Comedian Shane Gillis made his first public appearance Wednesday night since being hired and then fired from the cast of Saturday Night Live within a week after his past use of racist slurs drew controversy.
In his 11-minute set at the Stand comedy club in New York, Gillis – wearing a hoodie from Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast, his show that drew ire for its racist and homophobic jokes – quickly addressed the controversy. “Everybody’s been like, ‘You can’t say shit and not expect consequences.’ I’m fine with the consequences. I’m not arguing. Fuck it. But I do want everyone to know that I’ve been reading every one of my death threats in an Asian accent.”
Gillis also addressed the backlash he had received online – “Twitter has been fucking nuts” – and highlighted the difference between his “white trash” family and upbringing in Philadelphia and the “woke” friends he’s made since moving to New York. (It was reported in Vulture that Gillis was banned from several comedy clubs in the Philly scene for bigoted remarks in his comedy sets.)
“[My uncles] have the internet, so I’ll get online and the first status will be someone from back home like, ‘Fucking Colin Kaepernick better stand up. Like this status if you love the troops and God. Share it if you’re not gay.’ Next status is one of my new woke friends like, ‘I’m not racist,'” said Gillis. “It’s funny to hear so many people these days be like, ‘I’m not racist.’ Are you sure? Being racist isn’t a yes or no thing. It’s not like you have it or you don’t have it. Being racist is like being hungry. You’re not right now but a cheeseburger could cut you off in traffic and you could get hungry real quick. You didn’t even know you were hungry for that type of cheeseburger. The cheeseburger’s not Asian in that joke.”
According to Variety, the audience at the Stand responded positively to Gillis, clapping loudly when he appeared and shouting his name several times throughout the set.
Gillis was announced last Thursday as a new SNL cast hire, along with Chloe Fineman and SNL writer Bowen Yang. His remarks against Asian people, the LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups, primarily made on his podcast co-hosted with Matt McCusker, quickly resurfaced and were picked apart on social media. SNL announced that they had fired Gillis the following Monday, with a spokesperson saying on behalf of Lorne Michaels, “We were not aware of [Gillis’] 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.”
Gillis responded to the decision with his own statement, writing, “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 SNL. That can’t be taken away. Of course I wanted an opportunity to prove myself at SNL, but I understand it would be too much of a distraction. I respect the decision they made. I’m honestly grateful for the opportunity. I was always a mad tv guy anyway.”
Later, it was reported in Variety that the show was somewhat aware of Gillis’ history – although their vetting process was “severely lacking,” according to sources – and intentionally hired him to appeal to conservative viewers. Representatives from SNL have not responded to those claims.