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Praise for the inclusive hiring quickly turned sour as footage surfaced online of some of Gillis’ standup from September 2018, which showed the 38-year-old using a racial slur when referring to Chinese people.
Los Angeles-based journalist Seth Simons was the first to post the footage, which has since been deleted.
“Chinatown’s f–king nuts,” he says at one point. “Let the f–king ch–ks live there.”
He goes on to joke about being “annoyed” by Asian people and closes the bit with “nice racism, good racism.”
Pop-culture publication Vulture followed up with another of Gillis’ performances, and in this particular case, the comedian calls funnymen like Judd Apatow “white fa—t comics” and says they are “f–king gayer than ISIS.”
It’s unclear when this second clip was performed and recorded, though the publication date on YouTube is May 17, 2019.
Mere hours after SNL announced the three new hires, Gillis posted an apologetic statement to Twitter.
“I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries. I sometimes miss,” Gillis wrote. “If you go through my 10 years of comedy, most of it bad, you’re going to find a lot of bad misses.”
Gillis continued: “I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said. My intention is never to hurt anyone but I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks.”
SNL has taken heat over the years for an overall lack of ethnic diversity, with scant Asian representation among its cast members and hosts.
Former players Fred Armisen and Rob Schneider are both one-quarter Asian, but neither has been widely recognized for their Asian ancestry. Among hosts, the long history of SNL includes a short list of Asian or Asian-American hosts, with Awkwafina, Aziz Ansari and Jackie Chan among them.
Change is a constant at SNL. Leslie Jones, who joined the show after it was criticized in 2013 for the absence of an African-American woman among its regular or featured players, is focusing on standup and movies and will not be back this season.
SNL returns Sept. 28 to Global with host Woody Harrelson and musical guest Billie Eilish.
Global News has reached out to NBCUniversal and SNL for comment.
— With files from the Associated Press
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