Why Was Shane Gillis Fired From Saturday Night Live?

When comedian Shane Gillis hosts Saturday Night Live this weekend alongside musical guest 21 Savage, it won’t be his first time in the building.

Gillis was one of three cast members added to Saturday Night Live for its 45th season, but he was fired four days after he was hired – before ever making an appearance on the show.

His dismissal came after after a 2018 video surfaced showing him using a racist slur and making fun of Chinese accents during a discussion with his podcast co-host Matt McCusker. Gillis said in the clip that “an Asian trying to learn English bothers me.” He also accused Chinese food and eateries of being “dishonest,” adding, “The translation between you and the waiter is such a f—ing hassle, I’m pointing at it,” Gillis said in the video he’s since deleted from his YouTube page.

Gillis also said “Chinatown’s f—ing nuts. Let the f—ing ch–ks live there, huh?”

In another episode from their podcast, Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast, Gillis spoke about “white f—ot comics” and also used race, gender, and sexual orientation to rank how funny comedians are.  Vulture published a story at the time which includes the owner of a Philadelphia comedy venue revealing that Gillis was barred from their stage after making sexist, homophobic and racist comments. 

After Gillis’ 2018 remarks went viral, many called for him to be removed from the cast. Not helping matters was one of the three members joining Gillis for SNL’s 45th season was Bowen Yang – a gay man and the first SNL cast member of East Asian descent.

SNL parted ways with Gillis days after the remarks surfaced.

At the time of the incident, an SNL spokesperson stated: “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 a comedian and his impressive audition for SNL. 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.”

Gillis went on to apologize for those remarks in several statements on Twitter/X, saying, in part, “If you go through my 10 years of comedy, most of it bad, you’re going to find a lot of bad misses … My intention is never to hurt anyone but I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks.”

He also stated, “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 said. 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.”

It’s not clear how the cast is feeling about Gillis’ imminent return to the show, but it comes on the heels of rumors that Yang and other cast members have been unhappy with recent appearances by polarizing figures.

Yang and castmate Sarah Sherman were reported to have distanced themselves from Dave Chappelle when he appeared unannounced on the SNL stage for “goodnights” on Jan. 27. And a week later, Yang appeared to signal his displeasure over Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley appearing on the Feb. 3 show in a since-deleted Instagram post.

Separately, during a Feb. 14 appearance on Dana Carvey and David Spade’s podcast, Mikey Day dodged a question about how the cast is feeling about Gillis’ return. “I’m not sure. I haven’t really talked about it with anyone,” he told them.

It remains to be seen how (or if) Gillis’ firing will be addressed on this week’s show, but he’s not the first fired SNL cast member invited back to host. Weekend Update anchor Norm Macdonald was fired by then-NBC exec Don Ohlmeyer in 1998, who said he wasn’t funny enough, and returned to SNL to host less than two years later. Chris Rock, who was fired in 1993, has hosted SNL three times in the years since. Sarah Silverman, who lasted just one season on the show, returned to host in 2014. Damon Wayans was fired in 1986 after sabotaging a live sketch, but was invited back as host in 1995. Robert Downey Jr. spent only a year on the cast (1985-’86) and returned to host in 1996.

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