Just days after news that Shane Gillis would be joining of Saturday Night Live for its 45th season, NBC announced that the Central Pennsylvania native’s invitation to the show’s cast has been rescinded, prompting a flood of responses from fellow comedians online.
Last week, SNL named Gillis as a new cast member alongside comics Chloe Fineman and Bowen Yang, who reportedly is the long-running show’s first Asian-American performer. However, hours after that announcement, footage of Gillis using racist and homophobic slurs on his podcast, Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast, began to go viral online. As a result, some critics began to call for Gillis’ termination from SNL.
Monday brought Gillis’ firing, with a spokesperson for SNL creator Lorne Michaels indicating that the show was “not aware of his prior remarks that have surfaced over the past few days.” Gillis, meanwhile, issued his own statement saying that he respected SNL’s decision, and that he “was always a mad tv guy anyway.”
Following the announcement that Gillis would not be joining SNL, some former cast members of the show came to his defense. Rob Schneider, who appeared on the show from 1990 to 1994, said he was sorry that Gillis “had the misfortune of being a cast member during this era of cultural unforgiveness.”
“I think a suspension would be appropriate for someone who is part of an organization that says something terrible in a podcast from a year earlier,” Schneider wrote in a later tweet. He added that “destroying someone does not” seem as appropriate as accepting an “honest, sincere apology.”
Norm Macdonald, who appeared on SNL from 1993 to 1996, also said he was sorry about the situation, writing on Twitter that he “can’t even imagine how [Gillis] must feel.” He added that to have the opportunity “snatched away by some guy who does ‘Spoken Bird’ poetry,” meaning comedy journalist Seth Simons, who initially shared the controversial videos of Gillis, is “unacceptable.”
“I love how funny the internet is,” Macdonald said in a later tweet. “Funniest ever. And it is especially stupid tonight.”
Other comics also came to Gillis’ defense following news that he would not be joining SNL. Tommy Pope, who created Comedy Central pilot Delco Proper, wrote that Gillis “will go on to achieve great things regardless,” while fellow cast member Michael Rainey wrote that all the “improv and sketch zilches” who are “ecstatic right now” should “celebrate tonight then get back to begging your aunts to come watch you play make believe with chicks with safety scissor-cut bangs.”
Delaware County-born comic Josh Denny, who hosts Food Network’s Ginormous Food and had his own racially-charged controversy last year, wrote online that “the level of puritanical censorship we’re approaching in this country is horrifically un-American.” Denny also discussed the situation in-depth in an appearance on fellow comic Sam Tripoli’s podcast, Tin Foil Hat.
Acts like Jim Norton also sent support Gillis’ way, writing that “jokes that upset you are not suddenly classified as serious statements just because they upset you.” Marlon Wayans, meanwhile, wrote that “we have to stop the punitive damages that happens to comedians when they say some dumb” statements.
Bill Burr discussed Gillis’ firing in appearance on Comedy Central’s Lights Out with David Spade, the host of which is also a former SNL cast member. As Burr said on the show, comedians are “not running for office.”
“When is this going to f- end?” Burr said. “F- millennials, you’re a bunch of rats — all of you. None of them care. All they want to do is get people in trouble.”
Presidential hopeful Andrew Yang also weighed in on the situation, indicating that he had “reached out” to him” and that the pair would be “sitting down together soon.” Yang was also a target of Gillis’, who called the Democratic candidate a racial slur in a podcast in May.
Following calls for Gillis’ termination last week, Yang came to the comic’s defense, tweeting that “I do not think he should lose his job.”
“We would benefit from being more forgiving rather than punitive,” Yang wrote last week. “We are all human."
Other celebs, like former Star Trek star George Takei, celebrated Gillis’ removal from the SNL cast.
“Glad to see they made the right decision,” Takei wrote.