Saturday Night Live can count the past week as one of the show’s most controversial in four decades and the new season hasn’t even started yet. Last week, it was announced that the show would be adding comedians Chloe Finneman and Shane Gillis, as well as SNL staff writer Bowen Yang, to the roster of on-screen talent. But the spotlight quickly turned from Yang being the first Asian-American featured cast member to the not-so-old recordings of Gillis making racist and homophobic remarks on his podcast last year. SNL fired Gillis on Monday, a move that has many in the comedy community weighing in.
Only hours after Gillis was announced as part of the cast for Season 45, comedy writer Seth Simons found video footage of Gillis making racist, sexist and homophobic comments on his podcast Matt And Shane’s Secret Podcast in 2018. The comments, which Gillis intends were meant as jokes, were made less than a year ago and quickly became a hotly debated topic, with many wondering whether SNL had done any vetting of the new comedian, while others thought that the ‘jokes’ were protected by free speech and edgy thoughts.
Gillis issued a statement last week to quiet the concerns of those who didn’t want a comedian with a history of making racist jokes on SNL. He used the word apology, but by all accounts it barely registered as one and he claimed his style of comedy is one that pushes boundaries.
— Shane Gillis (@Shanemgillis) September 13, 2019
On Monday, SNL announced that they were releasing Gillis and claimed they were unaware of his previous remarks “that have surfaced over the past few days. The language he used is offensive, hurtful and unacceptable,” read the statement made on behalf of SNL head honcho Lorne Michaels. “We are sorry that we did not see these clips earlier, and that our vetting process was not up to our standard.”
Though there are differing opinions about SNL’s move with claims of censorship, someone who unequivocally thinks they did the right thing? Sandra Oh. Oh received an Emmy nomination for her first time hosting SNL during Season 44 and tweeted her congratulations to Yang and Finnenman and applauded SNL for their decision to release Gillis.
Glad 2 see @nbcsnl decision NOT legitimize/give platform 2 purveyors of racist homophobic content Risks? LAZY ASS UNORIGINAL
— Sandra Oh (@IamSandraOh) September 17, 2019
Fellow Canadian, and soon-to-be Marvel superhero, Simu Liu tweeted about Gillis’ casting before SNL fired the comedian, focusing on the long and painful history of the racial slur Gillis used on his podcast.
It wasn’t funny then, and it sure as hell isn’t funny today.
This word has been used to dehumanize my people for over 150 years. You don’t get to use it in the name of edgy comedy.
— Simu Liu (@SimuLiu) September 15, 2019
Not everyone agrees with the Oh and Liu, including two SNL veterans. Norm Macdonald and Rob Schneider also jumped on Twitter, in their case to pledge their allegiance to Gillis in the name of comedy. Macdonald criticized Simons, making the issue about the person who broke the story about Gillis’ offensive comments, not the person who made the offensive comments.
@Shanemgillis Hey, Shane, I’m so sorry. I can’t even imagine how you must feel. The work it takes to get that show and to have it snatched away by some guy who does “Spoken Bird” poetry. Unacceptable. Please DM me, pal, when you have a moment. I’m so sorry.
— Norm Macdonald (@normmacdonald) September 16, 2019
Schneider appeared to flip-flop on the matter, tweeting that he thought a suspension would be more appropriate for Gillis and noted that an honest and sincere apology could go a long way. But Gillis didn’t offer that.
As a former SNL cast member 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.
— Rob Schneider (@RobSchneider) September 16, 2019
The SNL alum also said that “It’s not okay to say racist things under the guise of comedy,” seemingly implying that what Gillis said on his podcast wasn’t racist.
Gillis, in turn, used his Notes app yet again to draft another non-apology, shading the famous variety sketch show in the process.
— Shane Gillis (@Shanemgillis) September 16, 2019
Saturday Night Live kicks off its 25th season on Saturday, September 28 with host Woody Harrelson and musical guest Billie Eilish.