Update: SNL recently announced that Shane Gillis has been fired a mere four days after being hired.
A spokesperson for the show issued a statement on behalf of executive producer Lorne Michaels: “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.”
Shane Gillis instantly responded on Twitter by doubling down on his earlier non-apology for his inflammatory comments. He posted: “I’m a comedian who was funny enough to get SNL. That can’t be taken away. Of course I wanted an opportunity to prove myself at SNL, but I understand it would be too much of a distraction. I respect the decision they made. I’m honestly grateful for the opportunity. I was always a mad tv guy anyway.”
Presidential hopeful Andrew Yang is pro-Universal Basic Income, pro-usage of dad finger guns, anti-tie, and, apparently, anti-Cancel Culture.
The 2020 Democratic hopeful weighed in on the recent controversy over one of SNL’s three new hires, Shane Gillis. In a since-deleted episode of his podcast, Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast, Gillis says, “Chinatown’s f*cking nuts…Let the f*cking ch*nks live there.” In another since-deleted clip, Gillis specifically calls Yang a “Jew ch**k.” In response, Yang posted a Twitter thread speaking out about how it’s “hurtful,” but he “forgive[s] Shane, as the guy he called a slur,” because “we have, as a society, become excessively punitive and vindictive concerning people’s statements and expressions we disagree with or find offensive.”
Gillis posted a pseudo-apology last week in the typical cop-out formula of, “I’m sorry that YOU were offended.” He defended his language, saying, “I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries. Sometimes I miss.” He added, “I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said.”
In response, Yang wrote a measured, thoughtful response: a rarity when it comes to racial commentary, especially its usage in comedy. The 44-year-old tech entrepreneur posted, “I prefer comedy that makes people think and doesn’t take cheap shots. But I’m happy to sit down and talk with you if you’d like.” He bluntly added, “I’ve been called ch*nk and g*ok any number of times in my life. It can be extraordinarily hurtful to feel like you are somehow not part of the only country you have ever known. I have certainly felt that – the churning sense of alienation, anger and marginalization.”
The clips included Gillis’s other inflammatory comments, including epithets about Muslims, the LGBTQ+ community, and women. Most attention has been focused on his anti-Asian remarks in light of the fact that Gillis joined SNL alongside the show’s first Asian-American full-time cast member, Bowen Yang. SNL has a long history of “risky” humor to comment on racial tensions (even though the comedic staple has declined miserably in recent decades). But all good satire has a core of empathy that makes pointed criticism about its subject; in contrast, Gillis’s jokes were clearly shock-jock locker room humor, geared towards the lowest common denominator.
While many comedians have weighed in on the controversy, namely the question of whether or not Gillis should be allowed to keep his new job, Yang shared his opinion that Gillis should be allowed to stay: “For the record, I do not think he should lose his job. We would benefit from being more forgiving rather than punitive. We are all human.”
In truth, Gillis’s hiring (despite his past comments) and Yang’s response both illustrate the complicated and strange racial prejudice that still surrounds Asian-Americans. According to the last census in 2010, Asian-Americans only comprise about 5% of the population. That would explain the media’s scant representation of Asian faces, with only 1% of Hollywood’s leading roles being given to Asian actors (even after Crazy Rich Asians‘ box office success last year).
As such, Bowen Yang’s addition to SNL was met with wide acclaim as a long-overdue step forward in the show’s 44-season run. That includes Andrew Yang, who congratulated the comedian on twitter, saying, “Hope you play me on SNL. 😀👍” Imagine if the new season opens with (Bowen) Yang playing (Andrew) Yang responding to a racist comment in a thoughtful, satirical commentary. That’s probably too high an expectation for the dying sketch comedy show, but America can dream.
As a Muslim-American comedian and former production staff member for SNL, Dean Obeidallah, noted: “The words [Gillis] said may have already made him too toxic for the iconic late-night show. But regardless of what happens, the hope is that people like Gillis can be encouraged to learn and evolve. Of course, the person needs to be willing to do the work for that to happen.”
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