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Did Shane Gillis Bomb on Saturday Night Live?

Five years after he was unceremoniously fired from Saturday Night Live before appearing in a single episode, Shane Gillis got the last laugh by appearing as the host of the show’s February 24th episode with musical guest 21 Savage…. or did he?

Gillis’ appearance proved controversial even before he took the stage for his opening monologue on Saturday night. The standup comedian was fired from SNL in 2019 after videos surfaced in which he used homophobic slurs and mocked Chinese people. While Gillis initially apologized for the comments, he later embraced the status of being a victim of cancel culture and emerged as popular comic in right-wing circles who routinely pushes the boundaries in his standup routines. In the lead-up to this weekend, Vox said SNL was providing Gillis with an “unearned rehabilitation.”

Gillis only briefly touched on his firing during his opening monologue, saying, “Most of you probably have no idea who I am. I was actually — I was fired from this show a while ago. But, you know, don’t look that up, please. If you don’t know who I am, please don’t Google that. It’s fine. Don’t even worry about it.”

Instead, Gillis used most of his SNL monologue to deliver the type of jokes that have made him a darling of some and a pariah of others. He joked about being his mom’s “gay best friend” as a kid and his family members who have Down syndrome. He also used the word “retarded.”

However, Gillis’ monologue didn’t seem to go over well with the in-studio audience, something he repeatedly noted. “Look, I don’t have any material that can be on TV, all right?” he said at one point. “This place is extremely well lit and I can see everyone is not enjoying it.” Adding to the discomfort was the reaction of SNL’s band sitting behind him — in particular, guitarist Maddie Rice.

Gillis found a more friendly reaction online as conservative Twitter heaped praise on his monologue. “Shane Gillis on SNL saying gay, retarded, and cracker is exactly what we needed,” tweeted former NFL player-turned-podcast host Will Compton. “Shane Gillis is very funny and SNL should be canceled immediately,” wrote another podcast host, Clint Russell. “If one of the funniest people on earth can’t make your show funny, you should really just pack it in.”

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Gillis managed to get through the rest of the episode without much incident. He played the patriarch in a funny sketch about a family who went to a Black church during their Jamaican vacation; portrayed Forest Gump’s former high school bully at a high school reunion; and impersonated Trump in a sketch spoofing his new signature shoes.

Next week’s episode of Saturday Night Live will feature Sydney Sweeney as host with musical guest Kacey Musgraves as musical guest. Something tells me that episode won’t illicit nearly as much of a consternation.

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