For more than four decades, Saturday Night Live has entertained American viewers. This show has produced many iconic comedians and pop culture moments that nothing else on TV has. However, the show has also seen its fair share of controversies in the past. A lot of these instances led to both public condemnation and firing. If they were incredibly unlucky, they even got a lifetime ban from the show. Some of the entries on this list were caused by musicians and guest hosts who wanted to share a message using the show’s platform. On the other hand, a few of them forgot that they were not allowed to curse. What makes such an offense so bad is that there is no way to edit it out! As you can imagine, things did not always end very well for stars who messed up on live TV…
For many fans of the show, the most controversial moment in its history took place on October 3, 1992. After Bob Marley performed “War,” Sinead O’Connor took out a photograph of Pope John Paul II, ripped it to shreds, and proclaimed, “Fight the real enemy.” She did this as a response to the allegations of sexual abuse against the Catholic Church. The musician’s actions did not just shock audiences and resulted in record burnings, but she also surprised the producers. She managed to keep her intentions hidden at their rehearsals. We wonder if she feels vindicated since it has been proven that the allegations were at least partly true. Even so, she remains banned from the show after that stunt.
In 2003, Adrien Brody had the chance to host an episode of the show. The actor improvised an intro for musician Sean Paul while donning dreadlocks and using a fake Jamaican accent. Lorne Michaels had to bring the hammer down on the Academy Award winner and banned him over this shocking racist joke.
Rage Against The Machine
It is a little funny that Rage Against the Machine did not even finish an episode before they got banned. In 1996, the band got thrown out of the Rockefeller Center studios after performing only one of their two scheduled songs. This happened because they played it in front of an American flag turned upside down. In all fairness to them, they had already been doing this in their stage shows by then. This one was taken at Woodstock in 1994. If you ask us, SNL should have done its homework.
This comedian gave a monologue that proved to be very controversial on February 19, 1994. Martin Lawrence became the subject of public rage due to his awful jokes about female hygiene. It was the last time he ever appeared on the show. This part was later taken out and replaced with Jim Downy saying that this part of the episode “…was a frank and lively presentation, and nearly cost us all our jobs.”
In 19994, DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill celebrated the first SNL appearance of the rap group in an extraordinary way. He decided to light a joint while they were on stage! As you can imagine, this did not end well. It was their first time on the show, but it also proved to be their last.
We do not really know why Steven Seagal was “hard to work” when he had a hosting stint in 1991. However, we can at least tell you that he has not been allowed to return to the show after that. The year after his appearance, Lorne Michaels even went as far as to say that the actor was the biggest jerk who hosted SNL when the producer did an on-air monologue. Once you go through this list, you will understand just how much that says.
This punk band from Minneapolis had been gearing up to enter the mainstream scene when they scored an SNL appearance in 1986. Sadly, The Replacements burned this opportunity to the ground. Rolling Stone said that the band “got drunk, said the f-word just off mic during their first song, switched clothes for their second, and rang up $1100 in hotel damages.” Yikes. This infuriated Lorne Michaels so much that he first wanted to ban every single artist in the lineup of Warner Brother’s Records from the show. In the end, he was able to calm down enough to ban no one but The Replacements.
During the early years of the TV show, Andy Kaufman had been one of its most frequent guests. In 1982, he did something controversial on the stage that turned him into a divisive figure. In January 1983, SNL answered this by hosting a phone-in poll to see whether voters want him “kept” or “dumped.” Even though many cast members rallied behind him, “dump Andy” won with 195,544 more votes than the other side.
Actor Robert Blake got banned from the show after he ripped up a script while rehearsing to host an episode of it in 1982. Not only that, but he even tossed it at the feet of one of the writers! He did this since he was unhappy with it. Perhaps this is the right time to remind everyone that he was accused of murdering his second wife in 2001. Some people think that SNL made the right call.
When this punk band from California was invited to go on the Halloween episode of the show, they wanted to do something unusual. Fear enlisted slam dancers, which included the likes of John Belushi, to form a mosh pit in front of the stage during their performance. Sadly, things went out of their control. By the time their performance ended, they had accrued damages worth anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000! We can totally understand why the band never got to perform on the show after that stunt.
