Shane Gillis’ ‘SNL’ firing for racist remarks splits the comedy community
While some comedians are defending Shane Gillis after his firing from “Saturday Night Live” this week, others are supporting NBC’s decision.
Gillis was one of three cast members recently added to the 45th season of the sketch-show, but was let go after racist and homophobic slurs he made on his podcast resurfaced.
“After talking with Shane Gillis, we have decided that he will not be joining ‘SNL’,” a spokesperson for the show said in a statement Monday on behalf of producer Lorne Michaels. “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.”
Howard Stern addressed Gillis controversy on his SiriusXM Satellite show Tuesday.
“I don’t know him, never heard of him,” but “NBC of course bailed on him,” Stern said.
Comparing it to the NFL standing by players accused of misconduct, Stern said, “I don’t know that this kid couldn’t have been told ‘the stuff you did was unacceptable, do you feel you could grow from this and offer an apology?'”
While not mentioning Gillis directly, Ricky Gervais tweeted over the weekend that it’s a comedian’s job to joke about whatever they want.
“Please stop saying ‘You can’t joke about anything anymore.’ You can. You can joke about whatever the f*** you like. And some people won’t like it and they will tell you they don’t like it. And then it’s up to you whether you give a f*** or not. And so on. It’s a good system,” he wrote.
David Spade responded to the controversy on his show, “Lights Out with David Spade.”
“I think when I was younger on ‘SNL,’ when you get hired the first move wasn’t to rifle through your past to make sure you get fired right away,” Spade said.
His guests, comedians Bill Burr and Jim Jeffries, agreed.
“Did they go back and also try and look back at good things the person might have done, or are the just looking for the bad stuff?” Burr asked, adding, “You could honestly do that to anybody. I don’t get it. Millennials, you’re a bunch of rats. None of them care; all they want to do is get people in trouble.”
Jeffries blamed the backlash on “cancel culture.”
“The guy shouldn’t have been fired. It’s just a couple of things back in his history — are we going to to go through everyone’s history? Or are we going to get every sketch that ‘SNL’ has done that involves race?” he asked.
“SNL” alum Norm Macdonald invited Gillis to message him for a sympathetic ear.
“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,” he tweeted.
CNN contacted several working stand-up comedians about Gillis losing his new job. Two requested their names not be used in this story, citing “SNL’s” influence in the comedy community and fear of professional retribution from comedy club bookers for defended Gillis.
“We are all talking about it, but a lot of people are afraid to comment because they’ll lose their gigs. I know I’ll lose my job if I say what I think,” one long-term, New York-based comic told CNN. “If technology didn’t exist, he wouldn’t have been fired.”
Another comic, who is based in Los Angeles and makes regular television appearances, said that while he doesn’t know Gillis personally, he thinks industry executives are sometimes too quick to fire someone.
“Did they really sit and talk to people who know this guy’s character or did they just pull the plug because he said something that really was meant to be a joke?” he asked.
Gillis responded to his firing over Twitter, writing, “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 on ‘SNL.’ That can’t be taken away,” he wrote. “Of course, I wanted an opportunity to prove myself at ‘SNL’ but it would be too much of a distraction. I respect the decision they made. I am honestly grateful for the opportunity.”
Not everyone defended Gillis.
Comedian Atsuko Okatsuka thought Gillis should have been more thoughtful about his initial response to the criticism, tweeting, “Were you or were you not just casually eating a sandwich while voice texting this apology on your iPhone w/ a cracked screen??Where’s the respect?? At least sign the damn thing. Use apology letter font (Times New Roman). I don’t wanna see the lazy process!”
Former “SNL” castmember Rob Schneider had his own take.
“There’s a difference between exposing truths through Free Speech and just being ugly,” he tweeted. “It’s not okay to say racist things under the guise of comedy. Just because you have a mic in your hand doesn’t make the racist things you say any less racist.”
Gillis seemed to hit back at “SNL” on Monday, concluding his statement, “I was always a Mad TV guy anyway.”