Television

Shane Gillis Is Hosting SNL. It’s a Controversial Choice.


It’s been a strange few weeks for Saturday Night Live. Two weeks ago, during a night hosted by Madame Web actress Dakota Johnson, cast members Bowen Yang and Sarah Sherman distanced themselves from Dave Chappelle when the transphobic comedian crashed SNL’s goodbye segment at show’s end. Then, last week, the show laundered Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley’s racist Civil War denialism. Now, America’s premier sketch-comedy series has decided to welcome Shane Gillis to host.

Back in 2019, SNL announced that Gillis would be joining the cast of the show. A clip subsequently went viral of Gillis’ appearance on Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast wherein the comedian made a series of racist and homophobic jokes, including calling the Chinese “fucking chinks” during a segment on Chinatown and doing a racist imitation of a Chinese accent. Gillis was let go before making his debut.

“After talking with Shane Gillis, we have decided that he will not be joining SNL,” producer Lorne Michaels’ spokesperson said in a statement. “We want SNL to have a variety of voices and points of view within the show… 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 sorta apologized, tweeting (and then deleting), “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.” He later added in a follow-up tweet, “I was always a [Mad TV] guy anyway.”

The Gillis comments were particularly bad given how SNL had hired Bowen Yang, its first Asian American cast member, at the same time as Gillis.

In the years since, Gillis has worked his way back up the ranks of the comedy space thanks to a series of image-rehab appearances on Joe Rogan’s popular podcast The Joe Rogan Experience, the backing of comics like Bill Burr and Theo Von, a New Yorker profile, and a role on the Pete Davidson-starring Peacock series Bupkis, which was produced by Lorne Michaels. Netflix released his second comedy special, Shane Gillis: Beautiful Dogs, in September 2023.

And now, he’s hosting the Feb. 24 episode of Saturday Night Live, along with musical guest — and Rolling Stone cover star21 Savage.

This past week, Asian American organizations spoke out against the hosting gig, saying they were “disheartened” by SNL’s decision to hand the platform over to Gillis. Norman Chen, CEO of the Asian American Foundation, told TMZ that he wishes Gillis would make a “genuine” apology while hosting, adding, “Asian Americans are not the punchline of a joke. While these jokes may result in cheap laughs, they also result in real-world, deadly consequences for Asian Americans.”

That probably gave me some healthy perspective on how the historic aspect of me being on the show is always going to be offset by some other quality of showbiz, or how the real world works.

In a Rolling Stone interview last June, Yang weighed in on the Gillis hiring/firing ordeal, saying, “That whole thing happened, and I just remember mentally trying to figure out, ‘What is the best path forward here?’ Very few people work with people who align with themselves in every single aspect, and that’s just what comedians do, right? There are strange bedfellows wherever you go. I was trying to move forward with this attitude of, ‘Let’s try and make this work.’ That probably gave me some healthy perspective on how the historic aspect of me being on the show is always going to be offset by some other quality of showbiz, or how the real world works.”

He continued: “I was like, ‘Let’s just keep it moving.’ That’s really helped me. I’ve not let things really stick to me. And I’ve examined this in therapy. It’s not that I lack in coping mechanisms, it’s just that the process and the outcome are defined by the identity, and the identity here is that I’m someone who can make things work. That’s something SNL teaches you: how to MacGyver — or MacGruber — your way into a solution. I was trying to make the best of a bad situation, and it did take me that first season to try and transcend that. Between me and Shane, both of us have tried to rise above that really strange circumstance, and I think we have. He seems to be doing well, and I’ve been very lucky.

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On Tuesday, TMZ unearthed a number of other sketchy remarks Gillis had made on old podcasts, including hurling several ethnic and homophobic slurs.  



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