“It’s funny. Now, when I do standup, I feel like I have to talk about it right away,” comedian Shane Gillis said at the top of his set Thursday night at Helium Comedy Club. “You’ve got to address it.”
The “it” Gillis was referring to was his high-profile hiring and near-immediate firing from the cast of Saturday Night Live last month. The Mechanicsburg, Pa., native had been added to the show’s cast for its current 45th season, but SNL rescinded its offer days later amid outrage over racist and homophobic slurs he used on episodes of his podcast, Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast, which he hosts with fellow comic Matt McCusker.
That podcast will do an episode live at Helium at midnight Saturday — a show that will cap a three-day run at Helium for Gillis and his cohorts. Openers on Thursday, Gillis’ first official headlining set in Philly since the SNL ordeal, included McCusker as well as Philly comics Brian Six and Chris O’Connor.
“When I got hired, I knew I was going to get fired for sure,” Gillis said during his roughly 50-minute set.
Much of the media coverage over Gillis’ termination focused on the use of slurs and stereotypes targeting people of Asian descent. Gillis said Thursday that firing him for his material on Asians “is like getting Capone on tax evasion, because I got way worse.”
While that may be true, his set on Thursday appeared at least more measured compared with some of his previously reported comments, even when the material turned to controversial topics like race and racism. Those offended by the slurs that got him fired from SNL, he said, were mostly “honkies, dirty whites,” and he added that he has not been “confronted once” about his material by an Asian person.
“You don’t realize how many Asian people there are until you fear all of them,” Gillis said. “I don’t think they cared. No one cared. Anyway, this is how I have to start every show. I have to come out and be like, ‘Hello, I’m not racist.’”
Gillis went on to discuss his firing from SNL and its ensuing fallout several times throughout the set between other bits, some of which were previously reported following his post-firing return to standup last month in New York City. A new element he took issue with, however, was the media’s practice of attending his shows and recording him — specifically in reference to a joke about President Donald Trump being assassinated.
“I told that joke right when the SNL thing happened, and some reporter was at the show and recorded it — which is cool. It’s crazy that people do that,” he said, adding that the reporter sent the joke to Fox News, which he said caused backlash among Trump supporters.
In the wake of his termination from SNL, some critics painted Gillis as a conservative comic, which he said Thursday was not true, indicating that he “did not vote for Donald Trump” with a joking wink.
“But look at me — that was tough,” he said. “His whole campaign was aimed at me. I was watching TV, and he was like, ‘Are you a [expletive] fat idiot?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, dude. What are we doing? I’ll do it.’”
At one point, Gillis veered into territory that seemed to make him somewhat uncomfortable, joking that he should “stop getting the boys fired up” with his material lest he accidentally encourage fans to “leave here and burn down an improv theater.”