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The Cancelation of Shane Gillis Provides the Mob with Another Win

I used to have a joke where I said the word “faggot.”

I wasn’t trying to be hateful. It was a kind of cheap joke where I said the word in the voice of the bigot. In my comedy act, I would talk about how in Texas the state motto was, “Don’t mess with Texas”—the only state where the motto was a threat. I then would imitate the meeting they must have had when coming up with it, and then conclude, “If that’s the motto they went with, imagine what they rejected.”

Cue southern drawl.

“How about…‘Texas! You better back the fuck up, faggot!’ ” Laugh laugh laugh. I’m hilarious.

I had a large LGBT audience and talked a ton about same-sex marriage. (This was when George W. Bush was still in office. I was woke when being woke meant fighting for people’s rights, not trying to stick someone’s head on your Twitter trophy wall.) The joke always got an applause break, and no one thought I actually was the type of person who used the word “faggot” at face value. So it wasn’t really offending people. I was using shocking language for a punch line. Not shocking language to terrify my gay fans.

One time after a show in Chicago, a kid came up to me and told me that when I talk about gay rights it really meant a lot to him. But just so I knew, when he hears the word “faggot,” he freezes up.

He was nice. He was nervous. He said he loved the rest of the show. I think we hugged. He bought a CD and left.

At first, I probably said something to myself like, What does this little gay kid know about what hurts gays?! I’m hilarious and that’s all that matters. But then I thought about it. Realized I didn’t want to hurt that kid, surrendered and took it out of my act. I can write another joke.

I don’t think that interaction would have happened today. He sincerely wanted me to be better. He didn’t try to get me fired, he didn’t send all of his Twitter friends after me, and the sincere words didn’t come with a bullshit hashtag chaser. It was a thoughtful interaction between two people.

That kind of goodwill has disappeared—the kind that led him to see me as a human and vice versa. Now we have all become expendable avatars.

The latest avatar to be canceled in this way is Shane Gillis, who was fired last week from Saturday Night Live.

We’ve seen this so many times before that I barely need to tell you want happened. Gillis is a comic. He got hired by SNL. People looked up his old stuff. They found that he has used the word “faggot” and “chink” on a 2018 podcast. And it wasn’t masked behind a stupid joke about Texas. At one point, Gillis also put on a fake Chinese accent and made fun on Chinese food and Chinatown architecture. He also dismissed sensitive male comedians as “white faggot comics” and “gayer than ISIS.” So SNL un-hired him.

Did I cringe when listening to parts of Gillis’ podcast? Yeah. Did I agree with all of it? Nope. Do I think he should have been fired from SNL? It’s up to SNL.

What I really hated was the glee people on my side of the aisle exhibited after they’d “won.” I’m a liberal in my political outlook. But the joy that other liberals are taking in this kid losing the biggest opportunity in his life is gross.

We don’t root for redemption anymore. We don’t actually care if people change. We don’t want them to become better. We want to watch them burn so we can sit back and temporarily feel better about our own shitty lives. This isn’t a huge problem when people are kicking up, as with the roasting that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is getting now that we know what a big-time blackface enthusiast he was back in the day. But usually, it means kicking down (or at least sideways) at someone like Gillis. Or de-platforming someone like Kevin Hart over ancient social-media posts, which had every sane person wondering, Who the fuck has time to find 10-year-old tweets to boot a guy out of an Oscar-hosting gig?

Unlike most of Gillis’ critics, I didn’t just listen to the podcast that cost him a dream job. I started watching Shane’s stand-up and really liked it: unique, funny, self-hating and clever. The way the Internet was describing him, I expected him to come out like a real-life version of that crude Texas redneck stereotype I played for laughs on stage. Instead, he talked about how, because of the way he looks—a superannuated frat dude from a midwestern college—people are shocked he didn’t vote for Trump. It was really good.

But thanks to the way Google works, it’s hard to find his stand-up online anymore—because it’s buried under 50 terabytes of videos titled, Racist Comedian Levels Planet’s Asian Population With His Mouth Words. Gillis’ actual art has been bumped into the Internet’s back office. But hey, shame sells.

