NBC, ‘SNL stay mum as controversy grows over new cast member

NBC and “Saturday Night Live” are grappling with how to respond to the growing outcry over the the discovery that a comedian set to join the show has a history of making racist and homophobic statements as part of his act and on a podcast that he co-hosts.

The social media-fueled controversy that erupted around Shane Gillis on Thursday night is just the latest to envelope “SNL” and various members of its troupe.

Gillis’ participation in a podcast was resurfaced Thursday by Seth Simons, a journalist who often writes about comedy. “Let the f—ing ch-nks live there,” Gillis is heard to say in one podcast episode about Chinatown. In a statement posted on Twitter Thursday night, Gillis called himself a “comedian who pushes boundaries. I sometimes miss.” He said he was “happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said” and that he never intended to hurt anyone, “but I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks.”

The furor around Gillis is disrupting the typical publicity leading up to the next season of “Saturday Night Live.” Every August and September, NBC and “SNL” executive producer Lorne Michaels try to win notice for the late-night mainstay by releasing news about which cast members are leaving or returning, and, subsequently, trumpet the addition of new members to the cast. This year’s new talent batch, also unveiled Thursday, was notable for the inclusion of Bowen Yang, an Asian American, to a show that has in recent years been under scrutiny regarding racial and ethnic diversity among its on-air staff.

Representatives for NBC and “Saturday Night Live” did not immediately respond to queries Friday.

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