Controversy shadowed excitement this week when news broke of a new SNL cast member’s racist, sexist, and homophobic comments. Thursday afternoon, a video clip of Shane Gillis resurfaced on Twitter. The video featured the comedian using an anti-Asian slur, and it circulated around social media only hours after SNL announced that Gillis would be one of three new cast members. Also joining the cast are Chloe Fineman and Bowen Yang, the first full-time cast member of East Asian descent.
🚨 Season 45 Alert 🚨
— Saturday Night Live – SNL (@nbcsnl) September 12, 2019
SNL’s announcement prompted fans and reporters to closely examine Gillis’ past. As it turns out, he has a history of disparaging historically disenfranchised groups such as women, Muslims and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
In episode 98 of Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast, a podcast that Gillis created with fellow comic Matt McCusker, he says “Chinatown’s f—ing nuts.” The racism progressed from there as Gillis told McCusker, “Let the f—ing ch-nks live there.” He goes on to describe a restaurant as “full of f—ing Chinee [sic].”
The video recording of this podcast has since been removed from their YouTube channel. It first aired on Serious XM in September 2018.
Episode 98, entitled “Ep 98 Ka Pow,” also included offensive anti-Muslim rhetoric as Gillis and McCusker dove into a discussion on heaven across different religions. In the episode, Gillis explained that “Muslim heaven” is “the best.”
To this McCusker replied, “There’s only one way there, dude.”
“You gotta spill blood, you gotta praise Allah by spilling blood,” Gillis said in return.
The two also joke about the nature of their racist remarks on the podcast. During the same recording, Gillis describes their comments as “nice racism, good racism.”
Seth Simons, a freelance writer and editor, brought the episode to Variety’s attention when he posted a clip on Twitter.
today SNL announced the hiring of its first cast member of East Asian descent, and also this guy pic.twitter.com/0FAGJZJUkK
— Seth Simons (@sasimons) September 12, 2019
Unfortunately, Gillis’ problematic language permeates other episodes of the podcast as well. In a separate recording, “Ep 144 – A.I. is Racist,” the two comedians make fun of Asian accents. They refer to a popular video game, Clash of the Clans as “Crash of the Crans,” mocking Chinese accents.
In another episode, “Ep 146 – Live from Shane’s Parent’s Basement,” Gillis engages extensively in homophobic language. When discussing the Battle of Gettysburg, he describes soldiers as “so gay.” Later in the podcast, Gillis says “retard” and “f-ggot.” McCusker then jokes about the rape of “hot Southern boys” during the Civil War, equating it to “having sex in jail.” Gillis also made sexist remarks about women, describing those who disguised themselves as men in order to join Civil War efforts as “flat-chested f–ing bitch[es].”
In response to the controversy, Gillis issued a statement on Twitter Thursday night. He described himself as a “comedian who pushes boundaries.” He then wrote, “I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said. My intention is never to hurt anyone but I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks.”
— Shane Gillis (@Shanemgillis) September 13, 2019