Based on my own experience as a Twitter mob lieutenant, I’m fairly confident that many of the folks who got Shane fired don’t actually give a fuck about racism. They don’t give a fuck about homophobia. They aren’t out marching or signing petitions, let alone actually getting off their ass to assist refugees or homeless LGBT youth. They wake up, get their marching orders from some blue-checked level boss, and then pretend to be mad.

Some people were sincerely hurt, including some of the SNL fans excited to see another brilliant comedian, Bowen Yang, perform as the show’s first Asian hire. That young gay kid who came up to me in Chicago because he recoiled when he heard the word “faggot”—there are plenty of Asian people who had analogous reactions (by which I mean real reactions, not the fake hash-tag Tweeting-from-Starbucks version) to the words Gillis used. But like I say, a lot of the people celebrating Shane’s canceling are whiter than a pumpkin latte crossed with a Keith Haring coffee-table book.

You always have to inhale deeply and think carefully before you defend someone who’s made genuinely offensive comments—because you know the world is then going to stick those words in your own mouth. But if we don’t take that risk, then comedy dies, because the art of being funny relies on pushing boundaries, which sometimes is going to mean violating them.

In that 2018 podcast, which featured Gillis riffing with co-host Matt McCusker, Gillis may have been giving voice to genuine racism. But the far more likely explanation is that he ramped up his language because there are plenty of comedy podcasts out there, and the ones that get listened to usually are the ones that feature the most gonzo content. Plus, edgy, shocking words sometimes also are funny words. (Always remember that one of Louis C.K.’s funniest bits—this is before he was denounced as worse than a masturbating Hitler—is about kids dying from peanut allergies.) Sometimes shocking words are not funny words, even when the comedian is skilled at his trade. But if there’s no leeway for mistakes, then we’re back in the era of jokes about mothers-in-law and TV dinners.

As Dave Chappelle’s brilliant new Netflix special shows us, comedy comes from pain. It comes from growing up in a messed-up household—the humiliation of counting out a handful of change to gain admission to a grade-school dance. We are the sad drunk clowns trying to fit back into our tiny car. As Shane admitted, sometimes the clown stumbles into the gutter as he’s fiddling with the car door. We could all let that person get back up, but instead we stomp his clown head into the pavement.

I wish the liberals high-fiving each other over the prospect of Gillis being relegated to fast-food work remember what happens when one of their own screws up. Remember when James Gunn got canned from the latest Guardians of the Galaxy because he tweeted weird jokes about pedophilia? Or maybe you don’t—because you were too busy congratulating yourself for getting Roseanne Barr fired. Good times.

It’s easy to join a Twitter mob. You take zero risk if the takedown doesn’t work, but you pretend you’re Rosa Parks if it does. What that kid in Chicago did to me, on the other hand—that takes genuine guts. It also takes bravery to remember that we have all done something fucked up that we would never want to trend on Twitter. We have all had thoughts that embarrassed us, said stupid things when trying to be funny, and been forgiven for it by our friends. Remember that the next time you feel compelled to ruin someone’s life over their own failed comedy routine. Otherwise, you’ll know exactly who to blame when your favourite comedian gets replaced by a guy in a pussy hat telling intersectional knock-knock jokes.

 

Jamie Kilstein is a comedian and host of the Jamie Kilstein Podcast. He has been seen on Conan, Showtime, FX, and crying over Twitter comments. Follow him on Twitter @jamiekilstein.

Comments

  1. Comedy is supposed to be transgressive. It flirts with the boundaries of what is supposed to be offensive, in poor taste and downright rude in order to illicit a nervous laughter that quickly becomes somewhat more. It releases tension. It’s a form of catharsis. Most of all it’s supposed to you a good night out. The problem is that it’s a dying art. Dying because only those famous enough to survive the twitter storm, are allowed to continue to be funny.

    Now that’s funny! Copied from the Titania McGrath twitter profile.

  2. I don’t see Saturday Night Live as being a good venue for edgy comedy, frankly. I can understand why Shane Gillis would be attracted to a gig there; the money, the celebrity, the drugs, the sex.

    But edgy, SNL is not. It has not been edgy for a long time. It has not been funny for even longer than that.

