“Saturday Night Live” is one of the greatest American variety television shows of all time. It’s also the longest running. “SNL” was created by Lorne Michaels and developed by NBC executive Dick Ebersol. The premise of the comedy show is to have a guest host and film the show live before an audience on Saturday nights. The ensemble cast creates and performs comedic skits throughout the show. The skits parody contemporary culture and politics. “SNL” premiered on October 11, 1975. Each show has a musical guest perform.
“SNL” has welcomed back several guest hosts including Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman and Christopher Walken. Some guest hosts and bands have been pretty controversial. Lorne Michaels has even banned some from ever hosting the show again.
Here are 20 celebrities who have been banned from “SNL”.
It’s hard to believe that the comedian known as “Uncle Miltie” and “Mr. Television” was banned from hosting “SNL” by Lorne Michaels. Milton Berle was a child and vaudeville actor, radio personality, and renowned television actor. He co-hosted NBC’s Texas Star Theater beginning in 1948. The popular show sent home television sales booming. NBC wanted Milton Berle to guest host the popular “SNL” and he did on April 14, 1979. It turns out, Berle had a reputation for taking over the production of television shows and the SNL writers, cast, crew and Lorne Michaels were not happy. Berle took over the entire show and upstaged the cast, mugged for the cameras and put in old comedy bits. According to writers and cast members, Berle’s outlandish behavior and inability to let the show’s creators do their thing, led to Berle’s banishment from the show. Lorne Michaels even barred the episode from being rerun because he feared it would ruin the show’s reputation.
It seems implausible that an original cast member of the groundbreaking “SNL” would be banned from hosting the show, but Chevy Chase was after his fateful appearance as guest host in February 1997. Chase left the show as an original cast member after one year. He was the first host of the popular news parody sketch “Weekend Update”. He would go on to have a healthy film and television career. Most notably, he was in 1980’s “Caddy Shack”, “Fletch” and the National Lampoon “Vacation” franchise. From 2009 through 2014, Chase starred in the NBC television series “Community”. Chevy Chase has long been associated with bad behavior on set. Apparently, he can be verbally abusive to writers, actors, crew, directors and producers. Even in his “SNL” days, he feuded with Bill Murray and Terry Sweeney. During his hosting gig on “SNL” in 1997, Chase apparently slapped cast member Cheri Oteri on the back of the head. This was reported to Lorne Michaels by cast member Will Ferrell. After the 1997 hosting stint, “SNL” banned Chase from hosting the show again. He has, however, been allowed back for special appearances including anniversary specials.
No one will forget Sinead O’Connor’s controversial musical performance on “SNL” on October 2, 1992. The popular Irish singer appeared in 1990 without a hitch. During dress rehearsal, O’Conner sang an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s song “War” and held up a picture of a refuge child. However, when “SNL” went live, O’Connor showed a picture of the Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II, sang the word “evil” and tore the photo up on live television, saying: “Fight the real enemy” as she threw the tattered pieces of the photograph at the camera. O’Connor was protesting child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church. The blasphemous act was immediately addressed by Lorne Michaels directing crew not to light the applause sign for the audience. The audience was as dumbfounded as everyone on the “SNL” set. Reruns of the episode showed the non-controversial dress rehearsal. “SNL” delivered an apology, and the following week, guest host Joe Pesci held up a photograph of the Pope, saying he had taped it back together.
Andy Kaufman was a comedian, actor and writer, even a wrestler, but most remembered as a performance artist. Much to the dismay of “SNL” cast, crew and producers, Andy Kaufman was banned from returning on “SNL” by viewers. A true entertainer, Kaufman began entertaining audiences at comedy clubs in the early 1970’s. He was invited to perform portions of his comedy act on “SNL” in its early days and went on to star as the eccentric foreigner Latka on the hit television series “Taxi”. During Andy Kaufman’s 1983 guest host appearance on “SNL”, he performed an outlandish wrestling skit. He invited female audiences on stage to wrestle with him. Much beloved by cast and crew, some viewers questioned the move. In response “SNL” Executive Producer Dick Ebersol had the viewers vote whether or not to ban Andy Kaufman from “SNL”. Viewers could call either of two telephone numbers to vote to ban or not to ban. Could this have been a piece of Kaufman’s performing art? When the winning vote was to ban Kaufman from appearing on the show, cast members were so upset, they bought air time from NBC to beg for Kaufman to be allowed to appear on the show. Sadly, Kaufman died of lung cancer in 1984 so any efforts to “save” his career were of no avail.
At the height of his career, comedian and actor Martin Lawrence was banned from appearing as a guest host on “SNL”. Martin Lawrence was in the midst of his successful television show “Martin” which aired from 1992 through 1997 when he appeared as host of “SNL” in 1994. During his opening monologue, Lawrence began ranting about feminine hygiene making crude references to female genitalia. It was both weird and offensive. The result was Martin Lawrence being banned from ever appearing as a host on “SNL”. In reruns of the episode, blacked out screen shots appear with an explanation why the parts were edited out. Martin Lawrence would go on to have success in film starring along side Will Smith in “Bad Boys in 1995 and 2003.
