Saturday Night Live today fired comedian Shane Gillis after a series of racist and homophobic comments he made in the past surfaced last week. NBC released a statement, published via Vulture, that states that although the show first hired Gillis “on the strength of his talent as comedian and his impressive audition for SNL,” producers were “not aware of his prior remarks that have surfaced over the past few days.”
“The language he used is offensive, hurtful and unacceptable,” reads the statement, which comes from executive producer and show creator Lorne Michaels. “We are sorry that we did not see these clips earlier, and that our vetting process was not up to our standard.”
Gillis was chosen to appear as a featured player on the show at the same time SNL hired its first Asian American comedian, Bowen Yang. Creating a work environment where actors, writers, and crew members feel welcome is important, and it’s likely producers took this into account when deciding what path to take with Gillis. That, on top of the immediate and intense backlash Gillis and SNL received over his hiring, appears to have led to his inevitable firing.
Gillis has responded to the firing on Twitter, stating that it feels “ridiculous for comedians to be making serious public statements but here we are.” He added that he’s a “comedian who was funny enough to get SNL,” and that “can’t be taken away.”
“I was always a MAD TV guy anyway,” he wrote.
“Of course I wanted an opportunity to prove myself at SNL, but I understand it would be too much of a distraction,” Gillis wrote. The comedian first issued a statement on his past remarks on Twitter last week, after he began to receive criticism and backlash. At the time, he argued that the remarks were a result of him being a “comedian who pushes boundaries,” adding that sometimes he misses.
“I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said,” Gillis wrote. “My intention is never to hurt anyone but I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks.”
The controversy over Gillis’ statements have provoked comments from other comedians, actors, and even politician Andrew Yang, whom Gillis specifically targeted with a racial slur during a recent podcast taping. While Yang defended Gillis, saying he did not wish for the comedian to lose his job, other actors suggested SNL should part ways with him over the controversy.
“It wasn’t funny then, and it sure as hell isn’t funny today,” actor Simu Liu, who will appear in Marvel’s Shang-Chi, tweeted in response to a video featuring Gillis using a racist expletive targeted at Asian people. “This word has been used to dehumanize my people for over 150 years. You don’t get to use it in the name of edgy comedy.”
Gillis’ firing comes just one week ahead of SNL’s season premiere.