The Shane Gillis controversy, explained (2024)

Comedian Shane Gillis is set to host Saturday Night Live this Saturday, on February 24th — almost five years after he was fired as a cast member from the long-running sketch series.

Recommended Videos

Gillis’ return to SNL has split comedy fans down the middle, with some praising creator Lorne Michaels’ decision to let the stand-up serve as host as a refreshing change from a tired format and decline in quality in recent years. Others, however, are concerned about what the future of the show could look like, if the comic — and his style of humor — is welcomed with open arms.

Why was Shane Gillis fired from SNL?

Shane Gillis was announced as a castmember ahead of the show’s 45th season in Fall 2019, alongside Bowen Yang and Chloe Finneman — who are still cast members on the show, as of February 2024. However, the announcement of Gillis’ casting was quickly met with online backlash by those who were familiar with his work prior to the announcement.

In particular, a clip from Gillis’ podcast, Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast, which has since been taken down but has been archived in text by Variety, drew controversy due to Gillis’ use of racist slurs against Asian people.

“Chinatown’s f***ing nuts,” Gillis said in episode 98. “Let the f***ing c***ks live there.”

In the same episode, Gillis made comments about Islam, saying that Muslims have to “spill blood” in order to get to “Muslim heaven,” known more properly as Jannah, or “the final abode of the righteous,” in the Muslim faith. Other comments, such use of hom*ophobic slurs and comments deemed as sexist in other podcast episodes, were similarly condemned by SNL fans.

Gillis did apologize for his comments. “I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries,” he wrote at the time. “I sometimes miss. If you go through my 10 years of comedy, most of it bad, you’re going to find a lot of bad misses. I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said.”

However, many people saw this statement as a non-apology, rather an “I’m sorry you felt that way” over genuine accountability or regret. It seemed that SNL agreed, with the show deciding to let him go before the first episodes of season 45 began production.

“After talking with Shane Gillis, we have decided he will not be joiningSNL,” a statement from Lorne Michaels read. “We wantSNLto 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 forSNL.”

“We were not aware of his prior remarks that have surfaced over the past few days. The language is offensive, hurtful and unacceptable. We are sorry we did not see these clips earlier, and that our vetting process was not up to standard.”

So, is Shane Gillis up to SNL standards now?

SNL may have changed its attitude towards welcoming Shane Gillis, but his comedy arguably hasn’t changed much since his firing. Gillis’ “anti-PC” style of comedy is still very much his signature, earning millions of views on TikTok for his stand-up routine about his family members with Down’s Syndrome.

In the lead-up to his hosting gig, TMZ found further examples of Gillis using more slurs on the A Fair One podcast – this time against Jewish and Black people. However, SNL appears to be standing firm on their decision to hire Gillis, with their pre-show promos depicting Gillis attempting to create some inoffensive jokes – and failing.

Bowen Yang, who was cast on SNL at the same time as Gillis, will be writing and performing alongside the comic in the upcoming episode. As many users on social media have pointed out, Yang — who is both openly gay, and Asian-American — may well be less than comfortable with the decision to re-hire Gillis, when hom*ophobia and anti-Asian racism were the reasons for his firing in the first place.

Bowen Yang deserves so much better than all the weird sh*t they've made him put up with

— Mean and Gay Hermit (@PretentiousChik) February 4, 2024

personally, i feel bad for bowen yang AND punkie johnson AND molly kearney. also every single lgbtq staff member and writer behind the scenes. this is a hell week for a lot of people at that show i fear.

— bev (@divineintrvntin) February 4, 2024

As viewers pointed out in a recent SNL episode, Yang was visibly uncomfortable when comedian Dave Chappelle made a surprise appearance on the show when Dakota Johnson hosted, with Yang standing as far away as possible from Chappelle. Many interpreted Yang’s stance as a protest against Chappelle’s long, long history of transphobic and other anti-LGBTQ comments in recent years, with Yang standing in solidarity with the trans community.

I know Bowen Yang is tired.

— Richard Newby – Newbyish Account (@NewbyRichard3) February 4, 2024

Until Gillis’ SNL episode airs, it’s difficult to gauge how tolerant the venerable series will be towards his style of comedy — although his invitation alone appears to have somewhat walked back the show’s stance when it came to firing Gillis in 2019. Whether Gillis’ jokes are more restrained compared to his more controversial past, or will be more authentic to his sense of humor, will be of great intrigue to millions of viewers when they tune in this Saturday.

The Shane Gillis controversy, explained (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jonah Leffler

Last Updated:

Views: 6187

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (65 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jonah Leffler

Birthday: 1997-10-27

Address: 8987 Kieth Ports, Luettgenland, CT 54657-9808

Phone: +2611128251586

Job: Mining Supervisor

Hobby: Worldbuilding, Electronics, Amateur radio, Skiing, Cycling, Jogging, Taxidermy

Introduction: My name is Jonah Leffler, I am a determined, faithful, outstanding, inexpensive, cheerful, determined, smiling person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.