    In cases like this, I sometimes like to imagine: “What would Lenny Bruce do?”

    I feel - I’m using a “feeling word” here - there is no more feeling a word than “feel”, is there - I feel that Lenny Bruce would have told the SNL to go to hell if they’d offered him a gig.

    Yes, SNL represents the very worst of SJW wokefulness. Ultimately, though, I think Shane Gillis will be a better man for not having sold his soul - even though he tried really hard to do just that.

  3. The woke usage and application of words like “bravery” and “courage” is so foreign to me. It took “genuine guts” for a homosexual to approach the author and tell him that a word he used made him uncomfortable… at a comedy club, no less? It strikes me as the complete and categorical opposite. It strikes me as the epitome of context-blind cowardice.

    Furthermore, to coddle this fellow by self-censoring is nothing more than a back-handed insult. The author is basically admitting that young gay men are weak-minded, infantile, and incapable of handling adult language in an adult environment. The whole point of adult comedy clubs is to be made uncomfortable and to laugh at things we hold sacred.

    This article is an attempt to pull woke culture back up the slippery slope. Noble, but I think the author is too far down the slope himself to be of any real help.

  4. For Shane, it likely was the gay jokes, because Stephen Colbert is on top of the world despite is Ching Chong Ding Dong character he did many times.

  5. “But thanks to the way Google works, it’s hard to find his stand-up online anymore—because it’s buried under 50 terabytes of videos titled, Racist Comedian Levels Planet’s Asian Population With His Mouth Words . Gillis’ actual art has been bumped into the Internet’s back office. But hey, shame sells”

    This makes it sound like Google is a hapless passive agency that includes “hits” on people based on ‘selling’ or, as I think the author means it, popularity. This just isn’t true.

    The truth is that we have gigantic corporations with near-total control who literally want global domination. I am not really exaggerating. And not only is this a problem on its face, it’s also a problem because they have the power to do so and because they are aligned with an insane quasi-religious ideology whose side effect (primary effect?) is to attempt to weaken/destroy Western democracy and non-oligarchic capitalism. They work on multiple levels but it’s very predictable what you will get when you Google something now. If it helps them in their ideology and goal, it will be included; if it doesn’t, it will not. They will also manipulate results to attack people they don’t like since they don’t conform to their ideology or are a threat to their goal of world domination.

    If you Google “Shane Gillis” you will get what the author claims. But if you DuckDuckGo “Shane Gillis” you do not. See for yourselves.

    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=shane+gillis&t=h_&ia=news
    https://www.google.com/search?q=shane+gillis&rlz=1C1GCEU_enUS822US822&oq=shane+gillis&aqs=chrome.0.35i39j0l2j69i60l3.1471j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

    I realize “world domination” sounds melodramatic, but I think that’s literally what they want. They firmly believe in their quasi religion and are exactly like Christians on a Crusade. They wanted to destroy anyone in their way, often literally, and literally believed the whole world should be Christian or dead. This is the level they’re at. Hence the talks of a ‘global economy,’ trying to destroy strong western nations, aligning with China and other corrupt autocratic nations as necessary, and so on.

    What does a mere comedian have to do with all this? It’s not always about the particular individual. It’s about shutting down any dissent. There are multiple ways to doing it, and this is their chief way, to basically erase a person for daring to step out of line. For every one person they do this to, 10,000 people learn to shut their mouths. It’s very effective as we are very social animals and corporations are very fearful of any controversy (I don’t think this is rational on their part, but they aren’t reacting rationally).

  6. “like a real-life version of that crude Texas redneck stereotype I played for laughs on stage.”

    I once went to see this comedian preform. During the show he put on a bad Southern accent and proceeded to act like a crude ignorant Neanderthal. After the show I went up to him and explained that such depictions were harmful to people from my region of the country, that his parodies caused people to presume Southerns were ignorant and not worthwhile. He responded, “piss off kid, no one cares.” I didn’t buy his CD.

    It was then I learned some people are more equal than others.

    This article is correct in many ways. It is also an example of hypocrisy in action.

