Shane Gillis on SNL was Just Another Episode - Not a Culture War | Opinions | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS
WILL HEATH/NBC

Shane Gillis on SNL was Just Another Episode – Not a Culture War 

Sometimes, a culture war isn’t a culture war. It’s just an episode of Saturday Night Live

Comedy stans of the right-leaning variety like to tell themselves a particular story, and it’s one they tell very often. It’s that “wokeness” and “cancel culture” have ruined comedy, that “no one can say anything anymore,” and that the various targets of the “cancel culture mob” have suffered greatly for their work, somewhere along the lines of what happened to Lenny Bruce, back in the 1960s. 

The most cited examples, at least in comedy, are three: When Kevin Hart was dropped as host of the Oscars in 2018 over his refusal to apologize for anti-gay jokes, when Dave Chappelle was hounded on social media for pivoting his comedy towards anti-trans invective in several stand-up specials over the space of five years, and the firing of Shane Gillis from a feature-player role on Saturday Night Live, just days after he was hired, over anti-Asian jokes he had made on podcasts. 

None of those people, in any real sense, have been “canceled.” All have comedy careers that are currently thriving, with Chappelle and Gillis frequently debuting new Netflix specials and Hart appearing in new movies and shows all the time. Getting fired from SNL seemed, if anything, appears to have helped Gillis’ career, as it got his name out there, and allowed him to concentrate on stand-up and emerge as one of the most popular current comics. It also turned him into a hero and martyr among a certain anti-woke cohort.

Shane Gillis’ Return to SNL

Gillis’ “punishment” for the racist jokes was that he didn’t get to join SNL‘s cast. It was not the end of his career in the comedy world or anything close to it. It didn’t even get him banned from Saturday Night Live.

Shane Gillis hosted SNL last month, although it probably wouldn’t be right to call it a “return” to Studio 8H since he never made it there the first time. 

And this brings us to another unfortunate tendency among the right-leaning comedy stan community: They hate Saturday Night Live, they think Saturday Night Live isn’t what it used to be, and they claim not to have watched Saturday Night Live in years. But at the same time, they demand validation from Saturday Night Live. And even when they get it… they’re still not happy.

Gillis’ SNL episode was fitfully funny but pretty unremarkable. He did a monologue that drew a few scattered laughs and also made some gay and Down’s Syndrome jokes, although not really in a prejudicial way. Like most weeks, the sketches were hit or miss, with Gillis showing himself an unnatural but occasionally endearing sketch performer. I did laugh, I admit, at the Green Bay Packers butt plug bit.

Community Reaction

So what was the reaction from the comedy stan community to the episode? Happiness that Gillis got that Down’s Syndrome jokes in- and rage that members of the band didn’t laugh at Gillis’s monologue.

Seriously, that’s the complaint:

Does the band usually laugh? In the almost 50-year history of the show, has whether or not the band laughed ever been an issue before? I don’t believe either is the case. 

I’m sorry that musician hurt you, by not laughing at a comedian who isn’t you. So once again: Comedy is the last bastion of free speech absolutism. But also, you’re not allowed to not laugh at it, and if you don’t, you’re deserving of bitter mockery.  

The result of Shane Gillis’ firing from Saturday Night Live turned out okay for everyone. Sure, he didn’t get to be in the SNL cast, but his career has thrived anyway, and he got to host SNL anyway. I don’t think anyone ever demanded that he be barred from public life forever, and he hasn’t been. But come on ― it doesn’t actually matter that members of the band didn’t laugh at his jokes.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

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