Saturday Night Live (SNL) is one of the longest shows on television. More than 900 episodes of the show have debuted over five decades. It brought to the people, some of the greatest comedians.
The show has had its fair share of controversies and more, especially with celebrated celebrities like actors, musicians, and comedians coming together on the same platform. While some acted as hosts on the show, others came as guests.
Celebrities Banned From Saturday Night Live
Although most of the show smooth-sailed over the years, there were some controversies too leading to some people getting banned from ever appearing on the show. Some believe that most people who ever crossed Lorne Michaels ended up on that list. Let us explore who landed on that list and why!
1. Adrian Brody
Adrian Brody is an Oscar-winning artist who got the most recognition after appearing in Roman Polansky’s movie called The Pianist. He became the youngest actor ever to win the Oscar in the Best Actor category.
However, the success in the world of movies did not translate well onto television . He was booked to host the SNL on May 10th, 2003. While on the stage, he staged an improvised skit, which was later criticized as racially offensive.
— SNL Hosts Introducing the Musical Guest (@snlhostsintro) October 7, 2021
Contrary to the script, he walked on stage wearing faux deadlocks and started speaking in Jamaican accent. It was a reference to the Jamaican musical artist of the night, guest Sean Paul. The clip has mostly been removed from the internet since then and led to the ultimate ban on Adrian Brody SNL.
2. Charles Rocket
Originally known as Charles Adams Claverie, Charles Rocket was a musician, comedian, actor, and television news reporter. In 1981, he became the first person to utter the f-word on stage and it was not by mistake. This led him to be outed from the show.
3. Rage Against The Machine
SNL had the politically-vocal Rage Against The Machine on as musical guests on the show when billionaire and Presidential candidate Steve Forbes was hosting the show. They performed with upside down flags of America, which is traditionally a sign of distress.
The flags were swiftly taken down and the band was asked to leave before they could perform their second song.
4. Martin Lawrence
Martin Fitzgerald Lawrence is an American actor and comedian. He is known for his somewhat erratic behavior. In 1994, he got the chance to host the SNL. After days of rehearsal, he decided to off-script. He made a lot of controversial comments on the show, like opening up with the story of Lorena Bobbitt cutting off her husband’s penis.
The whole bit was described as ‘grotesque’ by some of the viewers present. It went on a downward spiral from there as he dived into women’s hygiene and their private parts.
The footage has since then been removed, but it still got over 200 complaints and even caused protests from the show’s sponsors. This led to Lawrence getting completely banned from the show.
5. The Replacements
The Replacement was a bunch of talented musicians. Apart from their music, they were also known for getting notoriously drunk before shows. They did the same thing on SNL where they performed their first song Kiss Me on the Bus while drunk. The second song, Bastards of Young was played completely out of tune, during which frontman Paul Westerberg also yelled “Come on f—ker”.
The band members also went off to change their clothes after the first song. This level of unprofessionalism got them banned from the show. Although they did come back to NBC’s The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon in 2014, they never returned to SNL.
6. Sinead O’Connor
People have gotten banned from the show for a number of reasons. This was perhaps one of the strangest reasons as O’Connor got banned for showing a picture of the pope on SNL. Here is what went down.
While Sinead O’Connor was performing on stage, the camera panned on him. He looked straight into the camera and sang the acapella version of Bob Marley’s song called War. This was an attempt to protest against the sexual abuse of children in the catholic church.
While singing the line “We have confidence in good over evil,” he held up a picture of Pope John Paul II and that very moment sang “evil”. He tore up the picture and threw it at the camera as he stated “Fight the enemy.”
In the rehearsals, the singer had pulled up the picture of a refugee child. Talking about the incident, she said in an interview that “What if someone ripped up a picture of the pope?’ Half of me was just like: ‘Jesus, I’d love to just see what’d happen.’”
What happened was that the crew contemplated whether to cut the feed or not. There are some videos of her performance on SNL although she was never invited on the show again.
7. Norm MacDonald
The Canadian comic stand-up artist and actor was never afraid to ruffle feathers. His slow, deadpan delivery had a fandom of its own. After the O.J. Simpson’s verdict, he famously joked that “murder was now legal in California”.
He eventually got fired from the SNL, many wondered if that joke was the final nail in the coffin. He was also the second person after Rocket to say the f-word on the show.
8. Shane Gills
Being invited to the SNL is a big deal for a lot of people, kind of a major milestone. Shane Gills almost had that milestone after he got invited to the show. However, there was a problem. People started protesting his invite on the show and old clips of him making racist comments about Asians started resurfacing.
After this, he was removed from the cast before he could even make his debut and he was never invited again.
