Shane Gillis posing at the Annual Stand Up For Heroes Benefit in NY in 2023

Shane Gillis’ ‘SNL’ Firing Is Just the Tip of the Bigotry Iceberg

Actor and comedian Shane Gillis will be hosting Saturday Night Live on February 24, and those unfamiliar with his history will be curious as to why many viewers are critical of this hosting choice.

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Shane Gillis was actually once a featured cast member on SNL. However, his stint on the show lasted just four days. He was announced as one of three new cast members on September 12, 2019. However, on September 16, a spokesperson released a statement confirming he wouldn’t be joining the show after all. Gillis was fired immediately after being hired when the show became aware of his offensive past remarks. Despite his SNL firing, GIllis’ career surprisingly only took a minor hit from his scandal.

Since then, he has gone on to participate in a web series and released two comedy specials, one of which aired on Netflix. Gillis has also continued Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast with Matt McCusker, which is the same podcast that ultimately got him fired from SNL. While his career has flourished, he has done little to prove that he has grown since the controversy, raising the question of why the show suddenly thinks now is a good time to let him return.

Why was Shane Gillis fired from SNL?

The controversy that got Gillis fired from SNL stemmed from racist comments he made on Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast. Immediately after his hiring, portions of the podcast resurfaced in which he used racist and anti-LGBTQ slurs. Meanwhile, it wasn’t a one-off incident, as racist and homophobic sentiments were expressed across multiple episodes.

In one resurfaced clip, Gillis can be heard using a slur for Chinese individuals as he and McCusker made multiple derogatory comments and tried to mock Chinese accents. In another clip, he uses homophobic slurs to mock other comedians and rates them based on their race, gender, and sexual orientation.

During a 2017 episode, Gillis practically admits that he’s racist, stating, “I like to open with a bad racist joke. Make sure everyone knows I suck.” When discussing offending Asian members of one of his audiences with a racist joke, he tells McCusker that he actually tones down his racism onstage. Once the offensive remarks resurfaced, Gillis’ whole excuse was that he was “a comedian who pushes boundaries.” He gave a feeble apology to “anyone who’s actually offended” by what he had said and explained that he didn’t want to “hurt anyone,” but to be a good comedian, he had to take “risks.”

Of course, no one actually considered that statement an apology. To define explicit racism as “pushing boundaries” and claim that he has to make racist jokes to be a good comedian was despicable. After his firing from SNL, while appearing on The Tim Dillon Show, Gillis claimed he was pressured into making the statement and retracted it. He still refused to apologize, instead claiming that his words were taken out of context.

What has Gillis done since SNL?

It didn’t take long for Gillis to become an icon among right-wingers. He was a seemingly right-leaning individual who fit the “cancel culture” narrative for being racist, homophobic, and sexist, so, of course, conservatives love him. However, unfortunately, he was never really “canceled.” Just months after his firing, he was named “2019’s Stand-Up Comedian of the Year.” He went on to release live comedy shows, and Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast still holds the #1 spot on the Top Patreon Podcasts chart. Meanwhile, Gillis has continued leaning into his conservative audience.

He appeared multiple times on conspiracy theorist Joe Rogan’s podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. Additionally, Gillis recently began a partnership with Bud Light, a move many suspect was the company’s way of winning back transphobic audiences after sponsoring Dylan Mulvaney. Further offensive jokes from 2018 have also recently resurfaced, revealing he used the N-word and reinforced negative Jewish stereotypes, as well as mocked people with Down syndrome.

Ultimately, his offensive remarks are even worse than what was initially reported. There is also little evidence that he has grown. Instead, he seems happy to cater to conservatives if they give him an audience. So, SNL welcoming him back has nothing to do with him having redeemed himself since the time of his firing. The show has likely invited him back for the same reason they hired him in the first and the same reason why Bud Light partnered with him: to appeal to conservatives. Whether it’s Bud Light or SNL, using controversial figures to win over conservatives is a dangerous bid that threatens to validate their transphobic, homophobic, and racist ideals.

(featured image: Jamie McCarthy / Getty)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.