Brow Beat

Saturday Night Live Drops Shane Gillis After Backlash to Racist Remarks

Shane Gillis holds a microphone in front of a neon sign.
Shane Gillis performs onstage at the 2019 Clusterfest on June 21, 2019 in San Francisco, California. Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Clusterfest

Shane Gillis will not be joining the cast of Saturday Night Live after all. A spokesperson on behalf of creator Lorne Michaels—whose silence on the issue further fueled the outrage over Gillis’ casting—claims that producers were unaware of Gillis’ history of racist and homophobic remarks when he was hired for the upcoming season, calling the comments “offensive, hurtful, and unacceptable.”

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.

Backlash against Gillis began when SNL announced three new cast members on Thursday, after which a video in which Gillis uses a racial slur and mimics a stereotypical Asian accent began circulating on Twitter. “I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries,” Gillis said in response to the controversy, adding that he would be “happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said,” though he did not comment on or try to explain the specific remarks. Critics unearthed further examples of Gillis making offensive comments, some of them extremely recent, including calling 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang a “Jew chink.” Yang responded that he was willing to “sit down and talk” with Gillis.

Gillis reacted to his firing from SNL by posting another statement on Twitter:

It feels ridiculous for comedians to be making serious public statements but here we are.

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.

The 45th season of SNL will premiere on Sept. 28 sans Gillis but with the addition of two other new cast members, Chloe Fineman and Bowen Yang.