Bill Burr, Jim Jefferies defend Shane Gillis after firing from Saturday Night Live

Bill Burr (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Netflix)
Bill Burr (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Netflix) /

Comedians Bill Burr and Jim Jefferies were quick to defend Shane Gillis after he was fired from Saturday Night Live.

By now, just about everyone has weighed in on Saturday Night Live hiring and then firing Shane Gillis. His controversial comments from a podcast caused enough of a firestorm for NBC to dismiss the comedian from the cast. We can now add Bill Burr and Jim Jefferies to the list of those defending Gillis.

Gillis was one of three new cast members announced ahead of season 45 along with Chloe Fineman and Bowen Yang. When people began looking into the three comedians, Gillis’s remarks on a podcast disparaging Asians made headlines. Many immediately began calling for Gillis to be fired ahead of Saturday Night Live‘s season premiere later this month.

After taking a few days to consider the options, and despite a public apology from Gillis, NBC announced that he would not be part of the cast. There was then a predictable reaction from the public. Those who were offended or at least vocalized as much on social media were happy to see Gillis dropped from SNL. Those who wanted a second chance for the comedian or were critical of the so-called “cancel culture” were angry at the decision.

Two comedians who are no strangers to controversial statements are Bill Burr and Jim Jefferies. Anyone familiar with their material can guess which side of the Shane Gillis argument they come down on. The two came to the defense of Gillis on Lights Out with David Spade.

David Spade recuses himself from the discussion as a former Saturday Night Live cast member. Yet fans of Spade could probably guess how the veteran stand-up feels about Gillis being “cancelled” before getting a chance on SNL.

Jefferies reminds everyone that SNL has its own history of “edgy” sketches when it comes to Asian characters. Yes, there is a difference between Asian characters and using slurs like Gillis did. However, the Belushi and Meyers sketches that Jefferies references were well before the age of social media where people were “cancelled” for their past material.

Burr piggybacks off this by making a joke at the lack of Asian cast members in SNL’s history. Whether or not the Lights Out audience understood the joke or not is a different story. But the long-running sketch show has addressed that with the hiring of Bowen Yang.

Burr then goes off even more on millennials and anyone else eager to dig up past mistakes in an effort to prevent future opportunities. It is an especially personal topic for Burr who got some pushback for his new Netflix special Paper Tiger. It is obvious that Burr is struggling to understand what comedy audiences want or expect in 2019. But the fact that he continues to sell out shows around the world proves there are plenty of people who want to hear Bill Burr’s comedy.

Whether you agree with NBC’s decision or not, firing Shane Gillis certainly avoids a distraction as Saturday Night Live prepares for its 45th season. The first sketch that GIllis appeared in would have been awkward and risked an adverse response from the audience. Everything he did on the show would be seen through the lens of the controversy. Gillis would be fighting an uphill battle all season.

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This will no doubt change how Saturday Night Live scouts talent and makes cast decisions. Gone are the days of pulling performers just from comedy clubs or improv groups where very little was documented. If SNL wants to recruit talent from podcasts, YouTube channels, and more then it must be prepared for “cancel culture,” for better or worse.