When Saturday Night Live announced their writer Bowen Yang, a Chinese American comedian, would be added to the show as a full-time cast member for season 45, the internet let out a collective cheer; however, the feel-good vibes didn’t last long when it was discovered Shane Gillis, another new cast member for season 45, had previously made racist jokes against Chinese people and culture.
In a 2018 episode of his own podcast, Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast, Gillis made fun of everything in Chinatown, from the architecture to the food. He also used a mock Chinese accent and used the racial slur ch*nk.
“Chinese food is very dishonest cuisine.”
In a statement posted to his Twitter account, Shane apologized to “anyone who’s actually offended” by anything he said.
— Shane Gillis (@Shanemgillis) September 13, 2019
While he said his intention was never to hurt anyone with his comedy, Kate Banford, who co-owns a Philadelphia comedy club shared with Vulture Magazine that he was banned from the club due to “racist, homophobic and sexist things he’s said on and off stage.”
You can be racist to Asians. That’s what we’re finding out.
In discussing how he gets a reaction from his (primarily) white audience, Gillis was quoted as saying, “You throw stuff out there and you get to see them react to things, like yea or nay, what’s funny and what’s not. You can be racist to Asians. That’s what we’re finding out.”
Notable Asian Americans, including Simu Liu and Cindy Chu and authors Nancy Wang Yuen and Johnny Sun, took to Twitter to condemn Gillis for his racist jokes and half-hearted apology.
Don’t make yourself some sort of martyr of comedy dude. You don’t get to hide behind that. Own up, face the music and make a more genuine apology.
— Simu Liu (@SimuLiu) September 14, 2019
LOL at thinking the same tired unoriginal shit that I & many other Asians & Asian Ams had to endure hearing frm hateful racist kids & adults all throughout my childhood is “pushing boundaries” or “taking risks.” Wut? Bye Shane Gillis & ur brand of racism disguised as jokes 👋🏽 pic.twitter.com/WCWavnF8lM
— Cindy Pika Chu (@iamcindychu) September 13, 2019
“Slurs are racial trauma for those of us who grew up hearing them—in the playground, on TV…And these stereotypes are quite dangerous and are used against populations of color in ways that affect law and policy.” I spoke to @andrewrchow for @TIME https://t.co/R09h5PVznL
— Nancy Wang Yuen (@nancywyuen) September 13, 2019
let’s break down this absolute non-apology:
“i’m to happy to apologize…” (“i’m not apologizing”)
“…to anyone actually offended…” (“to everyone pretending to be offended”)
“…by anything i’ve said.” (aka “what did i even say? i cant even recall what i did wrong!”)
— jonny sun (@jonnysun) September 13, 2019
At this time, NBC hasn’t responded to the criticism of the casting nor to requests from the media for comment.