When the history of comedy’s resurgence in the early twenty-first century is written — when masses of people, silenced by the speech codes of the day, found solace and contrarian hope in the words of unsilenced comics — Shane Gillis will be a major turning point in that story.
It’s not just that he’s arguably the best stand-up under forty working today; it’s that his work won out over all the obstacles the world threw at him. He is now the comedy world’s embodiment of the Streisand Effect, where his attempted cancellation functioned instead as a rocket ship for his career based not on victimhood but on the stubborn nature of his skill.
Gillis’s first special, Live in Austin, was a YouTube joint that has racked up 14 million views. Now he’s on Netflix with his latest, Beautiful Dogs — a well-honed hour-long display of his talents that runs from the personal and historical to the political, and his fear of early-onset Republicanism.
He acknowledges at one point that most of the women in the room were probably dragged there by men who insist they turn up his podcast in the car, to affirming laughter. But he’s right: he and comedy brother Matt McCusker, whose own million-viewer special proves he’s no slouch, are currently the hosts of the number one podcast on Patreon. That’s right: the same edgy podcasting that doomed Gillis with the Saturday Night Live opportunity thanks to shrill progressives on Twitter is now making him bank.
The Gillis arc is reassuring for those who appreciate one of the few areas where individual skill can win out over the mob. He joked to himself when the world was collapsing around him that he’d just go on Joe Rogan and rebound. The same day his special launched, Rogan dropped episode 9 of “Protect Our Parks”, the combo comedian episodes he does with Gillis, Ari Shaffir and Mark Normand. It’s five hours long. You might ask who listens to that? The answer is a lot more people than you might think.