The Mighty Logo

'SNL' Fires Comedian Shane Gillis Who Claimed Men Should 'Shut Up' About Their Mental Health

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Update: On Monday, a “Saturday Night Live” spokesperson on behalf of Lorne Michaels released a statement announcing comedian Shane Gillis, who made a series of racist, sexist, homophobic and harmful comments about mental health, would not be joining the show’s cast. The statement reads: 

After talking with Shane Gillis, we have decided that he will not be joining SNL. 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. 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.

On Thursday, “Saturday Night Live” (“SNL”) announced three new cast members for its upcoming 45th season, including Bowen Yang, Chloe Fineman and Shane Gillis. Social media users were quick to discover that Gillis, a stand-up comedian from the Philadelphia area, has a long history of making racist and homophobic comments and jokes and has told men to “shut up” about their mental health, saying they are weak and should “get over it.”

After the long-running sketch comedy TV series announced Gillis would be joining the “SNL” cast, social media users called Gillis out for offensive material as recently as a September 2018 podcast, where Gillis uses a racial slur and other racist, sexist and homophobic insults. In the same episode of the podcast, titled “Matt & Shane’s Secret Podcast,” Gillis and co-host Matt McCusker deride men in particular who speak openly about their mental health.

“Just listened to what Gillis said about Chris Gethard/other comics who’ve talked about mental health,” reporter Marina Fang tweeted. “It’s awful. He & his co-host call them ‘white f*ggot comics,’ ‘total p*ssy’ & claim they ‘wear depression like a badge of honor.’”

In the podcast episode, which, according to Vulture, Gillis deleted from the podcast’s official channels — likely anticipating backlash — Gillis and McCusker also go after comedian Chris Gethard. In an HBO comedy special, “Career Suicide,” Gethard shared he experienced passive suicidal ideation and uses comedy to have an open dialogue about struggling with depression and his mental health.

“I’ve always been an underground guy. And HBO is not underground,” Gethard told The Daily Beast of his one-man show, “Career Suicide.” “It’s very overwhelming and intimidating, but I am bracing myself for it, yes. I’m very happy people feel like they can reach out, especially after they see it. That means a lot to me. At the end of the day, I’m trying to make a thing that would have been useful for me when I didn’t feel like I could reach out to anybody.”

Gillis and McCusker, however, mock Gethard’s experience, calling him a “fucking liar” and “self-serving,” saying, “You want to know the real story and it’s like dude, you got in a fucking car accident and now you’re fucking backpedaling and being like, ‘I tried to do that because I’m dark.’” They go on to say men who talk about their mental health should “shut up, do some push-ups in your room, stop eating sugar and don’t tell anyone about that shit.”

If you’ve experienced passive suicidal ideation, where you’ve been in a situation that could be dangerous and you’re not sure of your intention, know you’re not alone. Many people struggle with suicidal thoughts and that looks different for everybody. Your experience is valid and you deserve help and support for your mental health — it’s not as simple as exercising more or eating better — regardless of what people like Gillis might say.

Gillis and McCusker’s comments about mental health are especially troubling for men. As of 2017, men died by suicide 3.54 times more often than women, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Per Mental Health America, of the 6 million men with depression in the U.S. every year, many go undiagnosed because of messages like men should “man up” instead of seek help and the resulting mental health stigma among males.

Advocates online are asking “SNL” why the show hired Gillis, given that racist, sexis homophobic and harmful comments about mental health have been part of his “act” his entire career. The Mighty reached out to “SNL” for comment and has yet to receive a response. Others in the comedy community, however, including Good Good Comedy Theatre in Philadelphia, publicly spoke out against Gillis.

“We, like many, were very quickly disgusted by Shane Gillis’ overt racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia – expressed both on and off stage – upon working with him years ago,” the theater tweeted. “We’ve deliberately chosen not to work with him in the years since.”

In response to the backlash over his past comments, Gillis released a statement on Twitter, claiming he was “taking risks” as a comedian.

I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries. I sometimes miss. If you go through my 10 years of comedy, most of it bad, you’re going to find a lot of bad misses. 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.

Everyone from author Roxane Gay to actor Lewis Tan and many more rejected Gillis’s statement, pointing out that racist, sexist, homophobic and damaging comments about mental health are neither funny nor edgy — and continued to question GIllis’s hiring by “SNL.”

“Bro that’s not an apology, it’s a set of boring played-out excuses. You’re not even saying you won’t do it again,” Joanna Schroeder tweeted. “Somehow you got the idea that hurting people is part of trying to be funny when almost everyone else moved on from that in 9th grade.”

Header image via Facebook

Originally published: September 13, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home