  7. I had the same thought. I also fail to understand why the comedian removed a joke because a single person came up to him and said it made him feel bad. Did he do a survey? What if 99% of gay people loved the joke? I don’t see this as remotely brave on either part–the boy wasn’t brave at all for telling him his joke made him feel bad (where was the risk? and how is it brave to simply tell someone how a joke makes you feel?). And the comedian was certainly not brave but actually cowardly, in the worst way–he betrayed his own art, and for what? Nothing. A single person didn’t like his joke. So what?

    I’m reminded of Joan Rivers, when someone with a deaf person in their family heckled her while she was performing. She’d made a joke about how she hated children, and the only child she could imagine herself with was Helen Keller, cause she wouldn’t talk. Someone then heckled her from the audience and said, “It’s not funny if you have a deaf child.” She said, “I happen to have a deaf mother oh you stupid ass. Let me tell you what comedy is about…Comedy is about how to make everyone laugh and deal with things.You idiot. My mother is deaf you stupid son of a bitch.Don’t tell me. And just in case you didn’t hear me in the hallway, I lived for nine years with a man with one leg. Ok, you asshole. And we’re going to talk about how he lost his leg in WWII and then went back to get it because that’s fucking littering.So don’t you tell me what’s funny. Comedy is to make us laugh. 9/11? If we didn’t laugh, where the hell would we all be? Think about it…”

    Now you may dislike her coarseness, but she was brave. This was during a performance and she had to get the crowd to laugh again. The heckler risked her losing the audience. She had to think on her feet and do it in a way that was true to herself.

    At a larger level, yes, comedy is to make people laugh about their pain. To shut comedians up is to force people to find another outlet for their pain, and it ain’t pretty. But isn’t that the point?

  8. It’s the comedian himself. If you are fully Woke and have a huge Twitter feed, and give Dems a lot of power, you are untouchable. You can be the most bigoted, racist, anti semitic homophobic person on the planet but if you are a powerful force for getting Democrat votes, you are a saint. At worst, if your racism etc is egregious, you are simply ignored and occasionally courted, like Farrakhan.

    This is how you know their cause has literally zero to do with racism, homophobia, etc.

  9. Here is a Charles Bukowski poem relevant to all this stupidity:

    giving thanks

    I have to admire
    that most abused of the human
    species:
    the white American
    middle-class
    male.

    as a writer
    I have been criticized for
    writing unkindly of
    females;
    other writers have been
    criticized
    for writing unkindly of
    Blacks,
    Orientals,
    homosexuals,
    lesbians,
    Amerindians,
    the aged,
    the unborn
    the newly
    born
    the lame
    or the Chicanos
    the Jews
    the French
    the Italians
    the Greeks
    the English
    or the
    whatevers.

    actually,
    making mild minor
    sport of
    or criticizing
    almost any minority
    group
    has ruined the
    careers of not only
    writers but
    politicians
    sports commentators,
    and people in
    entertainment.

    it is a touchy age.
    everybody is on the
    defensive.
    you must not
    speak unkindly about
    us ,
    they say,
    or
    we will finish
    you
    off!

    now for a writer,
    this is grade-a
    hell.
    a good writer
    must simply let
    it all go,
    regardless.

    if I find a Black
    or a woman
    or a dog
    or a cripple
    or a tree
    or a child
    or an Oriental
    individually
    obnoxious
    I think it is my
    duty to describe
    them as
    such.

    I often describe myself
    as obnoxious,
    for example.

    I demand that all territories
    be open for
    criticism!

    I will not
    be guilty of
    treading
    heavily
    on the truth!

    even so,
    I still give everlasting
    thanks
    to the white American
    middle-class
    male
    who can still be trashed and
    insulted and
    demeaned again and
    again
    and no one ever protests,
    and he never protests,
    he just doesn’t give a
    damn.

    but, oh, says the
    politically correct
    chorus,
    they’re just too satisfied
    with their mundane
    existence!

    yes, some of them
    are,
    but not all of them.
    some of them are
    just as heroic
    as homosexuals
    and lesbians
    and feminists,
    and Blacks,
    and all the etceteras;
    and in some cases,
    even more
    so.
    but our white American
    middle-class male
    never protests
    when I find him
    out of
    order.

