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Shane Gillis Bounced Back From ‘S.N.L.’ Debacle. On Saturday, He’ll Host.

When the comedian Shane Gillis was dropped from “Saturday Night Live” in 2019 just days after the announcement that he’d been added to the Season 45 cast, he lost one of the most sought-after jobs in comedy. Immediately after his addition to the cast, multiple instances surfaced of him using language that the show called “offensive, hurtful and unacceptable” in a statement addressing his ouster.

Among the inflammatory language he’d used, on his podcast and on others, was a slur to refer to Chinese people, along with a caricature accent, and a homophobic slur, which he used to describe the filmmaker Judd Apatow and the comedian Chris Gethard as well as the Democratic presidential candidates Andrew Yang and Senator Bernie Sanders (the latter two prefaced with the word “Jew”). “Fat, ugly idiots promoting hate, that’s what this is,” he said, ribbing himself and those with whom he was talking.

Gillis could have become a pariah. Instead, on Saturday, he’ll make his debut on NBC’s storied Studio 8H stage, as a host.

Since his firing, Gillis’s star has quickly ascended: His debut special, released on YouTube in 2021, has amassed about 24 million views; and his podcast with Matt McCusker, “Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast,” on which some of the problematic statements were made, has the most subscribers of any podcast on Patreon with more than 80,000 paying listeners, tens of thousands more than the next highest. He has also been touring rigorously, performing on comedy stages across the United States and the world.

He reached new heights in September with the release of Netflix’s “Beautiful Dogs,” which had a lengthy run on the streamer’s Top 10 most popular shows list. In that special, he walked the line between satirizing conservatives and playing to them, according to The New York Times’s comedy critic, Jason Zinoman, who described its opening bit as “dumb and smart, cocky and self-mocking, homophobic but relentlessly self-aware.”

“Don’t be surprised if he becomes an arena act,” Zinoman added.

A few weeks ago, Bud Light announced that it was partnering with Gillis. “Welcome to the team,” the brand posted on Instagram along with a photo of the comedian. Bud Light has been scrambling to contain the fallout, which included plummeting sales, from last year’s right-wing backlash to Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender influencer, promoting the beer on Instagram.

Gillis’s history of offensive language seemed to catch “S.N.L.” off guard at the time of his hiring. “We want ‘S.N.L.’ to have a variety of voices and points of view within the show, and we hired Shane on the strength of his talent as a comedian and his impressive audition for ‘S.N.L.,’” a spokesperson said in a statement on behalf of Lorne Michaels, the show’s creator and longtime executive producer. “We are sorry that we did not see these clips earlier, and that our vetting process was not up to our standard.”

But in 2021 — on his first of many appearances on the controversial “Joe Rogan Experience,” Spotify’s No. 1 podcast four years running — Gillis said he’d told “S.N.L.” about the tone of his podcast. Michaels asked him, Gillis recalled, “Do you have anything you want us to check out?” Gillis replied that he had a podcast on which, “I say like gay and retard a lot.” According to Gillis, “They were like, ‘Ah, that’s fine, don’t worry about it.’”

Representatives for Gillis did not respond to a request for comment.

In the short window after his comments were brought to light but before his firing, Gillis, on social media, said: “I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries. I sometimes miss,” adding, “I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said.”

After his firing, he said: “I respect the decision they made. I’m honestly grateful for the opportunity. I was always a MadTV guy anyway,” referring to Fox’s rival sketch show that originally ran from 1995 to 2009.

Gillis would have joined the “S.N.L.” cast alongside Bowen Yang and Chloe Fineman. Yang was the show’s first Chinese American cast member in its 50-year history and one of its first openly gay male comedians. He and the rest of the cast have been largely silent on Gillis’s earlier remarks and on his expected debut.

In 2020, Yang told The Times, “The reason I didn’t comment on it was because there was a sense of opposition being created between the two of us, right?” he said. “But a lot of it was invented because it wasn’t like he was making any comments about me specifically.”

On Wednesday, “S.N.L.” teased the episode on YouTube, posting a spoof of Gillis working on his monologue, with appearances from the cast members Sarah Sherman and Marcello Hernández.

While Gillis’s firing might be among the most unusual in “S.N.L.” history, in that he never appeared on the show, Gillis is just one in a long list of those who have been cut loose or forced out.

Most casualties — including Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Norm Macdonald, Gilbert Gottfried, Ann Risley, Robert Downey Jr., Joan Cusack, Chris Rock and Sarah Silverman — were the result of budget worries, infighting, executive turnover, creative differences or flagging ratings. Others’ runs were marred by unfortunate mistakes: Jenny Slate, for example, accidentally used an expletive in her first sketch and was fired after one season.

While hosting “S.N.L.” in 1999, about a year and a half after he was let go, Macdonald memorably used his monologue to roast the show itself. “I wanted to keep my job and they felt the exact opposite,” he said about NBC management, who, according to Macdonald, told him that he wasn’t funny enough.

“How did I go,” he wondered, “from being not funny enough to be even allowed in the building to being so funny that I’m now hosting the show? How did I suddenly get so damn funny? It was inexplicable to me.”

“Then it occurred to me,” he said with an edge, “I haven’t gotten funnier; the show has gotten really bad.”

And while hosting in 2019, Sandler — in his first return to “S.N.L.” since his firing in 1995, after five years on the show — used his monologue to sing a song titled “I Was Fired.”

“I never saw it coming,” he crooned, adding that it left him “sad and blue” and broke his “heart to pieces.” “NBC said that I was done, then I made over $4 billion at the box office, so I guess you could say I won.”

Whether Gillis will end up winning to such an extent is to be seen, but those following his saga are likely to tune in Saturday to see whether he will lead with his so-called boundary-pushing style, or take a more restrained tone.

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