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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Shane Gillis: From cancellation to comedic dynamo

Tripp Menhall

In February 2024, comedian Shane Gillis made his return to Saturday Night Live to host, capping off a historic comedic comeback. Gillis was fired from the show in 2019 before he even got a chance to step onto the stage, and he has since climbed the ladder from the abyss of scrutiny to become one of the biggest comedians in the world.

But how?

In today’s current climate, it’s very hard to be a comedian, especially when your act consists mostly of outrageous and brazen jokes. You have to constantly be careful of keeping your balance on the tightrope of political correctness.

Shane Gillis fell off of the tightrope.

After Gillis was hired for the 45th season of Saturday Night Live in 2019, a clip from his podcast surfaced online from a year prior. Gillis was seen using an anti-Asian slur during a string of sarcastic comments in a conversation with his co-host Matt McCusker. When these clips were dug up, “Shane Gillis” immediately trended number one on X, then known as Twitter. Gillis was bombarded on social media and users called for consequences from NBC, the station that airs SNL.

He eventually issued a begrudging apology for his comments in a now-deleted post on X and said that he is “a comedian who pushes boundaries,” adding, “I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I said.”

NBC would go on to fire Gillis only five days after he signed onto the show.

In response to Gillis’ firing, many conservatives rallied around him, and painted him as another victim of cancel culture and the “woke mob.” Gillis disagreed with this narrative and respected SNL’s decision to let him go.

But Gillis showed that he wouldn’t let this debacle dictate how his career would pan out.

Gillis’ first special, “Shane Gillis: Live in Austin” was released the year after his firing from SNL. Gillis funded the whole special out of his pocket and uploaded it to his sketch comedy channel, Gilly and Keeves. The special has amassed close to 26 million views. Its success served as a sign of growth in Gillis’ career, and that he should be trusted by his fans and insiders in the industry.

Gillis’ audience mostly consists of conservative men, who he constantly rips on. In his most recent special, Gillis jabs at the hypocrisy of pro-gun advocates and the unseriousness of Donald Trump’s speeches. To offset these political punches, Gillis makes plenty of jokes that inadvertently pander to the conservative demographic.

Today’s young right-wingers aren’t concerned about Gillis’ opinion on free market capitalism, but about how he attacks political correctness through his material. Because of these underlying tones in his act, people on the left are quick to label Gillis as a conservative. However, on numerous occasions he has stated that he is not a Republican.

Gillis often satirizes the nationalist views of the far right and parodies conservatives by transforming himself into a “rah-rah hell yeah ‘murica”-type character. In his most recent special, he claimed the U.S. was the greatest country ever, and then immediately admitted that he’s only been to three countries. He then said that Americans giving up their guns to try to prevent mass shootings is “gay.”

Gillis’ legacy will surely be interesting to see play out, to see him rise from a guy who at one point was at rock bottom. Being fired from a gig like Saturday Night Live (considering the circumstances that he was fired) is 99% of the time going to end your career, especially in today’s unforgiving social climate. Gillis’ climb from being canceled to being on top of the comedy world serves as a case study for future comedians who find themselves in such a situation.

Not only is his comeback a case study, but an inspiration and a lesson to many. Gillis ate his punches and moved on. He never complained about his firing or blamed it on “wokeness.” He simply acknowledged his mistake and worked his way back to the top.

When now-SNL host Gillis walked onto the stage to perform his stand up monologue, he joked to the audience that “I probably shouldn’t be up here.”

I disagree.

Gillis is one of the funniest comedians out there. His parody and satire are simply unmatched by any newcomer today.

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About the Contributors
Ben Busillo
Ben Busillo, Associate Opinion Editor
Tripp Menhall
Tripp Menhall, Creative Director

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    MACApr 6, 2024 at 1:53 pm

    Excellent article!! Enjoyed reading your thoughts and opinions.