Shane Gillis' penance: 27 million Our Fathers, Hail Marys | Inquirer
Emil Amok!

Shane Gillis’ penance: 27 million Our Fathers, Hail Marys

Gillis, fired from 'Saturday Night Live' for using an anti-Asian slur, is back as a host. Is it time to forgive?
/ 08:43 PM February 20, 2024

I just got back from a President’s Day Weekend in Los Angeles where I did five-minutes of standup at the Hollywood Improv. Unlike my solo one-man theater shows (which I will do March 2-9 at the Rogue Festival in Fresno, and April 5-21st at the New York City Fringe), standup is pure crack. The concentrated Emil Amok experience.

I told jokes about Filipinos. And people laughed. A lot. Great, because I’m Filipino.

Someone non-Fililpino told a joke where Filipinos were the punchline, and I’ll admit I didn’t like it.


But on the show, people had seen me, so when that person told the Filipino joke, at least there was some balance.

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Racial humor is still a touchy subject.  That’s why it’s going to be a curious weekend when Shane Gillis hosts  the Feb. 24th episode of Saturday Night Live on NBC.

Activists rev your engines? Or not?

Boycott the show? Or hope Bowen Yang and Shane Gillis mud wrestle for supremacy on national TV?

If you’ll recall five years ago, Gillis was hired as a cast member and then fired after some of his anti-Asian jokes were exposed.

That was 2019. Now SNL wants him back to host?

SNL announced plans to bring him back more than a week ago, perhaps to warn us, or to see if there’d be any blowback.

Shane Gillis and Trump

Shane Gillis poses for a photo with former President Donald Trump. Image: shanemgillis/IG

Frankly, I haven’t seen much anti-Gillis buzz.

We’re busy. It’s cold outside. There’s a lunatic with 91 felony counts who could be president again. It’s not a beautiful thing.

Or maybe bringing Gillis back is an acknowledgment of the Trump effect. We’ve become inured to all the micro and macro aggressions, and perhaps the fear of assaults, verbal or physical, has been normalized.

Has it? I’m not sure.

The era of #StopAAPIHate peaked during the pandemic, but the hate lingers behind a false sense of acceptance. The fact is thousands of instances of pain have come our way since 2019. Asian America remains scarred and traumatized.

Is it really time to forgive?

Let’s see, I think Gillis is Catholic. There are 27 million Asian Americans in the US.

His penance should have been 27 million Our Fathers, and 27 million Hail Marys.

I think that means he’s still got some time on his knees.

Or maybe SNL is setting the standard for bigoted jokery at however many Our Fathers or Hail Marys you can say in five years.

Shouldn’t it be up to those he offended?

Does Gillis get us?

If you don’t recall exactly what Gillis said to make him week-old takeout, here’s a summary.

Gillis routinely dissed gays and disabled people with words like “retard” and “faggot.” He disparaged women by calling them “flat-chested bitches.”

So misogyny, homophobic and an ableist. And then Gillis’ racism toward Asians.

On a bit about Chinese restaurants from a Sept. 2018 podcast, Gillis talked about Chinatown, saying “Why do the fucking chinks live there?”

A simple “Why do the Chinese live in Chinatown?” would have sufficed.

In another instance, he comments on the video game “Clash of Clans” and mockingly uses a fake Chinese accent to call it “Crash of Crans.”

Uh, an “r” sound for an “l” sound isn’t ethnically accurate and just broadly pan-Asian racist.

Back in 2019, I didn’t call for Gillis to be fired. I merely said we should let SNL know that kind of humor “doesn’t work if it’s interested in the largest possible audience in a diverse America.”

This isn’t about social justice. It’s about what’s genuinely funny to the most people in a modern America.

Gillis is every bit as bad and hackneyed as the standard morning deejay “ah-so” BS. He has the attitude of Trump’s white base.

Even his response back then was clueless. “Happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve ever said,” he said.

Let’s see. He says, he apologizes if you’re “actually” hurt. Otherwise, for the rest of you, let’s party? That’s not much of an apology.

Gillis added that his intention was “never to hurt anyone.” But he says, “I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks.”

Lazy racist comedy is not risky.

Instead, why not risk actually being funny without denigrating people based on race, color, creed or sexual orientation? Or just keeping the target on yourself?

Self-denigration is always funny.

When SNL fired him, frankly I was surprised and said as much. We let them know what we thought.

And our voices were heard.

So what now? 

But I want to be fair too in 2024.

I don’t believe in cancellation.

As a First Amendment absolutist, I want Gillis to feel free to say what he wants.

We should all know that racist jokes don’t demand censorship, they demand debate. You match racist speech with more speech, not less.

A lot has changed since 2019. Gillis has actually become a better comedian. He targets himself now more than he goes after Asians. And he’s funny making fun of dumb white people. He has plenty to choose from.

Also in five years, the business climate is different. The trend now is for corporates to loosen up or abandon Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) standards. It’s the green light that enables SNL  to tap into the banished Gillis, who has suddenly become a hot comic.

There are also a lot more prominent Asian American comedians out there. Even on SNL,  Bowen Yang has come to prominence on the awards scene and in movies. Asian American comedians represent and “talk back” for us just by being there. There are Asian comic voices like the Emmy-winning Ali Wong.

People see “us.”

We don’t have to be hurt by what other non-Asian comedians say. We simply can just not patronize them.

Besides, activists have bigger fish to fry.

Immigration and DACA policies remain unresolved. Trump wants to be dictator for a day and says immigrants poison the blood supply of America. No one is moving fast enough on Gaza. AI is making us doubt what’s real, what’s fake.

Nothing Gillis says can hurt us as bad as any of that. He’s just the entertainment. The clown with the rubber knife. When he hosts SNL, we can always watch Netflix. Or, if we choose, we can monitor, and if he upsets us, we can exercise our First Amendment rights. We can debate. Not cancel. More speech not less. That’s the American way.

Also in the last five years, now I go on stage and seek laughs. So I empathize.  I’ve also seen a couple of his specials. I can say this: He’s funnier when he’s not racist.

But has he spent enough time on his knees?

Let’s see if Gillis has learned his lesson. If not, the debate continues, I assure you.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He writes a column for’s US Channel. See his micro-talk show on

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TAGS: ”Saturday Night Live”, comedians, Donald Trump, racism
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