“Saturday Night Live” showrunner Lorne Michaels has yet to comment on the racist and homophobic remarks made by newly hired cast member Shane Gillis, but comedians and actors are expressing their condemnation on social media, some even asking that he be fired from the show.
Footage of Gillis’s podcast, “Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast,” was posted to social media by entertainment journalist Seth Simons on Thursday. In it, Gillis, when discussing New York City’s Chinatown, is heard saying, “Let the f-cking ch-nks live there,” and mocks immigrants’ language skills.
In other episodes, Gillis makes derogatory remarks about women, Muslims and the LBTQ community.
The controversy comes on the heels of news that staff writer Bowen Yang, who is gay and Chinese American, would be added to the show’s 45th season roster, only the third cast member of Asian descent to join; previous cast members Fred Armisen and Rob Schneider are of part Asian descent.
“As a comedian, I usually side with the comedians on sensitive subjects. But this is just plain racist. [It’s] truly disgusting,” wrote “Silicon Valley” star Jimmy O. Yang on Twitter. “This man has to go @nbcsnl.”
Gillis posted a statement regarding the offensive material, writing in part, “I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries. I sometimes miss.” He added, “I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said.”
W. Kamau Bell, host of CNN’s “United Shades of America,” responded to Gillis’s statement, writing, “As a comic who also “pushes boundaries” part of the deal [is] getting pushback. If you don’t want pushback then don’t “push boundaries.” Also the boundaries of “jokes” on native Chinese [people] not speaking English well were already pushed by comics when TVs only came in black and white.”
Added “Always Be My Maybe” and “Lost” star, Daniel Dae Kim, “It took 45 years for @SNL to get an East Asian cast member and in that same year, he’ll be joined by someone who would have no problem calling him a “f–kin’ ch-nk.” Gotta be a joke in there somewhere.”
Others addressed Gillis more directly, like comedian Atsuko Okatsuka, who tweeted, “[Were] you or were you not just casually eating a sandwich while voice texting this apology on your iPhone [with] a cracked screen?? Where’s the respect?? At least sign the damn thing. Use apology letter font (Times New Roman).”
Comedian and “Good Trouble” actor Sherry Cola kept it simple with a comment posted alongside video of Gillis: “NOPE.”
Simu Liu, the star of Marvel’s forthcoming Asian-led film “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” weighed in on Sunday. The Chinese Canadian actor attached a “Yellow Peril” propaganda picture from the early 1900s to a post on Twitter.
“It wasn’t funny then, and it sure as hell isn’t funny today. 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,” the “Kim’s Convenience” star wrote. “Like the other members of my community, I am eagerly awaiting @nbcsnl’s response.”
Not everyone reacted to Gillis with criticism. Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang tweeted on Saturday, “Shane – I prefer comedy that makes people think and doesn’t take cheap shots. But I’m happy to sit down and talk with you if you’d like.” He added, “For the record, I do not think he should lose his job. We would benefit from being more forgiving rather than punitive. We are all human.”
Previously, Gillis referred to Yang as a “Jew ch-nk” in an episode of “Real Ass Podcast,” hosted by comedians Luis J. Gomez and Zac Amico.
The new season of “SNL” kicks off Sept. 28 with host Woody Harrelson and musical guest Billie Eilish.