Smells bullsh*tty. Almost as if, like Seth Mandel says, it’s Lorne Michaels’s “transparent attempt to blame-shift and win back some of the credibility he thinks he lost with his viewers.” The show hired someone who turned out to have used a slur, which irritated its audience, and now they’re going to blame the mess on righties by suggesting that they brought Shane Gillis in not because they enjoyed his “problematic” stand-up material but because they thought benighted conservatives would enjoy it. Because of the slurs, I guess.
Even though obviously he wouldn’t be using any slurs on the show.
And even though, if you believe Michaels and the producers, they weren’t aware that his material was “problematic” until after they hired him.
Sonny Bunch pointed out earlier that there’s not a single named or even quoted source in Variety’s entire piece. It’s just “sources” feeding them the spin Michaels and SNL want out there to somehow pin this on the three right-wingers who still faithfully watch the show every week.
According to sources, the long-running NBC comedy show and series mastermind Lorne Michaels were actively looking to cast a comedian for its new season who would appeal to more conservative viewers. This was meant to counteract the appearance of a liberal bias on the show, given that it has seen a major resurgence in popularity in recent years with Alec Baldwin regularly portraying President Donald Trump while other cast members and guest stars have played members of his administration and those in his orbit.
“SNL” typically recruits cast members from improv troupes like The Groundlings, Second City, and The Upright Citizens Brigade, with the belief that even though they may lack onscreen acting experience, their time onstage with those groups would prepare them for the rigors of “SNL’s” weekly schedule. Auditions for such performers usually consist of character bits and celebrity impressions. It is believed that Gillis, who has no credited onscreen acting experience, auditioned using a portion of his stand up routine…
Many of those who spoke with Variety agreed that “SNL’s” vetting process was “severely lacking” in this case, as Gillis was well-known in comedy circles for using the type of language and remarks that ultimately led to the show cutting ties with him before he ever made it to air.
“It’s unclear what precisely made SNL and Michaels think Gillis would appeal to conservatives,” mused Vanity Fair, adding that the show is so well-known to righties as reliably liberal in its outlook after years of attacking Trump that no single “conservative” addition to the cast was likely to change those perceptions. The detail in the excerpt about Gillis’s lack of experience outside the stand-up format is strange too. There’s no stand-up on the show apart from the opening monologue, which of course is performed by that week’s guest, not the cast members. If Michaels wanted to bring Gillis on as a writer because he liked his material, that would be one thing. But it makes no sense to bring him on as a performer when Gillis has no background in improv or TV and, as far as I know, doesn’t specialize in impressions.
It makes me wonder if they hired the guy and later had misgivings about how much he’d be used onscreen, realistically. When the controversy over the slur presented itself, that became the excuse for undoing their odd decision.
For what it’s worth, he’s gotten support from places you might expect…
As a former SNL cast member I am sorry that you had the misfortune of being a cast member during this era of cultural unforgiveness where comedic misfires are subject to the intolerable inquisition of those who never risked bombing on stage themselves.
— Rob Schneider (@RobSchneider) September 16, 2019
@Shanemgillis Hey, Shane, I'm so sorry. I can't even imagine how you must feel. The work it takes to get that show and to have it snatched away by some guy who does "Spoken Bird" poetry. Unacceptable. Please DM me, pal, when you have a moment. I'm so sorry.
— Norm Macdonald (@normmacdonald) September 16, 2019
…and from places you might not:
Lemon and Cuomo on SNL Firing Shane Gillis: “I hate the whole cancel culture…Everyone is a little too sensitive and I think going back in the past for every little thing that someone did, no one would have a job” pic.twitter.com/VngZIttlNI
— ALX 🇺🇸 (@alx) September 17, 2019
What about the central claim of the piece, though, that Gillis appeals uniquely to conservatives somehow? Is he a southern comic, a la Jeff Foxworthy, or at least a pretend-southern comic like Larry the Cable Guy? No, he’s from Pennsylvania. Watch the clip below and you’ll see that he comes from a town which he describes as “white trash,” talks about trying to listen to country music, and jokes that Trump’s 2016 campaign was aimed *exactly* at schlubby white guys like him — but he’s not sympathetic to any of it. I didn’t vote for Trump, he stresses, and I can’t get into country music. The set has its moments (the Brendan Dassey bit at the end made me laugh, poor taste and all) but there’s nothing that would make you think righties would have any special affinity for him. And again, even if he was more Foxworthy-ish, his duties as a cast member would be to act out comic material that’s mostly written by others. There’s nothing here to make you think he’d have a particularly stellar aptitude for that worthy of broadcast TV. So how’d he get hired?
There’s profanity here and sex jokes so proceed accordingly if you’re at work.