On Thursday, Saturday Night Live announced that they had hired three new featured performers for the upcoming 45th season, including impressionist Chloe Fineman, stand-up comedian Shane Gillis and writer/performer Bowen Yang. While the initial headlines all focused on the hiring of Yang, who will be the first Asian-American cast member, that quickly changed as more information about Gillis came out over the day—specifically, that he has a history of using racist, sexist and homophobic slurs on his comedy podcast.
Yesterday afternoon, Seth Simons reposted two clips from an episode of "Matt and Shane's Secret Podcast" released last September, which you can see below (the full video has since been deleted from YouTube, but Gothamist reviewed it before it was deleted). In the first clip, Gillis says while referring to Chinatown, “Why do the fucking ch*nks live there?" He also recalls a restaurant being “full of fucking 'Chinee' in there." Both Gillis and his podcast partner, Matt McCusker, mimicked caricatures of Chinese accents in the clips as well.
Elsewhere in that original video, the two men discuss the various religions’ views of heaven, with Gillis proclaiming “Muslim heaven” as “the best.” “There’s only one way there, dude,” replies McCusker. “You gotta spill blood, you gotta praise Allah by spilling blood,” says Gillis.
Vulture pointed out another clip from the podcast from just a few months ago, in which Gillis and McCusker talk about comedians who use a confessional style, like Judd Apatow and Chris Gethard. Around the 12 minute mark, Vulture writes the two men "mock them using homophobic slurs, calling them 'white f*ggot comics' and 'fucking gayer than ISIS.' Earlier in the clip, around 2:20, the co-hosts rank how funny comedians are by race, gender, and sexual orientation. 'White chicks are literally the bottom,' Gillis says. 'Ali Wong is making it so Asian chicks are funnier than white chicks.'"
Variety pulled out a few other examples from the podcasts:
In a separate podcast, “Ep 144 – A.I. is Racist,” Gillis and McCusker make fun of Asian accents about 22 minutes and 20 seconds in, referring to the video game “Clash of Clans” as “Crash of Crans” in a mock Chinese accent.
A little more than 21 minutes into “Ep 146 – Live from Shane’s Parent’s Basement,” while talking about the Battle of Gettysburg, Gillis refers to soldiers yelling as “so gay.” About 29 minutes into the podcast, Gillis uses the word “retard,” and “f-ggot,” and shortly afterward he and McCusker joke about “hot Southern boys” being raped during the Civil War, comparing it to “having gay sex in jail.” Gillis, in describing women who disguised themselves as men to fight in the war, refers to them as “flat chested f—ing bitch[es].”
All of the past episodes of Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast have now been scrubbed from its YouTube channel. Vulture adds that despite that Internet scraping, there’s an entire subreddit dedicated to his podcast that’s filled with homophobic slurs, even against current SNL writers. Representatives from NBC and SNL did not respond to requests for comment, but Gillis took to Twitter to issue a non-apology last night:
You can check out some thoughtful responses to the controversy and that apology below.
There is a history of comedians whose past tweets, jokes and podcast comments have gained extra attention after they booked a new gig: both Trevor Noah and Melissa Villaseñor faced criticism over old tweets, though in both those cases, the jokes were made years before, unlike Gillis whose comments have come within the last year. Michael Che, one of the SNL head writers and co-anchors of Weekend Update, has made a habit of attacking critics on Instagram. SNL writer Katie Rich was suspended for a joke making fun of Barron Trump in 2017.
SNL returns later this month. Woody Harrelson will be hosting the season premiere alongside musical guest Billie Eilish on September 28th. Other hosts this season include Phoebe Waller-Bridge, David Harbour, Kristen Stewart and Eddie Murphy.