God damn that was fast: Just hours after Saturday Night Live announced that it was adding three new cast members to its upcoming 45th season, one of them—stand-up comic Shane Gillis—has already had a video of himself using a racial slur on a podcast resurfaced by the collective power of the internet. Gillis was announced to be joining the Not Ready For Primetime Players earlier this afternoon, alongside sketch comedian and impressionist Chloe Fineman, and current SNL writer Bowen Yang—the show’s first East Asian-American regular performer, ever.
That’s especially awkward/regrettable, in so far as Gillis can be heard using a racial slur for Asian people in an episode of his show Matt And Shane’s Secret Podcast, during a conversation with comedian Matt McCusker. In footage circulated by comedy reporter Seth Simons on Twitter today, Gillis and McCusker go on an extended riff about all the things they hate about Chinatown, apparently, including a moment in which Gillis uses the slur in question. (He also complains about waiters in Chinese restaurants being difficult to understand, which is less overtly racist, and more just sort of hack.)
Anyway, this is presumably turning into a really great day for his fellow new castmates, Yang and Fineman, who have now seen what should have been one of the greatest days of their comedy careers overshadowed by some dumb shit that it took the internet roughly 9 seconds to unearth. (The official version of the video has been deleted, but obviously that means nothing on social media.) Yang, as we noted, is already a member of the Saturday Night Live family; he came onboard the show as a writer last season, and has appeared in a few small parts in sketches, besides being an extremely talented comic in his own right.
Fineman, meanwhile, is a Groundlings alum with a long background in sketch. Although she’s popped up on shows like Search Party and Mozart In The Jungle, her biggest claim to fame to date is a series of impressions she’s deployed on social media. (Note: This is a much better reason to be famous on the internet than “Rambled an epithet while angry about Chinese architecture.”) She’s tackled everybody from Maisie Williams to Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes to Hannah Gadsby, and her knack for capturing the voices of such a wide array of figures will presumably serve her well at Studio 8H.
Meanwhile, Variety reports that, so far, there’s been only one big cast departure expected for this upcoming run of shows: Leslie Jones, who announced that she was leaving the series last week. There was some speculation that fellow Ghostbuster Kate McKinnon might be gearing up to similarly leave the nest, but so far she remains ensconsed, Kenan-esque, in the warm embrace of her sketch comedy home.
Saturday Night Live returns for its 45th season on September 28. Woody Harrelson is set to host.
Update: Per Vulture, Simons and other comedy writers have found more instances of Gillis using homophobic and racist language on his podcast, much of it as recently as late 2018. In one instance, Gillis describes comics who talk about their own lives—including Judd Apatow and Chris Gethard—using a slur for gay men, while in another, he takes time out of his busy day to rank the relative comedy abilities of a variety of race and gender combinations. Vulture’s Megh Wright has an interesting (and dispiriting) thread here, highlighting a number of posts and reactions from the subreddit devoted to Gillis’ show:
Even in the subreddit—ostensibly full of Gillis supporters—questions are raised about how thoroughly SNL vetted its new hire before offering to bring him aboard.