When Milton Berle appeared on the TV show in 1979, he was already pretty famous. His fame was not enough to make the cast and crew like him, however. His musical performance, ad-libs, and staged standing ovation made him unpopular among the team members. Lorne Michaels even banned him! As if that is not bad enough, he did not let that episode go into syndication for more than 20 years.
In 1976, Frank Zappa had a successful performance on the show. He was asked to return to the set to host yet another episode two years after that. Sadly, things did not go as well as they did the first time around. One of the show writers said, “The Frank Zappa show was like one of the worst ever.” You are right if you assumed that the rocker never got a third invitation to go on SNL.
In October 1977, TV host Charles Grodin was slated to appear on the TV show. However, he missed a few rehearsals only a week before the actual taping. Needless to say, he had been unprepared when it was time to go on air. He messed up his lines and got the timing of sketches all wrong. Worst of all, he forgot that it was a live broadcast! It makes sense that this was his last time on the show.
This has to be one of the most well-known musical moments on the TV show. In 1977, Elvis Costello defied the orders of his record company, who asked him to play “Less Than Zero.” He instead started singing “Radio Radio.” Even though it was fun to watch him perform it, this stunt did not please the producers who had not been alerted of the change. He was banned from the show for over a decade, but he has since come back and even joked about what happened at the 25th Anniversary Special!
This singer is responsible for what must be the most famous Irish jig ever to grace our screens. In 2004, she appeared on the show and broke into the dance after they started to play “Pieces of Me, vocals and all, over the intro of her second song. This revealed that her performance was lip-synced! She initially blamed the band, then acid reflux, for what transpired. However, the damage to her reputation was already done by then. She returned to the show in 2005, so she must not have gotten banned for life like many other people on this list.
Andrew Dice Clay
In 1990, Andrew Dice Clay was chosen to host an episode of the show. It was already controversial before it was even aired. It upset members of the cast, as well as various women’s groups. NBC insisted on a delay of several seconds to ensure that they could censor any profanities. In the end, the comedian followed the script. This led to a pretty humdrum episode, but he did not get an invitation to return after this one.
The appearance of Andrew Dice Clay on the show allegedly led to the blacklisting of Nora Dunn too. She had been on the show for five years when she boycotted his appearance. In turn, she was left out of the season finale and got fired. Jon Levitz, however, there were already plans to let her go even before all that drama. He said, “It’s the last show of the season. Nora… she caused a lot of trouble. [She] was very hard to get along with, and they weren’t going to ask her back, anyway… and this is how the press works. And I’m telling you I’m on the inside of this. They don’t know the story. It’s like she’s just doing it to get press. It’s her last hurrah. They’re not asking her back onto the show.”
It was rather controversial of the show to have Donald Trump host an episode while running for president in 2016. Members of the cast were upset since they felt like it implied that they supported him. Political groups also wondered if his guest spot obeyed equal-time laws. It was the last time he has been on the show, but we doubt that he will return shortly after the show parodied him in an iconic episode.
In 2018, Kanye West appeared on SNL as a musical guest. This led to a small controversy after he slipped on a Donald Trump “MAGA” cap during his second song. As if that was not enough, he even went on a pro-Trump rant that they cut off. While it was not aired, Chris Rock posted it on Instagram anyway. Cast members such as Kenan Thompson and Pete Davidson had bad things to say about how the rapper acted on the show in the weeks that followed this incident.
In the mid-‘90s, Adam Sandler had been one of the biggest stars on SNL. This was clearly not enough to keep Lorne Michaels from sacking him in 1995. The comedian has since become one of the most bankable movie stars in history, but it looks like he has never let go of his grudge against the show. In 2019, he finally got the chance to return as a host. Still, he spelled out his sentiments in the opening monologue. “Yeah, I was fired, I was fired. NBC said that I was done. Then I made over 4 billion dollars at the box office, so I guess you could say I won,” he shared. It sounds like he got the long end of the stick.
This cast member got to perform with Charlene Tilton in a parody of Dallas, in which she starred. The episode in question aired in 1989. In the middle of the sketch, however, Charles Rocket was unable to hold in an F-Bomb. This ultimately led to the end of his tenure on the show. Too bad!