9. Sam Kinison
The stand-up comedian and actor was known for his ‘intense sudden tirades’. However, the crew of SNL still did not expect him to squeeze in two jokes. One joke that he made during rehearsals was about the crucifixion, which he was not asked to make. Nevertheless, he went ahead and made the joke and also added a joke about marijuana.
This was a different time when SNL was much stricter about what they allowed. Those two jokes had to be edited out of his part and landed him in the bad books at SNL and NBC.
10. Steven Seagal
One can imagine how many hosts and guests have been on the show in over 5 decades. Out of all of them, Steven Seagal got the honor of being called the “worst host ever.” Apparently, Seagal was impossible to work with.
That is not surprising to hear as the actor has been called the same by many others. Not only did Seagal never get invited back on the show, but Michaels also did a gig on him on one of the later episodes with Nicolas Cage.
11. Cypress Hill
In retrospect, the ban on some people seems a bit too harsh, but times were different back then. In 1993, the hip-hop group Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs smoked a joint during the broadcast. Back then, weed was still illegal in California and this caused quite a stir.
Sen Dog recalled the incident and said that everyone including “our record label, our management, our friends,” had made it clear not to smoke during their set and the band had also agreed, but Muggs wanted to “make a statement”.
He added that everyone at the afterparty thought it was cool, “but when the hammer swung and we were banned from Saturday Night Live forever, we understood how serious it was”. He concluded by saying “It would have been cool to do Saturday Night Live again, but me personally, I didn’t think it was a great thing to do for our first time on SNL, but we paid the price and we moved on.”
12. Robert Blake
Robert Blake took his role too seriously as a host of the show. The show’s writer David Sheffield voted Blake as the worst host on the show. He recalled what had happened and said “He was sitting in a room and a sketch was handed to him by Gary Kroeger, who was a writer-actor – a sketch called ‘Breezy Philosopher.’”
He carried on and said “Blake sat there and read that, with his glasses down his nose, then wadded it up, turned to Kroeger, and said, ‘I hope you got a tough asshole, pal, ‘cause you’re going to have to wipe your ass with that one.’ And he threw it and bounced it off Gary’s face.”
After that, Blake was never invited to the show ever again.
13. Donald Trump
Did you know that the former President of the USA appeared on the SNL? To pump up the ratings, Michaels invited Trump in 2016 when he was running for President. This is a strange case because people even protested against him being the show.
By the time of the show came up, he had already made abhorrent comments about several issues. Despite public backlash and all the other incidents that had happened, he was still allowed on to the show. His 12-minute performance ended up being quite flat and unentertaining, to say the least.
14. Andy Kauffman
Many artists have been blacklisted by SNL or NBC over the years, but there is just one guy who managed to get banned by the audience sitting at home and that is Andy Kauffman.
Kauffman has been a featured artist on the show repeatedly. He appeared as many as 9 times on different episodes of the show. In 1983, the show held a vote to determine who would get to continue making appearances on the show.
The voting had “Keep Andy” and “Dump Andy” voting options. The second option won by about 25,000 votes and Kauffman never appeared on the show again. Unfortunately, he passed away a year later due to lung cancer.
The LA-based band Fear caught the eyes of the SNL legend John Belushi. Belushi went out of his way to attend the group’s live performance multiple times. He was so enamored by the band that he ultimately reached out with a proposal.
The collaboration, which was supposed to play at a movie’s closing credits did not work out. Belushi made it up to them by pulling some strings and getting them on SNL for the Halloween special. This turned out to be a disaster.
The band was met with boos as New Yorkers did not like the opening song, which was called It’s Great To Be In New Jersey. They played two more songs before someone yelled into the mic that “New York Sucks”. This resulted in their 4th song of the night getting pulled from the broadcast.
A report by New York Post revealed that the whole fiasco cost about $200,000 worth of damages. The damages included a trashed green room, a broken camera, two viewers getting injured, etc. After that, the band was never invited again, however, their performance continues to live even today.
16. Elvis Costello
Back in 1977, Costello released his first album called My Aim Is True. With it, he garnered some audience in not only Britain but also America. The young singer had never really toured America so when the opportunity to perform on SNL presented itself, Costello and his management were ecstatic.
Costello and the producers had decided that he would perform his hit number Lesser than Zero, which was about a disgraced British politician. However, when he went on stage, he sopped the performance in the intro part, apologized to the audience and said that “there’s no reason to do this song here.” Then, he went on to play another song called Radio, Radio.
This act of rebellion did not sit well with the producers. On top of that, the lyrics criticized the commercialization of the television and radio. Michaels was livid with Costello and banned him from the show. Costello even admitted later on that Michael and SNL were genuinely upset with him. The ban continued for 12 years before he was eventually invited back to the show.