At the time of her appearance as guest host on “SNL”, actress Louise Lasser was going through some difficult times. The actress and second wife of Woody Allen had success in films including “Take the Money and Run” and “Bananas”. She also had her own television comedy, “Mary Hartman”, and would later appear on the hit television comedy series “Taxi”. Laser appeared on “SNL” in 1976 and her performance was described as a “hot mess”. She was difficult and refused to appear in any sketches with other actors except for Chevy Chase. She appeared disoriented and at times incoherent. Lorne Michaels was so disappointed by the episode that he made sure NBC never aired re-runs.
One would expect the iconic musician, Frank Zappa, to stir up controversy. The musician and film director appeared on “SNL” as a musical guest in 1976 and as host two years later. When he was guest host in 1978, Zappa was extremely anti-drug. At the time, many of the cast members were very much pro-drug experimentation. The result was that Zappa did not get along with the “SNL” cast or crew. He was bold in his protests against the show and told viewers he was reading from cue cards during the “unscripted” show and at times stared blatantly into the camera. Zappa was immediately banned from returning to the show. The ban may have eventually ended, but Zappa passed away in 1993 of prostrate cancer.
Guest hosts on “SNL” are well aware that Lorne Michaels is not a fan of entirely unscripted and unplanned host monologues. Adrien Brody must not have been aware of this. Brody has had a successful acting career as well as writing and directing films. He was the youngest actor to win an Oscar at 29 years old for his role in “The Pianist”. He went on to star in the 2005 “King Kong” remake and later “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in 2014. The year before “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, Brody was the guest host of “SNL”. He completely improvised his introductory monologue while donning faux dreadlocks in honor of the musical guest, Sean Paul. Lorne Michaels was not happy with the performance at all, and Adrien Brody has never returned to “SNL”.
Elvis Costello was a young and upcoming musician in 1977 when he was invited to appear as guest musician on “SNL”. The 23 year old submitted a pre-approved set list to producers but made a last minute and controversial change without Lorne Michael’s knowledge. The musician who would give us “Alison” and “Man Out of Time” snuck in a controversial song during his “SNL” appearance. Costello played his latest song “Radio, Radio” which took blatant jabs at corporate controlled broadcasting. Costello seemed to know what he was doing. He began the song with the introduction to “Less Than Zero” and went into “Radio, Radio”. Although Costello was banned from “SNL”, he was invited back to the show in 1989 and even parodied the 1977 stunt with the Beastie Boys.
Robert Blake was in the prime of his acting career in the 1970’s as the star of the detective show “Baretta”. When he was invited to appear as host on “SNL” in 1982,the actor found problems with just about every sketch written for the live episode. At one point, the actor even crumpled up a script and threw it at cast member/writer Greg Kroegar’s face. Needless to say, the difficult actor was banned from hosting “SNL” after that. Blake would go on to star in 1995’s “Money Train” and would win a Golden Globe Award for 1997’s “Lost Highway”. That was Blake’s last film. Robert Blake would be tried and acquitted for the murder of his wife Bonnie Lee Blakely.
In the hopes of bringing a beloved cast member back to host “SNL” the musical guest was specifically chosen. John Belushi was apparently a huge fan of the punk rock band Fear. In an effort to lure the hesitant Belushi back to host the 1981 Halloween special of “SNL”, Fear was booked as the musical guest. Unfortunately, the unorthodox band played offensive songs filled with terrible language during their three song set. The band also managed to buss in dozens of dancers to perform while they played their music. In the end, Fear managed to cause over $200,000 in damage to the “SNL” set and the “stage rioting” music act was never booked again.
The hit rock and rap musical group Cypress Hill were at the height of popularity when they appeared as “SNL’s” musical guest in 1993. The band did not hold back on their controversial antics. Band member DJ Muggs blatantly lit up a joint and smoked it throughout the musical performance of their first set. During the bands’ second set, “I Ain’t Going Out Like That”, the band trashed the SNL music stage and their instruments. Obviously, the band was banned from ever appearing on SNL again.
Steven Seagal was a notably huge action movie star during the 1980’s and 1990’s. The actor, producer, director and writer is best known for 1992’s “Under Siege” and 1998’s “Above the Law”. Before these films, Seagal appeared as guest host on “SNL” in 1991. Unfortunately, Steven Seagal could not get along well with the cast and crew members. The action star insisted on working closely with cast and crew and initiating his ideas into most of the sketches. Unfortunately, Seagal had bad ideas and refused to get along with any of the “SNL” cast or crew. Lorne Michaels calls Steven Seagal’s stint as guest host the worst ever. Despite or in spite of this, Steven Seagal has been regularly parodied on “SNL” by cast members including Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon and Bill Hader.
