"Chinatown's f---ing nuts" he says at one point in the conversation, which has since been deleted, followed by "let the f----ing ch--ks live there."
Thursday night, just hours after it was announced that Gillis was joining "SNL" next season, he posted a statement on Twitter.
"I'm a comedian who pushes boundaries. I sometimes miss. If you go through my 10 years of comedy, most of it bad, you're going to find a lot of bad misses," Gillis wrote. "I'm happy to apologize to anyone who's actually offended by anything I've said. My intention is never to hurt anyone but I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks."
Gillis is among three new "SNL" cast members set to join the sketch show. He joins Chloe Fineman and Bowen Yang. Yang, who is a child of Chinese immigrants, is the show's only Asian American series regular.
"SNL" did not respond to an emailed request for comment by CNN.
The response online was swift and strong. CNN Opinion writer Jeff Yang tweeted that " if you want to know what being a person of color is like, it's literally that for every Bowen Yang-shaped step you take forward, you also take one racist-ass Shane Gillis-shaped step back."