RACE IN AMERICA
SNL brass got caught trying to pull a fast one, but their efforts went over with all the charm of a turd in a punchbowl.
A week ago Thursday, “Saturday Night Live” was set to begin its forty-fifth season this fall and recently announced three new cast members: Bowen Yang a writer from the show; Shane Gillis a stand-up comedian; and Chloe Fineman a female improv artist. It would’ve been nice if the news of SNL’s first openly gay Chinese American cast member had become the focus of the story, but once again racism and white supremacy have taken center stage.
Over the following weekend, footage surfaced in which the Kavanaugh-esque Gillis used disparaging language and racial slurs about Chinese, gays, and women. And this wasn’t footage from decades ago. This was footage from as recent as the spring of this year and has since been scrubbed from the internet. Twitter did its thing and went ballistic. On Monday, SNL announced that Gillis was “out.” Done. And they regret not living up to their standards of vetting. Or something like that.
Hold my peppermint mocha, there’s a couple of things to unpack here.
First. SNL knew exactly what they were doing when they offered Gillis a job. Chances are Lorne Michaels and the gang wanted to shore up potential losses a little since Alec Baldwin wouldn’t be returning and decided to bring in someone to appeal to Trump supporters — and there’s nothing wrong with that. I have several former good friends who are virulent Trump supporters.
But now they want me to believe they didn’t vet the guy properly? I’m not buying it. I did twelve-week stints as a Christmas elf at Radio City Music Hall right next door to NBC for years. Even they avoid hiring folks who can’t get at least get along. So for a gig that’s going to drop an entertainer into millions of people’s living rooms, he just kinda slipped through? I’m not buying it.
We’re living in the twenty-first century. Just to get your foot in the door, let alone land an SNL audition, has got to be an invitation-only kinda thing. It’s safe to assume would-be cast members had to submit a headshot along with a two- or three-minute reel of their best stuff. Comedians want to stand out from the crowd and show how edgy they are, right? Of course, that Gillis cat probably sent in clips of his most biting material, figuring SNL brass can rest in the knowledge he can go there, and if it was too strong they can always ask him to “dial down” or tweak his actual performance.
Well. It must’ve worked. He got the audition, to which there were probably several cuts, and he was voted the last xenophobe standing.
Are Gillis’ public shaming and termination signs of cancel culture (calling out a famous person publicly for offensive behavior or expressing questionable opinions)? Maybe, maybe not. They’re definitely signs that the public is no longer putting up with dude bros’ hateful rhetoric. As far as racism goes, people can change, I’ve seen it happen, but that type of paradigm shift take time. Gillis obviously hasn’t changed or is lacking in self-awareness as evidenced by his anti-Chinese comments as recently as this past spring. Here’s a sample of his work.
If your shtick is built on denigrating minorities, the LGBT community, and women, that’s racist, bigoted, and misogynist—and definitely not funny.
Love one another.