LOS ANGELES — A newly announced “Saturday Night Live” cast member posted a video last year in which he used a racial slur for Chinese people and derided Asians trying to learn English.
The clip of Shane Gillis reemerged in a news report Thursday, just hours after NBC said that he and two others, including the show’s only Asian American performer, were joining the cast as featured players.
The video apparently was posted in 2018 to a YouTube channel featuring Gillis and fellow comedian Matt McCusker, according to a Variety story. Seth Simons, a freelance writer and editor covering comedy, re-posted a clip from the video on Twitter and brought it to the trade paper’s attention, Variety said.
NBC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A representative for Gillis couldn’t immediately be located.
However, on Thursday night, in a Twitter message, Gillis addressed the matter.
“I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries. I sometimes miss,” the tweet said. “I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said.”
In the clip, Gillis refers to a city’s Chinatown as being “nuts” and used a derogatory word for Chinese people when he and McCusker marveled that the unidentified city allowed the building of predominantly Chinese architecture.
Gillis also complains in the video that Chinese restaurants are full of ”(expletive) Chinese. ... And the translation between you and the waiter is just such a (expletive) hassle.”
Gillis said he’s more annoyed by hearing an Asian trying to learn English when he’s eating out than by any other “minority” playing music. He characterized that reaction as “nice racism, good racism,” adding that whites would be a similar target if they were speaking English “over there,” not specifying where he meant.
The other new “SNL” cast members announced are Bowen Yang, who joined the show last season as a staff writer and is co-host of a podcast, “Las Culturistas,” and Chloe Fineman, who’s been a regular performer with the Groundlings improv company. She and Gillis were featured as “New Faces” at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal.
“Saturday Night Live” has taken heat over the years for an overall lack of ethnic diversity, with scant Asian representation among its cast members or hosts.
Former players Fred Armisen and Rob Schneider both are 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 Americans, 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 stand-up and movies and won’t be back this season.
The show returns Sept. 28 for its 45th season with host Woody Harrelson and musical guest Billie Eilish.