May 29, 2020

Shane Gillis’s Jokes Went Too Far. Should That End His ‘S.N.L.’ Career?

Trevor Noah was criticized for past tweets that were considered offensive to women and to Jews after it was announced in 2015 that he would become the host of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central. Executives at Viacom, the network’s parent company, later said they had not vetted Noah’s Twitter account before he was hired.

Social media continues to be a caldron of trouble for “Saturday Night Live.” Michael Che, a co-anchor of the show’s “Weekend Update” segment, has used his Instagram account to post offensive remarks about culture writers who have criticized him and his “S.N.L.” colleagues. In 2017, the show suspended a writer, Katie Rich, who had posted an offensive remark about President Trump’s son Barron during the president’s inauguration ceremony.

But there is hardly a consensus about what remedy would be appropriate for Gillis. In a post on The Interrobang, the comedy news website, Debra Kessler wrote that Gillis should be judged for what he does going forward on “S.N.L.” and not for what he did in past instances.

Kessler wrote that comedy was making strides toward tolerance and eliminating offensive language. But, she added, “putting someone in a stockade because their progress hasn’t happened as quickly as yours is not great. And hunting it down like it’s the plague, particularly while our lawmakers and leaders are permitted to escape consequences for far worse, is just plain embarrassing.”

Gethard, the comedian Gillis apologized to on Friday, said that comedians were still free to say what they want.

But, he added, it was “a double standard that they’re then so surprised when people react.”

“You have to own the reaction,” Gethard said. “You are allowed to say whatever you want, and a lot of my heroes certainly did. But they also stood tall and took the onslaught of the reactions.”

Derek Norman contributed reporting.

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