Emil Guillermo: "Saturday Night Live" sanitizes Shane Gillis and all is not forgiven.

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Shane Gillis was on “SNL” hosting last Saturday, and maybe you found him funny. But probably not if you’re Asian American.

Believe me, I empathize with people trying to be funny.

I detest people showing off or underplaying their racism.

I recently returned from Los Angeles where I did five minutes of standup at the Hollywood Improv. Unlike my solo storytelling/theater shows, which I will do March 2-9 at the Rogue Festival in Fresno and April 5-21 at the New York City Fringe, standup is pure crack. The concentrated Emil Amok experience.

In my set, I told jokes about Filipinos. And people laughed.Great, because I’m Filipino.

Someone non-Filipino told a joke where Filipinos were the punchline, and I admit I didn’t like it.

But on the show, people had seen me, so when that person told the Filipino joke, at least there was some counterbalance.

Then I watched a popular internet comedy podcast, where a once canceled white comedian introduced a Korean American comic, who told this joke:

“I think abortion is pretty cool. You know men have been killing things for years. It’s time the ladies took a crack at it to start with fetuses and work your way up to Filipinos.”


Killing Filipinos is NOT funny.

Doesn’t matter that the comedian was Asian. He’s not Filipino.

Better if he had turned the joke on himself and said, “work your way up to Koreans.”

Even that "alternative" punchline will be offensive to some. But he said Filipino. Not cool.

Still, I don’t want to censor a comic’s jokes. In an America where free speech is the rule, you may say what you want. But you must subject yourself to debate.

More speech not less.

It’s the way to do racial humor without canceling or censoring anyone.

You debate the hate masquerading as funny.

That’s why I was open to seeing Shane Gillis host Saturday Night Live on NBC this past weekend.

But in the opening monologue, Gillis chickened out.

He acknowledged in a half-hearted, embarrassed way that he was “fired from the show a while ago, but don’t look that up,“ Gillis told America. “Please don’t Google that, it’s fine don’t even worry about it.”

He got tepid laughs, satirizing his own "aw shucks" racist past.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I probably shouldn’t be up here, honestly.”

It was maybe the one true thing he said the entire show.

Of course, Asian Americans don’t need to Google Gillis.

Most of us know that in 2019 when Gillis was hired as an SNL cast member, journalists went through Gillis’ work and found it littered with words like “retard” and “faggot.” He displayed his misogyny calling women “flat chested bitches.”

But it was his racism toward Asians that got him in trouble.

On a bit about Chinese restaurants from a Sept. 2018 podcast, Gillis talked about Chinatown, saying “Why do the fucking chinks live there?”

He also did the hackneyed ching-chong accent jokes that are only racist and unfunny. White people trying to imitate Asians talking only make white people look dumb. Not funny.

That’s the thing that got Gillis busted in the first place. But in his monologue last Saturday, there was no mention of Asian Americans and no apology. Just an admission that he sensed his being on SNL was making some people uncomfortable.

“I don’t have any material that can be on TV,” Gillis said. “This place is extremely well lit, I can see everyone not enjoying it.”

The audience laughed at him mocking his awkwardness and lack of contrition. And then he continued to talk about people with Down syndrome, specifically his niece, which must have made him feel he had license to punch down.

Essentially, Gillis showed he’s the same guy he’s always been. SNL fired him five years ago, and nothing has changed, except Gillis has built a massive career as a Trumpy, right-wing standup.

It just reconfirmed what journalist and comedian Seth Simons wrote in the Los Angeles Times last week. Simons’ commentary went deeper into Gillis’ past and present and found more material after 2019 on podcasts behind paywalls that showed the comedian to be every bit as offensive as he ever was. (I read Simons’ column on my podcast here.)

How is it that you can be racist behind a paywall making tens of thousands of dollars, and then go on NBC all sanitized playing down your real comic nature?

The paywall becomes like a white hood.

Only those who pay can see and hear the real Gillis. On NBC, he was cleaned up and normalized, like the other players.

But Asian Americans know him from 2019, when Gillis made us his punchlines.

Last week, I wrote that with 27 million Asian Americans, Gillis’ penance should be 27 million Our Fathers and Hail Marys.

After his monologue on Saturday, I think even Gillis knows he’s not repented enough. Not when he’s a repeat offender. Of course, he could have dealt with the issue head on. Instead, he evaded it for laughs.

And “SNL” let him. It was no different from the show's cold open that night that skewered the hypocrisy of GOP politicians, the ones who hate Trump privately but back him publicly. They just want power.

“SNL” wants Gillis’ huge audience. And that’s the sad thing, after doing the right thing five years ago. But now there are more of those folks who will pay to hear Gillis be racist than is healthy in a diverse American society. Putting Gillis on NBC only normalizes and sanitizes him, a pathway to making his comedic rhetoric acceptable.

In the meantime, the real Gillis crawls back behind his paywall—the new white hood for people to hide under as they peddle their most reprehensible jokes.

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NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on