Shane Gillis Hosts SNL: A Polarizing Decision

Comedian Shane Gillis embarks on a journey of redemption

by Zain ul Abedin
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Shane Gillis Hosts SNL: A Polarizing Decision
© Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

The most recent one over the past week came when the venerable sketch-comedy series "Saturday Night Live" announced that it had hired a comedian named Shane Gillis to be part of its ensemble and news broke a short time later that he had a history of making racist and homophobic remarks.

The controversy began in 2019 when SNL announced Gillis as a new cast member. Shortly after, a clip from a show called "Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast" surfaced with him making racist and homophobic comments. This led to his being sacked straight away from the show, meaning a spokesperson for SNL producer Lorne Michaels said Gillis's language was "offensive, hurtful, and unacceptable." In reply, Gillis made a half-hearted apology via Twitter, saying that he knew he had taken risks with comedy but he had not intended to hurt anyone.

Gillis's Image Rebuild

That event was particularly controversial because it coincided with the addition of Bowen Yang to the cast of Saturday Night Live, whose hiring made him the first Chinese American actor to feature on the show, underlining its battle with inclusivity and sensitiveness.

In the years to come, Gillis set out to rehabilitate his image by making an appearance on Joe Rogan's popular podcast "The Joe Rogan Experience" and receiving supportive comments from comedians like Bill Burr and Theo Von.

Other credits of the stand-up comic and podcast co-host are a profile in the New Yorker and a role in Peacock's upcoming series "Bupkis," co-produced by Michaels and starring Pete Davidson. His second comedy special, "Shane Gillis: Beautiful Dogs," drops on Netflix in September 2023.

Also returning for the February 24 episode, as host, was Gillis, along with musical guest 21 Savage, in which new controversy was stirred. Asian American groups expressed disappointment at the news, with Norman Chen, CEO of the Asian American Foundation, telling TMZ that Gillis could have better apologized by emphasizing that such jokes harm the everyday lives of members of the Asian American community.

Speaking to Rolling Stone in June of last year, Yang spoke about the Gillis incident and stressed how tremendously complicated it is to be in such a divergent environment and how actors need to possess really tough skin.

Yang managed to win a full scholarship, which, in his words, was a door that had opened not only a lot of money but also a great experience and a way to his career

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