“Saturday Night Live” dropped new cast member Shane Gillis on Monday after public outcry over the comedian’s history of racist and homophobic jokes, but at least a few other comics think that was the wrong move.
Bill Burr and Jim Jefferies were guests on David Spade’s Comedy Central talk show “Lights Out” on Monday, and both comedians pushed back on the idea that firing Gillis was the right move.
“This is just cancel culture,” Jefferies said. “The guy shouldn’t have been fired. It was just a couple things back in his history. We’re gonna go through everyone’s history?”
“Do they go back and also try to look at things the person might’ve done, or are they just looking for the bad stuff?” added Burr. “I mean you could honestly do that to anybody.”
NBC and “SNL” fired Gillis on Monday after footage of the comedian making racist jokes on his podcast began to circulate on social media last week. The first video to make waves, in which the comedian went on an extended riff about Chinatown and used a racist slur for Asians, was from Sept. 2018. Other videos, from Gillis’ own public podcast and his appearances elsewhere, demonstrated a longer pattern of racism and homophobia in Gillis’ comedy.
“We’re not running for office, when is this gonna f—ing end?” Burr said, asking why it would be acceptable for Gillis to work at a lumber yard but not at “SNL.”
“You millennials, you’re a bunch of rats, all of you,” he said. “None of them care. All they want to do is get people in trouble.”
Burr and Jefferies are not the first comedians to come to Gillis’ defense. On Tuesday, “SNL” alum Rob Schneider tweeted an apology to Gillis for “this era of cultural unforgiveness where comedic misfires are subject to the intolerable inquisition of those who never risked bombing on stage themselves.”
“I think a suspension would be appropriate for someone who is part of an organization that says something terrible in a podcast from a year earlier,” Schneider added in a follow-up tweet. “An honest, sincere apology and also accepting it seems appropriate as well. Destroying someone does not.”
Gillis did issue a statement after the clips first surfaced last week, but he stopped short of apologizing for the material. “I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said,” he said at the time. “My intention is never to hurt anyone but I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks.”
On his show Monday, Spade also seemed to voice displeasure at “SNL’s” decision.
“I think when I was younger on ‘SNL,’ when you got hired the first move wasn’t to rifle through your past to make sure you get fired right away,” he said.