17. Milton Berle
No matter how big of a star you become, it always goes a long way to be humble and kind. But these attributes were not a part of Berle’s personality. The TV legend went on to SNL in 1979 and let everyone within earshot know just how big of a deal he was.
He also disrespected the writers by pitching jokes and skits to them and going as far as mumbling “now this might go over your heads”. This was enough provocation for the cast to turn against him, however, all continued as planned.
When he got on the stage, it was a disaster. He lost the cameras repeatedly and even promoted his biography during his set. He also made sure that a member of his team led a standing ovation after he completed his performance.
Needless to say, he was quietly placed on the uninvited list of the show.
18. Louise Lasser
Lasser got herself banned from the show just as quickly as she got on it. She was invited in 1976 to host the penultimate episode, that too of the first season. Due to personal issues, she ended up locking herself just before the show began.
#OnThisDay, in 1976, SNL tried an experiment by airing two summer episodes. The first was hosted by Louise Lasser, who’s real life breakdowns and erratic behavior became the basis for her bizarre monologue. She chose to mostly perform in sketches opposite Chevy…or a dog. pic.twitter.com/DlozYwKrJ5
— That Week In SNL (@ThatWeekInSNL) July 24, 2019
This led the rest of the cast to scramble and pick up the pieces until Lasser finally agreed to be on stage. She was only able to complete one sketch that too only with Chevy Chase. In one of the videos, she stood there in front of the camera and said that this was live and that she was scared.
The unfortunate incident made for a very awkward portion of the episode and she was never called back to the show.
19. David Bowie
This is a little bit conflicting as there were different versions of the story. The singer David Bowie allegedly got banned for three years after he did something to annoy the producer Lorne Michaels.
David Bowie said “The gist was that I was somehow roped into a low-budget telly advert for a Brooklyn bakery,” Bowie later explained. “They wanted me to sing about their pastries or what have you. One of the things they came up with was a version of my song, ‘Watch That Man’. But instead, in the chorus, I would sing, ‘Try our flan’.”
This led to some back and forth between the producers and Bowie. Recalling the issue, later on, Lorne Michaels said “He’s seen it all. And he takes food very seriously. I get that. But when you are running a big, live production like we are, last second changes can be complicated.”
But that was just the beginning of it all. David Bowie disclosed that “I was scheduled to perform a single from my ‘Earthling’ album called ‘Telling Lies’”. He added that “Just before the band took the stage I decided to take the piss out of Lorne a bit because I knew he wasn’t happy with me.” He then instructed the band to play ‘Scary Monsters’.
The story goes that Lorne Michaels despised the song, he had confided to Bowie that he used to listen to this song while doing “mountains and mountains” of cocaine. Michaels was furious over this move and Bowie immediately got escorted out.
David Bowie later explained that he was later unbanned from the show as they were “mates.” He explained that “We have been [mates] since the ’70s. He knows now that I was just trying to get a rise out of him. Maybe I could have done it less, I don’t know, showy. But the air has been cleared obviously.”
20. Frank Zappa
Most of the people who made it onto SNL took the opportunity seriously, but not Frank Zappa. He was invited to host the SNL in 1978.
Zappa made sure to avoid contact with anyone from the show before he stepped on stage to host. He went on stage and asked the people watching to “keep in mind” that he was reading off of cue cards. His careless demeanor and ironic comments fell flat and failed to make anyone laugh.
The story goes that he had refused to rehearse for the big day. It is believed that the show went so poorly that many cast members declined to take part during the ‘goodnight’ segment of the show as a way to protest against Zappa.
21. System of a Down
The band was roped in as a musical guest of the evening. The producers were in a fix when the band refused to sing an edited version of their song B.Y.O.B. The song, titled Bring Your Own Bombs was written in protest of the war in Iraq.
The show ran on a five-second delay and was able to blur out five f-words successfully. However, the guitarist of the band managed to sneak in an f-word when he screamed into the mic “f—k yeah!”.
NBC and even SNL’s guidelines were pretty strict and this was enough to land them on the list of ‘banned’ people.
Saturday Night Live And More
There are many others who came on to the show once, did something to annoy the producers and never returned to the show again. But there is no surety on whether they were banned from the show or just never happened to come back.
The mentioned incidents are some of the most-popular that went down in the history of SNL. As the show has successfully completed 900 episodes, it was only fair to take a look at some of the most unexpected moments that happened on the show so far.
The show has been going through some changes recently where quite a few of the hosts quit before the new season started. Others have been roped in to fill the void and the show continues to bring in celebrities as hosts and guests on the show.
SNL has not only managed to run successfully but also carved out a space in the industry at a time when live shows were so new. It continues to pioneer the segment decades later.