy shouldn’t have been fired. It was just a couple things back in his history. We’re gonna go through everyone’s history?”
Bill Burr: “Do they go back and also try to look at things the person might’ve done, or are they just looking for the bad stuff? I mean you could honestly do that to anybody. We’re not running for office, when is this gonna fucking end? You millennials, you’re a bunch of rats, all of you. None of them care. All they want to do is get people in trouble.”
David Spade: I think when I was younger on ‘SNL,’ when you got hired the first move wasn’t to rifle through your past to make sure you get fired right away.”
Meanwhile, Rob Schneider took to Twitter to point a finger at:
“This era of cultural unforgiveness where comedic misfires are subject to the intolerable inquisition of those who never risked bombing on stage themselves. An honest, sincere apology and also accepting it seems appropriate as well. Destroying someone does not.”
For his part, Gillis did issue a statement shortly after being fired, but this too came under scrutiny by many, who called the comedian out for not being particularly apologetic. Nonetheless, the fact remains that Gillis will not be returning to SNL. This isn’t the first time that SNL heads have stepped up and said goodbye to a cast member – even famed comedian Norm Macdonald was relieved of his duties on the series after then NBC president Don Ohlmeyer had enough of the comedian’s off-colour jokes.
While this issue can be viewed as contentious, it shouldn’t be ignored that the comedians who are standing up for Gillis did not have their own race, culture, sexual orientation or gender belittled in the name of cheap laughs. A comedian's job can be to say the things that the public can’t, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have to deal with accountability for any statement they ever make. A truly great comedian reveals truths that an audience finds humorous, whereas Gillis simply made statements that felt more like casual bigotry than actual jokes.
Source: Lights Out