The alternative rock band The Replacements seemed like a good pick as musical guest on “SNL” in 1986. The band was at the height of its success and had won critical acclaim for their live stage shows. Their first song went on without a hitch, but after that, the band members began imbibing heavily on alcohol. By the time The Replacements performed their second song of the night “Kiss Me On the Bus”, the clearly inebriated band members stumbled into each other, fell down, screamed random profanities and dropped instruments. Although The Replacements were never asked to return to “SNL”, the band’s lead singer did return for his solo act and did not ruin the show.
Rage Against the Machine
Rage Against the Machine was a popular rap, punk and hard metal mixed band during 1996 when they were offered the opportunity to perform as guest musicians on “SNL”. It’s kind of hard to believe that “SNL” didn’t see trouble coming by booking the clearly liberal band as music guests the same night conservative Republican potential Presidential candidate Steve Forbes would host the show. Rage Against the Machine chose to silently protest Steve Forbes by hanging American flags upside down on their amps during their first song performance. The band was not allowed to return to the stage to play their planned second song of the night and were never asked to return to the show again.
Who would think that mild mannered actor Charles Grodin could be banned from “SNL?” Early on in his budding acting career, Charles Grodin was asked to appear as host of “SNL”. Hot off the heals of his appearance in “Rosemary’s Baby” and “King Kong”, Grodin was offered the role of host on “SNL” in 1977. Unfortunately, Grodin delivered a entirely ad libbed monologue. As we know, Lorne Michaels prefers to have his guest hosts to stick to the script. Had Grodin’s performance been funny, it may have worked, but, unfortunately, Charles Grodin did a poor job ad libbing. Grodin went on to further acting and writing success with “Midnight Run” and “Beethoven”. Future “SNL” sketches would parody Charles Grodin’s lame performance.
Andrew Dice Clay
Technically Andrew Dice Clay was never banned from “SNL” but most believe he should have been. Dice Clay would be banned from other television shows and networks. MTV would ban Andrew Dice Clay for his profanity. Andrew Dice Clay was known for his macho, sexist, greaser guy persona. His 1990 special “Dice Man” was controversial but popular. When he was asked to be the guest host on “SNL”, several female cast members boycotted. Nora Dunn refused to be on the show with him, and even musical guest, ironically, Sinead O’Conner boycotted. During Dice Clay’s “SNL” monologue filled with off color jokes, sexist comments and profanity, a female audience member yelled “Monster!”. Dice Clay stayed in character and famously insulted the audience member.
Norm MacDonald was a cast member and writer for “SNL” for five seasons and hosted “Weekend Update” for the show for three years. MacDonald always liked to push the buttons. During his time with “SNL”, MacDonald did great impressions of Larry King, Burt Reynolds, David Letterman, Quentin Tarantino, Bob Dole and many others. Many of MacDonald’s jokes as the anchor of “Weekend Update” were controversial. He often highlighted OJ Simpson’s acquittal in the murder of two people, and in 1996, made a controversial joke about John Lotter who was committed for murdering a transgender person. MacDonald would go on to make controversial references to Michael Jackson and other celebrities that pushed the button of comedy. MacDonald was removed from the “Weekend Update” sketch due to poor ratings, but many believe it was more for his style of satire. Norm MacDonald quit “SNL” before he could be banned.
Singer Ashlee Simpson was never officially banned from “SNL” but she was certainly never asked to return following her lip syncing debacle. On October 23, 2004, Simpson appeared on the show to perform her hit song “Pieces of Me”. Unfortunately, the music and singing started before Ashlee did. Simpson did a strange “jig dance” before running off of the stage. She came back to the stage at the end of the show and stood next to host Jude Law claiming her band started playing the wrong song. Ashlee’s father and manager had all kinds of excuses including Ashlee’s “acid reflux”. Ashlee Simpson is the only performer on “SNL” to walk off the stage mid performance. Lorne Michaels was interviewed and said if he knew the plans for Simpson to lip sync, he never would have had her on the show. Nevertheless, Ashlee Simpson has not returned to “SNL” and her musical career never fully recovered.
Donald Trump hosted “SNL” two times. Back in 2015, during his 2016 Presidential campaign, protests against Donald Trump hosting “SNL” were prevalent. Trump’s anti-immigration campaign was disheartening to Latinos and “Dump Trump” signs were very visible at 30 Rockefeller Center where “SNL” is filmed. The protests did not get Trump off of the show, and his hosting duties actually went smoothly. However, once elected as the President of the United States, Trump was parodied on “SNL” to a great extent. Alec Baldwin is continually asked back to the show for his parody of Trump, and Trump has not been quiet with his disdain of the performance. The real Donald Trump may never be asked back to “SNL”, but Alec Baldwin as “Donald Trump” is certainly welcome.