"Saturday Night Live" recently announced the addition of three new cast members for its upcoming season: Bowen Yang, Shane Gillis, and Chloe Fineman. Yang's casting, in particular, gained attention and praise due to "SNL's" previous lack of Asian cast members. However, Yang was not the only one to gain attention after being cast. Shane Gillis's casting was also widely talked about, though for a much different reason. Videos of Gillis making racist remarks and using racial slurs against Asian Americans surfaced shortly after his casting, as well as a history of sexism and homophobia.
Following the backlash from these videos, Gillis posted an apology on his Twitter in which he claimed that he was merely pushing boundaries and that comedy "requires risks." He categorized his racist comments as "bad misses" and added, "I'm happy to apologize to anyone who's actually offended by anything I've said." Instead of directly unequivocally apologizing, he made an attempt to take the blame off himself and hide behind the excuse of being "a comedian who pushes boundaries."
Since when was blatant racism acceptable for the sake of comedy?
Not only did Gillis make fun of and insult Asian accents and Asian immigrants' abilities to speak English, he also referred to Asians as c***ks, a racial slur that has been commonly used against Asians and members of the Asian diaspora. If that's not enough, this wasn't just a one-time incident either: Gillis also referred to Andrew Yang, a presidential candidate, as a "Jew ch**k." Using a racial slur once is bad enough, but being recorded saying it on more than one occasion is very telling and indicates that Gillis likely has a history of using slurs and making these types of comments.
With the history that the word "c***k" has, as well as the already existing stereotype of Asian Americans as "perpetual foreigners," Gillis's "jokes" can't be called anything other than racist, and they certainly weren't funny in any way. Using a racial slur against a minority group, especially more than once, is not some sort of comedic risk. It's insensitive to those who've been the subjects of these types of jokes for their entire lives and an example of very blatant racism. There's no excuse, and Gillis's lack of a real apology only makes matters worse for him. He has not acknowledged his own racism at all and only sought to hide behind the excuse of being a comedian and act like he was the victim in this situation.
A few days after the initial backlash, "SNL" finally made the decision to pull Shane Gillis from the show. Gillis has yet to make a real apology, despite having posted a response to his being fired from SNL. Although Gillis doesn't seem to have learned from this experience, it's encouraging to see actual action being taken against racism in this situation as well as the amount of attention this incident has gotten.
Moving forward, we can continue to support Bowen Yang's casting at "SNL" and hope to see more diversity among "SNL's" cast members.