Last year, Saturday Night Live hired three new cast members, including Shane Gillis. However, after it was revealed that Gillis had a history of using racial and homophobic slurs, executive producer Lorne Michaels fired the comedian from SNL. Now, NBC’s Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy is opening up about Gillis’ firing from Saturday Night Live. Asked about the controversy and whether he'd had a conversation with Michaels about "vetting" in the aftermath of what happened, here’s what Telegdy had to say:
So what happened very quickly when, I think, one of the smart people in this room or one of the organs you work for, like, Googled the name of the cast and what happened next, I think, we could say it was a learning moment for a lot of people. How quickly Lorne acted and subsequently what happens, I think, again, is just testament to how we act as a company. And what you do to prevent future accidents goes to the heart of why you always have people working at NBC that are minding the show and so always looking to do better. So I’m sure there are specific practices being put in place, and what vetting and the 'v' word means, vetting people is very triggering for people who live in a world of free speech and comedy. And I just ask all of you who care about what’s truthful, what’s funny, what performers are given permission to do, that it is an enormously fine line and gray area, and who polices that is normally the performers that throw their careers under a bus if they make a wrong decision.
Paul Telegdy spoke about the controversial incident during the Television Critics Association’s NBC panel. The chairman addressed vetting practices after NBC and Saturday Night Live, which recently saw the return of Eddie Murphy, came under fire last year for not having researched Shane Gillis prior to hiring him.
Paul Telegdy also discussed the lessons NBC executives and Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels learned from all of this. Telegdy was confident that holding people responsible was key and he’s encouraged by the way the situation was handled by everyone at NBC.
And, again, I’m reminded of what Ellen DeGeneres said at the Golden Globes, which is how much she sacrificed. This is the exact reverse of that if you look at it one way. But we’ve all got to learn lessons about what you shake down in someone’s past and what you hold them accountable for. And so I thank you again for predicting that that question would come up, and I’m really proud and transparently can say we acted first. Lorne did the right thing, and going forward, we think we will be able to rightly be accountable.
Shane Gillis was announced as a new cast member in September of 2019, but was fired just days later after past controversial comments, including an Asian slur during an episode of his podcast Matt and Shane's Secret Podcast, came to light. At the time of his firing, a statement from Saturday Night Live’s spokesperson (via Variety) apologized that the “vetting process was not up to our standard.”
Saturday Night Live will return with new episodes on January 24 at 11:35 p.m. ET. For more on what to watch, be sure to check out our 2020 midseason schedule.