Shane Gillis Delivers Mixed Bag of Laughs and Cringe in SNL Return

Shane Gillis’ meant-to-be-triumphant return to the Saturday Night Live stage this weekend was a mixed bag of humor, some of which landed with a thud — like any episode of the long-running show — and a couple of good laughs.

Much of the show’s sketches took the comedian and podcaster’s white-bro shtick and dialed it back a tad — ultimately finding a sweet spot closer to the line that his routine crosses. Gillis made a strong effort in his return to Studio 8H on Saturday night, but he struggled throughout his monologue and was visibly anxious as he pivoted to new topics. Ribbing his dad, who sat with his mother to support him in one of his bigger career moments, didn’t go over well — yes, having a dad who’s a girl’s basketball coach might be pretty funny to you, Shane, but it’s not really to everyone else.

Despite this rough start — which followed a tepid cold open referencing Donald Trump’s win in the South Carolina primary on Saturday — the show had some highlights. In a spoof ad, Gillis pitched the betting platform Rock Bottom Kings, which instead of sports, allows users to bet on how low their friends’ lives could sink. In another mock ad, this time a movie trailer, the comic portrayed young Gordon Dwyer, who gains not the basketball skills he desires, but a Trump-like hair-do and an odd relationship with the truth when the former president sends him a gold pair of high-tops.

The podcasting sensation also won some laughs in a sketch where he portrayed a guest on a game show, The Floor, where he cannot recall the names of any famous Black people from history as their faces flash on a screen; ditto for his portrayal of an incel pitching Fugliana, the average-looking sex doll who won’t intimidate.

Other sketches, as they will on SNL, went on far too long and stretched a single gag too far; one dealing with HR and dating in the workplace seemed to go on forever. And the typical highlight of the show, “Weekend Update,” was noticeably brief and mostly consisted of a cast member dressed as a frozen embryo. Co-anchor Colin Jost perhaps even outdid Gillis on the uncomfortable race-based joke front with a gag about waiting out Black History Month in a leap year.

The show’s musical guest, British-American rapper 21 Savage, brought the single “redrum” to the stage drenched in blood-red light, but the audience didn’t seem to get into it.

On Saturday, Gillis, the wildly popular co-host of Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast, returned to the show as its host five years after he was fired from the cast. In 2019, the 36-year-old was abruptly sacked when racist and homophobic jokes he made on his show resurfaced.

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