    but, says the
    politically correct chorus,
    that’s because
    he’s running the
    show!

    maybe,
    maybe not.

    all I know is
    that as a writer
    he’s a good and fair
    and uncomplaining
    target
    for me.
    I can abuse him
    and punch
    him,
    I can lay him
    low in the
    poem,
    I can abuse him
    in stories, novels and
    screenplays,
    and he’ll take it all
    without a
    whimper.
    in our very restrictive
    overprotective
    society
    it’s great for a writer
    to have one such wide-open
    playground to play
    around
    in.

    so again here’s to
    the white American middle-class
    male,
    the butt of
    all the jokes,
    the clown,
    the brute,
    the watcher of tv,
    the dog,
    the drinker of beer,
    the sexist pig,
    the bumbling husband,
    the fat-bellied
    dim-witted
    nincompoop
    who will take every
    possible abuse
    and say
    nothing,
    he’ll just
    light a fresh
    cigar,
    shift uncomfortably in his
    chair and try to
    smile.

    here’s to this
    forgotten
    hero!

    now, go
    ahead,
    hate
    me.

  10. This guy was fired from a job that was going to pay six figures, plus health care. Now he is back to doing gigs. How is he going to support a family on that? Not only that, but he has no hope now to get a job with a network or Hollywood that will pay a decent, steady paycheck and health care. What kind of a career is that? The blacklisted Hollywood writers also had a career—they worked behind the scenes for less pay and no credit (until later), so they could pay the bills. This is a little like a blacklist, in this case he is stuck in the gig economy and has little hope of a steady job. He will also be ignored by most media and if they interview him, the first thing they will want to talk about is this firing and controversy. This is like being a second-class comic. What a career. What a life. What do you want to do with your life? “Second-class comic” is an unlikely answer.

    This would be a lot easier to take if the reason why you could not get a job is that you lacked the talent. But apparently he does have talent, enough to get hired by SNL in the first place.

  11. The people who accuse you of being a ‘bigot’ tend to be the most bigoted of all.

  12. Pietro:

    The other side of the coin:

    “I find that people who demand tolerance rarely give it.” - James Montgomery Flagg

  13. The state motto of Texas is not “Don’t Mess With Texas”. That phrase came from an anti-litter campaign back in the 80s-90s and it worked spectacularly well. Roadside litter, once common, took a big hit. I can remember being a kid and just throwing our Jack-in-the-Box trash out the window. Of course, we didn’t do it while on the freeway - we waited until we were on a feeder road and added it to the pile of trash that was already there from other people throwing the trash out of their cars.

    The state motto of Texas is “Friendship”. The word Texas derives from the word Tejas, which means friends. Of course, you’d never know this if you’re an ignorant person who casts Texans as The Other and creates strawmen about how stupid they were. For an explanation of this phenomenon, please see the outstanding essay “I can tolerate anything but the outgroup” http://archive.is/QRJ6m

    Ironically having created this culture of Otherizing, the complaint is that this Frankenstein’s monster has now turned on its creator and is Otherizing people the author likes. This entirely predictable outcome was entirely predictable and has been mentioned many times in the comments of previous articles.

    I’m a liberal in my political outlook.

    You’re a leftist, not a liberal. There’s a difference. See: http://liberalismunrelinquished.net

  14. Fidel Castro persecuted gays and dissidents, but his veneration is okay because he has given asylum to American radicals of color, and because he is a victim and sworn foe of fascist imperialism. Farrakhan’s misogyny and his tendency to make Hitlerian pronouncements may sound problematic to the untrained ear, but such things need to be understood in the context of the authentic black rage produced by American racism. As for convicted cop-killer and fugitive Assata Shakur, the Women’s March defended its support for her in a 20-part tweetstorm.

  15. I have to say that one is getting a wee bit bored by the endless parade of lefties coming out and attacking political correctness or the cancel culture. Unless the lefty is going to announce that he or she is going to henceforth completely eschew left-wing thinking and move to the right, I don’t see the point of these articles.
    PC and cancel culture is where the left-winger’s have taken us.
    We must therefore reject the left wholesale.
    Sinistra delenda est

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