In 1986, Sam Kinison delivered a couple of jokes that did not get the approval of the execs. NBC edited them out of the West coast airing. Among other things, he joked about the crucifixion and drug use. He said, “You can’t get any more pot. If you give us back the pot, we’ll forget the crack.” Uh-oh.
System Of A Down
This band got to perform “B.Y.O.B.” on the show in 2005. In the middle of the song, guitarist Darren Malakian of System of a Down yelled out, “F*** YEAH!” This F-bomb slipped past the censors of the show and appeared on the East Coast airing. On the bright side, they managed to at least edit it out of the other one. As you can imagine, the producers were unhappy with this little slip of the tongue.
In a way, it is pretty amazing that Shane Gillis got banned from the show before he even got to appear in it. A couple of hours after he was hired by SNL, videos of him saying homophobic and racist slurs came to light on social media. He got fired in no time at all, but it sounds reasonable to us.
In September 2009, Jenny Slate made her first appearance on the show. Sadly, the episode came with an incident that ended her tenure as well. In the middle of a sketch that made use of “friggin” a lot, she let out an F-bomb. She got “pulled back” from more episodes and got fired by the end of the season.
While Claudine Longet has never been on SNL, the French actress and the pop star have been involved in a controversy. In 1976, she reportedly shot and killed a skier called Vladimir “Spider” Sabich. A few weeks after the incident, the show aired a sketch that featured footage of skiers falling with an overlay of gunshots. Its title was “The Claudine Longet Invitational.” This sketch led to a cease-and-desist from her lawyer. It was later pulled out after the show made a public apology.
This comedian got a lot of flak for his impersonation of David Paterson, the legally blind governor of New York. For the sketch, Fred Armisen wandered into the camera several times. A lot of people condemned SNL for the way it mocked the disabled. In 2010, however, the politician himself appeared on the show to sketch with the actor!
We can probably make an entire gallery of controversies that involve Pete Davidson. But that won’t be any fun, would it? Let us focus on this incident from 2018. “You may be surprised to hear he’s a congressional candidate from Texas and not a hitman in a porno movie,” he said about Dan Crenshaw, a congressman who lost an eye in Iraq. He was criticized a lot for this. The week after that, the politician appeared on the show and apologized to the comedian in person!
Dana Carvey, Matthew Broderick, Dennis Miller, Jon Lovitz, And Kevin Nealon
Actor Matthew Broderick sketched with Dennis Miller, Jon Lovitz, Kevin Nealon, and Dana Carvey in 1988. The foursome had been hanging out at a nude beach and said “penis” more than 40 times over the course of the sketch. This was actually a part of the plan, so they were not particularly bothered about it. A writer called William Clotworthy said, “We knew we’d hear from the public, and did we! The sketch generated 46 thousand letters of complaint. 45,999 were form letters sent to Reverend Donald Wildmon and his American Family Association…”
We all know that Larry David of Seinfeld fame is a comedy legend. He landed himself in hot water for a monologue that he made during his hosting stint in 2017. While he is Jewish himself, he joked about flirting with women in concentration camps during the Holocaust. It was clear that the Anti-Defamation League did not find it funny. The organization even said that his joke was “offensive, insensitive & unfunny all at the same time.” We will leave you to decide whose side you are on.
Gal Gadot Gives Kate McKinnon A Kiss
There have been many hit Kate McKinnon skits in the past. Do you remember the time that Gal Gadot appeared on the show with a Wonder Woman lookalike? Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon played two women lost at sea and kicked off the parody while they were at it. After they docked on an island, they concluded that they would not return home. This meant that their best option was to stay in Themyscira. They were looking to meet more ladies of the same sexual orientation, to no avail. However, McKinnon did get lucky enough to get a kiss from Gadot! Are you jealous of the comedienne? We sure are.
Katy Perry And Sesame Street
The pop star played a volunteer at the children’s library that got in trouble for her rather inappropriate clothes. The Bronx Beat ladies, played by Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph, pretty much carried the entire skit. It was clear that they were the comediennes over here! However, Rudolph ended up pointing out the obvious by saying, “Who cares if kids are looking at boobs?” The skit went on, “Boobs feed babies… I turned on CSI the other night, and there’s a dead guy with a worm in his eye. But we can’t look at the tops of boobs?” That is certainly a good point!