Brow Beat

New SNL Cast Member Says He’s “Happy to Apologize” for Offensive Remarks, Stops Short of Actually Apologizing

Shane Gillis holding a microphone.
Shane Gillis at the 2019 Clusterfest on June 21 in San Francisco.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Clusterfest.

Saturday Night Live announced the addition of three new cast members on Thursday, one of whom is Bowen Yang, a major development for a show on which Asian performers have historically been underrepresented. But it didn’t take long for another one of the new hires, Shane Gillis, to become mired in controversy as a video of the stand-up comic began making the rounds on Twitter.

In the video from last year, Gillis and his co-host, Matt McCusker, seem to be recording a conversation for their podcast Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast in which they insult Chinatown and Chinese food. Gillis in particular uses the racial slur chink and uses a stereotypical Asian accent several times. The YouTube page the video was taken from seems to have been scrubbed, and the episode, entitled “Ep 98 Ka Pow,” is no longer available on iTunes or on the podcast’s website. However, according to Variety, Gillis says in the same episode that “you gotta praise Allah by spilling blood” while talking about “Muslim heaven,” and refers to his and McCusker’s comments as “nice racism, good racism.”

NBC and Saturday Night Live have not responded to the backlash, but Gillis issued a statement. “I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries,” he wrote in a statement on Twitter. “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. My intention is never to hurt anyone but I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks.”

Gillis’ defense and not-exactly-an-apology did not quell the backlash.

Though Gillis refers to his “10 years of comedy” in the statement, the anti-Asian comments are relatively recent—the video is from September 2018, hardly ancient history—and Variety points out that he has made other offensive remarks as recently as last week: In an episode released Sept. 3, Gillis uses the words retard and faggot and jokes with McCusker about which “young boys” and prisoners of war would’ve been raped during the Civil War.