‘SNL’ canned Shane Gillis, but Alec Baldwin did worse

“Saturday Night Live” is sorry it hired, then fired comedian Shane Gillis.

The rebel comic got added to the Not Ready for Prime-Time Players lineup in 2019 before, just days after the announcement, “SNL” let him go after his offensive jokes “resurfaced.”

His sins included crude comments about Asian-Americans and gay people, riffs ripped from his various podcast appearances over the years. Team NBC said Gillis’ “hurtful” language wasn’t a match for the oft-bawdy showcase.

Gillis could have slinked off to obscurity after losing the gig of a lifetime. Instead, he went back to work and built his profile to the point where “SNL” invited him to host the venerable showcase Feb. 24.

“We want SNL to have a variety of voices and points of view within the show. … 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.”

Gillis could have slinked off to obscurity after losing the gig of a lifetime. Instead, he went back to work and built his profile to the point where “SNL” invited him to host the venerable showcase Feb. 24.

Even the New York Times admitted Gillis has bounced back in dramatic fashion following the firing.

Since getting fired from “Saturday Night Live” in 2019 after videos surfaced of him using Asian and gay slurs on a podcast, Gillis has built perhaps one of the fastest-growing comedy careers in America. His debut special, released on YouTube in 2021, racked up a staggering 14 million views, and he’s the most popular podcaster on Patreon with more than 71,000 paying listeners. He regularly sells out theaters. Don’t be surprised if he becomes an arena act.

The irony is rich beyond the fact that a fading institution like “SNL” needs Gillis more than he needs it five years later.

Pot, meet kettle

“SNL” has a poor track record when it comes to women and minorities. Most of the show’s hosts were white up until recently. Black cast members often chafed under the show’s system, either leaving after a short run or never catching on.

Eddie Murphy proved a glorious exception.

Chris Rock’s brief “SNL” tenure speaks volumes. He became a comedy superstar following his exit.

Baldwin grabbed a female journalist by the arm and said, “I want to choke you to death,” comments she recorded on audiotape

Women also suffered along the way, according to former staffers who called the show’s professional atmosphere “incredibly sexist.”

Original cast member Jane Curtin recalled the show’s abject sexism behind the scenes.

“There were a few people that just out-and-out believe that women should not have been there and they believe that women were not innately funny,” said the first female anchor of SNL‘s “Weekend Update” segment. “So those were the experiences that I had that were sexist.”

And then there’s the copious drug use in the show’s early days. Few TV programs have as many skeletons in the closet as “SNL.”

Seems more “hurtful” than a few poorly realized riffs, no?

The Baldwin exception

And then there’s Alec Baldwin.

The “30 Rock” alum never officially joined the show’s cast. He just played President Donald Trump week after week, year after year during the real estate mogul’s White House reign.

The show looked the other way at Baldwin’s rap sheet, like the rest of Hollywood.

We all recall the time Baldwin called his 11-year-old daughter a “thoughtless little pig,” a voicemail message that went viral before the term hit the zeitgeist.

His ongoing war against the paparazzi got physical in 2012 when he wrestled with a shutterbug trying to take his picture in public. The actor claimed the photographer started the physical confrontation.

A year later, Baldwin grabbed a female journalist by the arm and said, “I want to choke you to death,” comments she recorded on audiotape. In the same exchange he lashed out at the outlet’s black staff photographer, allegedly calling him a “coon” and a “drug dealer,” according to the journalist’s police statement.

That same year he hurled an anti-gay slur at a photographer and later apologized.

He’s been kicked off of an airline for abusive behavior and battled a fellow New Yorker over a parking spot dispute. NBC refused to share a comment regarding the latter fracas.

Age hasn’t mellowed the Trump impersonator.

Cruz-ing for a bruising?

In 2021 he raged against Sen. Ted Cruz, demanding the Texas Republican be put “in the stocks and throw rotten fruit and buckets of horse piss at him. Then ride him on a rail. Then tar and feather him. And film it. For Netflix,” he said via Twitter.

Yet “SNL” cut him paycheck after paycheck so he could mock President Trump. No punishments. No tsk-tsking over his terrible behavior, both verbal and physical.

“SNL” deserves some credit for granting Gillis some grace. Maybe he’ll knock it out of the park as the host and show everyone what he could have brought to the aging show.

Or maybe he’ll use his opening monologue to note how hypocritical the sketch series is for punishing him without considering the show’s sordid history.

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