US comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live has dropped a new cast member after videos surfaced online of him making slurs about Chinese people.
Shane Gillis, 31, came under fire soon after his casting was announced when footage resurfaced from a podcast featuring the comic.
“After talking with Shane Gillis, we have decided that he will not be joining SNL,” said an SNL spokesman.
Gillis wrote on Twitter that he respected the show’s decision.
“Of course I wanted an opportunity to prove myself at SNL, but I understand it would be too much of a distraction,” he said, just a week after it was announced he would join the NBC show.
The SNL spokesman said in Monday’s statement that the decision to fire Gillis followed a discussion with the comic. “We want SNL to have a variety of voices and points of view within the show, and we hired Shane on the strength of his talent as comedian and his impressive audition for SNL,” he said.
“We were not aware of his prior remarks that have surfaced over the past few days. The language he used is offensive, hurtful and unacceptable.
“We are sorry that we did not see these clips earlier, and that our vetting process was not up to our standard.”
Gillis’ casting came under scrutiny just hours after SNL announced he would be one of three new hires for the show’s 45th season.
A podcast from September 2018 was circulated in which Mr Gillis mocked Chinese people and described his remarks as “nice racism”.
In another episode from the same month, Mr Gillis was heard using homophobic slurs to describe Hollywood producer Judd Apatow and comedian Chris Gethard.
Gillis defended the comments on Twitter saying he is a comedian “who pushes boundaries”. He continued: “My intention is never to hurt anyone but I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks.”
Shortly after the recordings circulated, Good Good Comedy Theatre in Philadelphia, Gillis’ hometown, said on Twitter the club had “deliberately chosen not to work” with him because of his “overt racism, sexism, homophobia – expressed both on and off stage”.
Comedian Rob Schneider, a regular on SNL in the 1990s, tweeted his support for Gillis, saying he had fallen foul of “culture unforgiveness”.
Fellow comics Bill Burr and Jim Jeffries also criticised SNL’s decision while appearing on the US series Lights Out with David Spade.
Jeffries said the move was just a symptom of “cancel culture”. He said: “The guy shouldn’t have been fired. It’s just a couple of things back in his history – are we going to to go through everyone’s history? Or are we going to get every sketch that SNL has done that involves race?”
Burr added: “Did they go back and also try and look back at good things the person might have done, or are they just looking for the bad stuff?
“You could do that to anybody. I don’t get it. Millennials – you’re a bunch of rats. None of them care; all they want to do is get people in trouble.”
Taiwanese-American presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who Gillis referred to using a slur in a podcast, has said the comedian “deserved another chance to keep his job” but society has become “unduly punitive and vindictive”.
“I thought that if I could set an example that we can forgive people, particularly in an instance where, in my mind, it was in a comedic context or a gray area, that I thought it would be positive,” he told CNN on Monday.
Yang said Gillis has reached out to him and the two will be having a discussion soon.
In addition to Gillis, SNL had announced the hiring of two other new cast members: Chloe Fineman and Bowen Yang.
Yang will be the show’s first full-time Chinese-American cast member.