Fired ‘anti-woke’ SNL comedian Shane Gillis returns to show – and bombs

Former SNL cast member Shane Gillis, who was fired from the show after allegations of racism and homophobia, returned with a less-than-triumphant appearance that started with a divisive opening monologue.

Hosting Saturday Night Live on Saturday (24 February) alongside musical guest 21 Savage, Gillis returned to the show, including several jokes about his relatives with Down syndrome in his opening monologue.

“I was actually fired from this show a while ago,” he began. “But you know… don’t look that up, please, don’t even worry about it.”

The 36-year-old comedian continued with a joke about being his mum’s “gay best friend” when he was a young child, before discovering masturbation.

Gillis’ main focus during his monologue was about family members of his who have Down syndrome, repeating sections from his recent Netflix special Shane Gillis: Beautiful Dogs, and featuring the slur “r*tarded”. 

“It almost got me,” he said, joking that he looked like he had Down syndrome. “I dodged it, but it nicked me.”

He added: “Look, I don’t have any material that can be on TV, all right?”

The opening monologue was described as “uneasy” and “middling” by NPR, who wrote, “As the monologue wore on, Gillis seemed increasingly uncomfortable – even for a comic whose onstage persona is a slightly awkward, sorta doofus. More than once, he quipped that he expected a joke to get a bigger laugh, noting at one point, ‘This place is extremely well-lit. I can see everyone not enjoying it.’”

In 2019, Shane Gillis was fired from SNL after less than a week when racist and homophobic comments he made on a podcast resurfaced.

On a 2018 episode of his podcast with Matt McCusker, Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast, the pair ranked minorities in a “hierarchy of stand-up comedy”, rating white women as the least funny group of people. 

Among many offensive slurs, the pair called male comedians who talk about mental health “white f*ggot comics” and “f*cking gayer than ISIS”. They also imitated the accents of Chinese immigrants, calling them the appalling slur “f*cking ch*nks”. 

At the time, a statement on behalf of SNL creator Lorne Michaels said the comic had been fired, and that the language he used was “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,” the statement read. 

Gillis was also criticised for his apology after the vile jokes resurfaced, with the comic claiming he “pushes boundaries” and that he “sometimes misses” on jokes. 

“My intention is never to hurt anyone but I’m trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks,” he said. 

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