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Shane Gillis Saturday Night Live Firing refers to the firing of comedian Shane Gillis days after he was hired as a new cast member at Saturday Night Live when a clip of him from a podcast using racial slurs against Asians surfaced. The firing divided commenters, some of whom felt it was justified and some of whom felt it was too harsh a punishment and emblematic of the problems with cancel culture.
On September 12th, 2019, Saturday Night Live announced Shane Gillis was hired as a cast member for the upcoming new season of the show, along with Bowen Yang, a gay Asian comedian, and Chloe Fineman. The same day, Twitter user @Sasimons tweeted a clip from an episode of Matt and Shane's Secret Podcast podcast Gillis appeared on on September 26th, 2018 in which Gillis mocks Asians and uses racial slurs (shown below).
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
“Chinatown’s fucking nuts… Let the f–king ch--s live there… (the restaurant was) full of f–king Chinee [sic] in there.”
The clip spread on social media as users expressed their disappointment at someone using racist remarks getting a high-profile comedy job. Twitter user @originalspin tweeted "if you want to know what being a person of color is like, it’s literally that for every Bowen Yang-shaped step you take forward, you also take one racist-ass Shane Gillis-shaped step back" (shown below, left). Gillis tweeted later that day, calling himself "a comedian who pushes boundaries" and offering to apologize (shown below, right).
On September 16th, a Saturday Night Live spokesperson released a statement that Gillis would no longer be joining the cast.
“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.”
The decision was met with mixed reaction, with many Twitter users applauding the decision and others arguing it was an example of overzealous "cancel culture." Comedian Sandra Oh praised NBC for the decision, tweeting "Glad 2 see @nbcsnl decision NOT legitimize/give platform 2 purveyors of racist homophobic content Risks? LAZY ASS UNORIGINAL" (shown below, left).
Comedian Rob Schneider initially appeared to defend Gillis on Twitter, saying "I am sorry that you had the misfortune of being a cast member during this era of cultural unforgiveness where comedic misfires are subject to the intolerable inquisition of those who never risked bombing on stage themselves" (shown below, right). However, Schneider appeared to walk back his comments in subsequent tweets where he stated he believed "An apology and suspension" would be more appropriate, adding, "There’s a difference between exposing truths through Free Speech and just being ugly. It’s not okay to say racist things under the guise of comedy. Just because you have a mic in your hand doesn’t make the racist things you say any less racist."
Andrew Yang chimed in on the situation, saying on CNN he found the comments hurtful but that he did not want Gillis to be fired (shown below). He later tweeted he would be having a discussion with Gillis.
"It hurts," says 2020 candidate Andrew Yang about anti-Asian slurs. But he doesn’t want SNL’s Shane Gillis to be fired for his racist comments. "Our country has become excessively punitive and vindictive about remarks that people find offensive or racist"https://t.co/GAYZY7TkKK pic.twitter.com/yD8MO9oJml— New Day (@NewDay) September 16, 2019
Gillis tweeted that he agreed to the decision and respected it, but did say "I was always a Mad TV guy anyway" (shown below).