To Those 6 Headliners Who Took Shots at Shane Gillis, Here’s Why People Are Mad at You

What started as a short tweet responding to a Tim Dillon tweet this morning grew into a 5/6 part tweet which is still too short to be an article. But here it is with a few extra words thrown in. Here’s the tweet that got me typing. And while I don’t want anyone to die, and some of my favorite comics are old-ass comics, I know how Tim feels.

Here’s what was posted on our Twitter this morning:

I’m still baffled by and angry at the 6 or so headliners who attacked Shane Gillis.

Several of them have made fucked up jokes too, and taken shit for it. And feared losing jobs over it. They don’t even know Shane or his comedy. So why take shots? Is it because you got woke faster than he did?

Shane is not a racist. Your best argument here is to say he is insensitive to how his comedy affects people who have had to endure shit. But he has not spewed racism. The country is full of those people who DO spew racism. If you can’t tell the difference between someone attempting to be funny, and someone spreading hate, then that’s the first thing we need to work on. Lets focus on that instead of insensitive jokes. Or comedy is fucked.

The backlash and anger by people outside of comedy over the jokes doesn’t bother me. That’s fair and part of the risk that offensive comedians take. And it’s not in their interests to protect the art form and creative process. But comics should see the harm to the art form when you say it’s cool to fire someone over jokes gone wrong.

Remember, there will always be people more woke than you are too. Looking forward to hearing your #carefulcomedy on stages and podcasts and panels.

So that’s the original five part tweet that became an op-ed. Here’s a few more thoughts to add to it, while I have your attention.

Intentions and Consequences

I know the Shane Gillis backlash all comes out of good intentions. We don’t want to be shitty to people and we don’t want people to feel hurt. We don’t want to reinforce racism. We want to be responsible and if these kind of jokes are irresponsible, reckless, harmful, we want consequences.

But what’s the fair consequence? I don’t know, but I know this. If any congressional representative proposed a law that we ban the word Chink (or any word), and legally mandated that the penalty for breaking that law is that you don’t get to work in your profession anymore (or at least not get a good, high paying job regardless of your skill level), all of you would be out carrying picket signs. Not because you think the word is good, but because you are smart enough to realize the harms of such a law outweigh the benefits.

Those same harms exist when we do the same thing without the assistance of the legal process.

Offensive Comedy Doesn’t ALWAYS Equal Hate

Before you think of Shane as a monster, consider this. Haven’t we all made fun of someone we love? At your Thanksgiving table, or at Sunday dinner with the family, or at somebody’s wedding, haven’t you mocked or imitated someone in your family or your friends for the way they speak and gotten huge laughs. Or maybe you didn’t but you laughed when someone else did it. Maybe its your Aunt Sheila, or Uncle Joe or that weird cousin on the ‘other side’ of your family.  Or the way your mom always gets high pitched when she’s mad. A buddy who pronounced something incorrectly.  If you haven’t, you at least know what I’m talking about.  And I’ll bet anything that if you have, it wasn’t out of hatred for that person. Your intention wasn’t to “spew hate” about Aunt Lila or your dad. You probably love them. Laughing at someone else’s expense does not always equal hate.

Great Offensive Comedy vs Shitty Offensive Comedy

I don’t think anyone is declaring offensive comedy to be dead. Nobody is saying get rid of Burr, or Chappelle. Nobody is saying it’s time to hide the old Eddie Murphy specials or the Richard Pryor specials. Or that Joan Rivers was a terrible racist. Nobody thinks Lisa Lampanelli was a bad person either and she used all the words. And not one person has said that pre-woke SNL bits or movies must be scrubbed from lists of great comedy.  Belushi’s Samurai sketch is safe. Peter Seller movies wouldn’t appeal to a younger generation most likely, but they’re not being burned or attacked either. And those are just two examples. I could spend a month doing nothing but write about great art that offended someone, and you didn’t even notice.

Yes I know, it’s a little premature to say that Shane Gillis belongs in a list with great offensive comedians like Bill Burr, Dave Chappelle, Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers, Eddie Murphy, Dick Gregory Patrice O’Neal, Lisa Lampanelli and a long list of others. But it’s also a bit premature to say he doesn’t. All we know is a lot of people and a lot of industry seem to think he stands out as talented above other young comics.Those who ‘vetted’ him based on his comedy skills. Those who auditioned him, who watched him in clubs, who watched to see if he was consistently funnier than others around him. That doesn’t mean he’ll be one of the greats. It just means let’s find out.

So if your beef with Shane is that his joke wasn’t good enough, or funny enough you’re right. The more offensive a joke is, the funnier it had better be. And for me, that joke wasn’t funny enough.  So what. So it’s a failed joke. Everyone’s had them. Go ahead, protest the joke all you want. Yell at Shane that his joke isn’t funny, his use of the word wasn’t funny and he should stop doing those jokes. Explain to him why the jokes are fucked up, if you find them to be fucked up.  That’s a measured reasonable response, and then its his choice if he keeps on doing them.

If your problem with Shane is that he made his joke too late on the time line- and that he is not woke enough fast enough, try to remember that woke is a process. We haven’t fine tuned this enough to say any word has an expiration date. The N-word took some time to reach the forbidden status it has today. The F-word is well on its way to being unacceptable across the board. The C-word may get there too.  If you want to take certain words out of circulation, protesting makes good sense. But calling for actual punishment over the use of those words seems counterproductive to your good intentions of bringing people together.

Are Comedians Being Held to Higher Standards Than Everyone Else.


Politicians aren’t vetted. Musicians aren’t vetted. Nobody looks into the tweets and off-stage behavior of SNL’s musical guest, hosts (or Trump impersonators) and says no- they can’t be on tv. Comedians must be really important to be the front lines of these debates.

Last Thoughts

Which brings us back to the comedians who attacked Gillis.

They know as well as I do, that the Patrice  O’Neal Quote that gets dragged out every time something like this happens is accurate. “Funny jokes and unfunny jokes come out of the same birth, you don’t know if anything is gonna be funny, you should attempt to be able to make anything funny.”

Don’t fuck with the process, it’s your process too. It’s why you don’t want to be recorded every time you go on stage, and it’s why if and when they start transcribing all podcasts and plunking them down into a searchable database, most of you will stop going on podcasts.

There are a lot of offensive words flying around this week, but “vetting” is the one that should offend you most, if “vetting” means searching your history for any impropriety and judging you as a person and a performer by those improprieties alone.

In the past week, I saw six headlining comedians (who were not involved in the story at all and didn’t need to comment at all) attack Shane Gillis and in various forms shame him. They seem to feel that firing Shane was either the correct decision or was at least an acceptable response.  I don’t want to call them out. All of them have made offensive jokes. I have loved all of them for their comedy. I have defended all of them when someone attacked them or called them racist/offensive over something I knew was just a joke. Several of them are vulnerable for more misfire tweet/jokes that they’ve forgotten about or didn’t even realize were offensive. Or maybe haven’t even become offensive…yet.

Remember, there will always be people more woke than you are too.  

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