With Shane Gillis' return to SNL, Asians ask when they'll stop being the punchline

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Comedian Shane Gillis’ return to Saturday Night Live has reignited a discussion on the way Asian jokes have persisted in comedy. 

Many are criticizing the sketch comedy show after it announced that Gillis — who was fired from the cast in 2019 after anti-Asian and homophobic remarks resurfaced — will be hosting the show later this month. Asian Americans and others in the comedy community said the move is symbolic of comedians’ refusal to move on from Asian jokes and sends a message that Asian Americans are still seen as an acceptable punchline. 

“There is a feeling of it being swept under the rug — anti-Asian jokes being viewed as benign or not having real-life effects and consequences on people, when it’s not the case,” Dylan Adler, a Los Angeles-based Asian American comedian, told NBC News. 

Gillis is slated to host the show on Feb. 24, ahead of his stand-up tour later in the month. The comedian, who’s been embraced by right-wing viewers for his “anti-woke” comedy, was fired from the SNL cast after freelance journalist Seth Simons shared a clip from a 2018 episode of his podcast “Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast” with comedian Matt McCusker. In it, Gillis and his co-host mocked Chinatown and its residents, used Asian slurs and attempted an Asian accent before calling the remarks “nice racism.” Gillis also used homophobic slurs in the same episode.