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Turns Out Shane Gillis Was SNL’s Terrible Attempt to “Appeal to More Conservative Viewers”

Bigotry isn't the inverse of liberal politics.

The cast of SNL dressed up as the members of the Trump administration, singing.

When evidence of  Shane Gillis’ racist comedy and podcast appearances began circulating last week right after the announcement that he’d been added to the cast of Saturday Night Live, there was some surprise that SNL had done such a poor job of vetting their new additions. After all, this stuff didn’t require a lot of digging. Journalist Seth Simons found the first and arguably most egregious example, showing Gillis on an episode of his own podcast from only one year ago, saying incredibly racist things about Asian people.

From there, Vulture’s Megh Wright found a whole lot more racist, homophobic, sexist content that they said was “very easy to find on Google.” On top of that, Wright spoke to his colleagues in Philadelphia who were surprised that someone doing his sort of material got a job on SNL. She even spoke to one club owner who stopped booking him “within the past few years because of racist, homophobic, and sexist things he’s said on and offstage.”

When Gillis was let go only a few days after his hiring was announced, a statement from a representative of Lorne Michaels said that they “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.”

But according to Variety, they were very much aware of his prior remarks and they were the whole reason why he was hired in the first place. So their vetting process worked just fine, it was just terribly guided.

“According to sources, the long-running NBC comedy show and series mastermind Lorne Michaels were actively looking to cast a comedian for its new season who would appeal to more conservative viewers,” that report reads. “This was meant to counteract the appearance of a liberal bias on the show, given that it has seen a major resurgence in popularity in recent years with Alec Baldwin regularly portraying President Donald Trump while other cast members and guest stars have played members of his administration and those in his orbit.”

This is both-sidesism at its worst. To balance out a liberal-leaning slate of sketches, they brought in a guy who peddles racism as comedy. But bigotry is not the inverse of liberal politics. It makes sense that SNL’s sketches put Trump and other Republicans in their crosshairs so frequently–that’s who’s in power right now. If they can’t find a way to legitimately balance the political scales, there’s probably a reason for that and resorting to hiring someone who appeals to Trump supporters’ worst instincts off-camera is just a desperate and clueless move.

Plus, as of last season (I haven’t seen a change for season 45 announced anywhere), the two head writers of the show were still Colin Jost and Michael Che, who are about as middle-of-the-road as you can get. They might mock Trump onscreen but offscreen, they’ve made it clear their views of cultural politics range from nonexistent to downright terrible.

(via Variety, image: Will Heath/NBC)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.