New Saturday Night Live cast member Shane Gillis responds to backlash about accusations of racism. On Sept. 12, the comedian officially joined NBC’s iconic sketch comedy series, which prompted reports about his past.
In addition to hiring Gillis, Saturday Night Live also announced Chloe Fineman and Bowen Yang as new cast members. Both comedians further diversify the popular series, and fans celebrated the announcement online, just two weeks after Leslie Jones officially left the show. Yang represents Saturday Night Live’s first Asian cast member, which makes video of Gillis using anti-Asian slurs even more troubling. The videos surfaced of Gillis making derogatory remarks about Asians during his podcast entitled Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast with fellow comedian Matt McCusker. Vulture columnist Megh Wright later reported on Gillis’ history of racist and homophobic statements, and noted that all episodes of his podcast have been removed from YouTube. In addition, Philadelphia’s Good Good Comedy Theatre reportedly stopped working with Gillis in recent years, due to his problematic behavior, according to co-owner Kate Banford.
On Twitter, Gillis addressed the racism controversy. The new Saturday Night Live cast member released a five-sentence statement, which acknowledges that he “pushes boundaries” and had “bad misses” during the past decade. Gillis didn’t offer an official apology, but did suggest that he’s willing to apologize to people who are “actually offended” by his past remarks. Gillis ends the statement by noting that he’s trying to become the “best comedian” he can be by taking risks. Check out Gillis’ tweet below.
On Twitter, Gillis’ statement has not been well-received, especially given that his remarks weren’t made during a stand-up act, but rather during a casual conversation. The controversy has sparked discussions about Saturday Night Live’s vetting process, as Gillis’ history of questionable remarks are easily accessible through internet searches. Vulture also reported about a subreddit group associated with Gillis, and discovered that Saturday Night Live’s new hire previously made homophobic statements about comedian Chris Gethard and a current Saturday Night Live writer. On Sept. 28, Saturday Night Live season 45 premieres with Woody Harrelson as host and Billie Eilish as the musical guest.
Whereas comedians like Dave Chappelle and Anthony Jeselnik are controversial for their on-stage commentaries about sensitive issues, Gillis has a struck a nerve with many for using blatantly racist language during recorded discussions, and then masking the behavior under the guise of edgy comedy. Given that Saturday Night Live has become increasingly political, and that many viewers will likely tune out because of the questionable new hire, it’s hard to imagine that Gillis will remain part of the season 45 cast.