Shane Gillis’ history with 'SNL': Inside his 2019 firing and controversial 2024 monologue (2024)

Shane Gillis addressed the elephant in the room at the top of his “Saturday Night Live” monologue.

“Most of you probably have no idea who I am … I was fired from this show,” Gillis said as he launched into his host monologue on Feb. 24. “A while ago. But, you know. Don’t look that up, please.”

Gillis, 36, was fired from “Saturday Night Live” in 2019, just days after he was announced as a new featured player, and never actually featured in an episode of the sketch comedy show before his firing.

Given his history with the show, many viewers were surprised to see Gillis invited back as host, and the comedian seemed to lean into that surprise in his monologue.

Shane Gillis’ history with 'SNL': Inside his 2019 firing and controversial 2024 monologue (1)

If you don’t know who I am, please don’t Google that. It’s fine, don’t even worry about it,” he said. “I don’t know. This is — I probably shouldn’t be up here, honestly. I should be home. I should be a high school football coach.”

Reviews of Shane Gillis’ “SNL” monologue, and his performance in various sketches throughout the episode, were mixed.

Vulture’s Tom Smyth called the monologue “cringey,” and The Hollywood Reporter’s Kevin Dolak wrote in a review that while there were “a couple of good laughs” throughout the episode, Gillis “struggled throughout his monologue and was visibly anxious as he pivoted to new topics.”

Other reviewers weighed in on Gillis’ risqué monologue jokes, some of which traded on stereotypes about women, gay people and people with Down syndrome.

“The monologue was filled with jokes that were either not that funny or were bordering on weird and offensive,” Rachel Leishman wrote for Collider. “This is a bold choice given why Gillis was fired from the show.”

NPR TV critic Eric Deggans wrote that “much of (the opening monologue) felt like Gillis’ attempt to insulate himself from criticism and avoid any jokes that could revive the backlash. But since he also didn’t really explain or explore the controversy swirling around his appearance, it all took on the feel of an opportunity missed. Or a subject ducked.”

Some other commentators praised Gillis’ opening monologue.

“If this guy wrote or said something that was bad, and they maybe went overboard firing, whatever, is there no path back to redemption? You can never do anything ever again,” Fox News contributor Guy Benson said on Fox’s “The Big Weekend Show” on Sunday. “I’m glad that ‘SNL’ ignored that mentality and brought him back, maybe belatedly, because he did a good job.”

“Aren’t comedians supposed to push the boundaries and be controversial?” Fox News contributor Lisa Booth said in the same discussion.

Read on to learn more about Shane Gillis' “Saturday Night Live” monologue and his history with "SNL."

Shane Gillis’ history with 'SNL'

Gillis was fired from “Saturday Night Live” in September 2019 after he came under fire for using racist slurs and making hom*ophobic jokes in an earlier podcast.

His firing came days after he was announced as a new cast member for the 45th season of “SNL.”

The comments that sparked controversy came from a video recording of a 2018 episode of “Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast.” The video has since been removed from YouTube, but it was viewed by NBC News before its removal.

In the podcast episode, which was co-hosted by Matt McCusker, Gillis used a derogatory term to refer to Chinese people and imitated a Chinese accent, according to NBC News.

Clips from the podcast began making the rounds on social media, and on Sept. 16, 2019, Gillis was fired from “Saturday Night Live.”

Some viewers pointed to what they saw as the irony of Gillis being hired in the same year that “SNL” hired Bowen Yang, the show’s first Chinese-American cast member.

Just four days after Gillis was announced as a new featured player, a spokesperson for “SNL” executive producer Lorne Michaels said that Gillis would not be continuing on the show.

“We want SNL to have a variety of voices and points of view within the show, and we hired Shane on the strength of his talent as (a) comedian and his impressive audition for SNL,” the spokesperson said in a statement to NBC News at the time.

“We were not aware of his prior remarks that have surfaced over the past few days,” the statement continued. “The language he used is offensive, hurtful and unacceptable.”

“Saturday Night Live” airs on NBC, a division of NBCUniversal, which is also the parent company of TODAY.

Gillis responded to his firing in a now-deleted post on Twitter, now X.

“Of course I wanted an opportunity to prove myself on SNL, but I understand it would be too much of a distraction,” Gillis said in the post, according to NBC News. “I respect the decision they made.”

After his 'SNL' firing, Shane Gillis pursued stand-upGillis released two stand-up comedy specials in the years following his departure from “Saturday Night Live.”

His first live special, “Shane Gillis: Live in Austin,” was released on YouTube in September 2020, and his second special, “Shane Gillis: Beautiful Dogs,” was released on Netflix in September 2023, and made the streamer's Top 10.

In 2020, Gillis launched a sketch show, “Gilly and Keeves,” with fellow comedian John McKeever. He and McKeever released a feature-length special tied to the show in 2022.

Gillis also had a recurring role as Gilly in the first season of Pete Davidson’s “Bupkis” on Peaco*ck in 2023.

In January 2024, Gillis also announced a new partnership with Bud Light. Days after his "SNL" hosting gig, Netflix ordered a scripted pilot from Gillis set in an auto repair shop.

What did Shane Gillis say in his ‘SNL’ monologue?

After mentioning his “SNL” firing at the top of his monologue, Gillis wove in some self-deprecating jokes that seemed to anticipate the mixed reactions to his hosting gig.

“Look, I don’t have any material that can be on TV, all right?” he said at one point, after making a joke about having family members with Down syndrome, but "dodging" it himself. “I’m trying my best. Also, this place is extremely well-lit. I can see everyone not enjoying it.”

Gillis also shouted out to his parents, who were in the audience, and teased his dad about being a “volunteer assistant girls' high school basketball coach.”

“I don’t know, it’s funny, right? You don’t think that’s funny, to bring my dad here to make fun of him for being a girls' high school basketball coach?” he said.“All right. I thought it was great. Never mind. Thought that was gonna be a big hit here."

Gillis also made jokes about being his mom’s “gay best friend” as a little boy.

He then segued into a string of jokes about having a family member with Down syndrome, mentioning that his family started a coffee shop that employs people with the condition.

“I didn’t do it for the claps. It’s going exactly how you would think it would go. It’s doing well. Line around the corner every day,” he said. “Not because there’s a ton of people going, but service is … Everyone’s getting apple juice. We don’t know how to fix that problem.”

He also made jokes about the racial makeup of his sister’s family. His sister married a man from Egypt and adopted three Black children. Gillis said that visiting her house is “like getting into the craziest Uber pool you’ve ever been in.”

The ensuing sketches included one set at a mandatory HR meeting and a family attending church on vacation.

Lindsay Lowe

Lindsay Lowe has been a regular contributor to TODAY.com since 2016, covering pop culture, style, home and other lifestyle topics. She is also working on her first novel, a domestic drama set in rural Regency England.

Shane Gillis’ history with 'SNL': Inside his 2019 firing and controversial 2024 monologue (2024)
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