Banned from New York: The most notorious 'SNL' incidents
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Banned from New York: The most notorious 'SNL' incidents

“Saturday Night Live” has been putting on live television for decades at this point. Moments of controversial and infamy were inevitable. Over the years, some events have taken place on “SNL” that stand out for reasons that Lorne Michaels would probably prefer us to forget. We’re not just talking banned hosts, either. In fact, some of those stories are a little dull. Here are some of the more infamous moments in the history of the sketchy comedy titan.

 
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Morgan Wallen

Morgan Wallen
Jason Kempin/ACMA2020/Getty Images for ACM

The early casts of “Saturday Night Live” were known for their hard-partying ways. How did we get to a point where a musical guest would be axed for partying? Well, when you are partying down at a bar in Alabama during the COVID-19 pandemic and you aren’t wearing a mask, it does not exactly sit right with a lot of people. Given the country singer’s risky behavior, “SNL” decided to cancel his appearance.

 
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Sinead O'Connor

Sinead O'Connor
Yvonne Hemsey/Getty Images

It’s arguably one of the most-famous quotes in “SNL” history, and it’s not from a sketch. No, during a performance of Bob Marley’s song “War,” O’Connor took out a picture of the Pope and, as she tore it into pieces, exclaimed, “Fight the real enemy!” Of course, these days we have a chilling picture of the kind of problems within the Catholic Church that O’Connor was railing against. At the time, she was a figure of scorn, even being lampooned multiple times on “Saturday Night Live” in the ensuing years.

 
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Ashlee Simpson

Ashlee Simpson
Chris Polk/FilmMagic

Only one person has ever walked off during a performance on “Saturday Night Live,” and weirdly it’s Simpson. The reason? A lip-synching miscue. Personally, the idea of anybody being scandalized by a pop musician lip synching during a performance, especially on a show like “SNL,” feels odd. However, when the wrong song started playing when Simpson was supposed to perform, she awkwardly danced and then left the stage.

 
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Andy Kaufman

Andy Kaufman
Joan Adlen/Getty Images

Kaufman’s whole thing was trying to stir up controversy and keeping you in the dark about what was real and what was fake. He certainly did that on another sketch comedy show, “Fridays.” However, he brought his schtick to “Saturday Night Live” as well. In one particular episode, Kaufman asked audience members to vote on whether or not he should be banned from the show. In the end, “Dump Andy” beat “Keep Andy,” and Kaufman was given the boot from “SNL” at his own behest.

 
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Fear

Fear
George Rose/Getty Images

John Belushi was a fan of Los Angeles punk band Fear, so much show that he agreed to make an appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in 1981 if they could perform as the musical guests. The show agreed, even though the band brought slam dancers along with them. Fear, and their fans, did thousands of dollars in damage, and their set was cut short.

 
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Andrew Dice Clay

Andrew Dice Clay
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

While Andrew Dice Clay’s popular schtick was a character, the crass nature of his routine, laden with sexist jokes, was definitely not for everybody. In fact, when the Dice Man was invited to host, cast member Nora Dunn declared that she would not be a part of the episode in protest of Clay’s standup. Despite some hecklers reportedly removed from the crowd, Clay host’s the Dunn-free episode without much incident.

 
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Charles Rocket

Charles Rocket
Jodi Hilton/Getty Images

We didn’t want to do an article that was all banned hosts and people swearing, but both had to be included. In 1981, cast member Rocket became the first person to say the f-word on the show. Unlike other utterances, it didn’t feel like Rocket did it on accident. He wouldn’t remain with the show much longer.

 
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Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against the Machine
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

What was “Saturday Night Live” thinking when they had the overtly political Rage Against the Machine on as musical guests when billionaire Presidential candidate Steve Forbes was hosting? As is their wont, Rage hung up upside-down American flags, traditionally a sign of distress, up before performing. The flags were quickly taken down, and Rage Against the Machine was asked to leave before even performing a second song.

 
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Martin Lawrence

Martin Lawrence
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

Clearly, Lawrence did not run his material by the folks at “SNL” before launching into his monologue when hosting. He went in hard making references to genitalia and feminine hygiene in a way that was apparently exceedingly graphic. Not only was Lawrence banned from the show, but for years his name was not even allowed to be mentioned on the show.

 
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The Replacements

The Replacements
Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Replacements were a talented band, but they were also notorious for their sloppy, drunken live shows. Apparently they didn’t want to mess with tradition when on “Saturday Night Live.” The band was clearly completely smashed for their first song, and then swapped clothes before their second drunken performance of the night. That level of unprofessionalism was hit with a ban.

 
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Adrien Brody

Adrien Brody
Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

This is a bizarre one that has legs to it if only for how insane it was in the moment. Brody decided to go off script when introducing musician Sean Paul. The problem? This included wearing a dreadlock wig and speaking in a broad Jamaican accent. Needless to say, he hasn’t been back since.

 
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Kanye West

Kanye West
Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

When isn’t Kanye causing controversy? In 2018, West ended an episode by performing while wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, which he had been told not to wear. The show ended during his performance, but afterward he began to berate the audience while cast members stood in the wings uncomfortably. Kenan Thompson compared it to being held hostage.

 
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Jenny Slate

Jenny Slate
Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Barneys

Since she’s risen to fame since, and also because it hadn’t happened in a while, Slate’s utterance of the f-word in her first-ever episode in the cast got a lot of attention. This was also the first use of the word during the social media era. To be fair, the sketch asked her to say “frickin” over and over. Anybody could have made that mistake.

 
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Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello
Chris Walter/WireImage

Two weird things happened in the December 17, 1977 episode of “SNL.” One, it was hosted by Miskel Spillman, an 80-year-old German immigrant who had won an “Anybody Can Host” contest. Two, musician Elvis Costello decided to pull a switcheroo on the show, as well as his record company. Costello had been asked to perform the song “Less Than Zero,” but after starting it stopped his band, apologized, and began playing “Radio, Radio.” While it cause heat for him at the time, cooler heads prevailed and Costello parodied it during the show’s 25th anniversary special.

 
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Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

Hundreds of hosts have come through the studio of “Saturday Night Live,” so if Lorne Michaels says you are the worst host ever, that’s saying something. This is the “honor” he bestowed upon Seagal, who was apparently impossible to work with. Let’s just say we aren’t surprised to hear that. Michaels even got a dig in on Seagal during a later episode hosted by Nicolas Cage.

 
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Norm MacDonald

Norm MacDonald
Michael Brands/Getty Images

MacDonald was never afraid to ruffle feathers. After the O.J. Simpson verdict, he famous declared that “murder was now legal in California.” The Canadian comedian has wondered if those jokes eventually led to his firing. What didn’t, though, was when he became the first person since Rocket to hit upon that certain taboo word, when he responded to his own coughing fit with “What the f*** was that?”

 
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Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Whether or not you are a fan of Zappa, you can probably imagine him smugly making his way through hosting “SNL,” right? That’s exactly what happened. Zappa would not stop mugging for the camera and even told the audience he was just reading from cue cards. He probably amused himself, but certainly nobody else on the show seemed to be enjoying themselves.

 
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Shane Gillis

Shane Gillis
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Clusterfest

Shane Gillis

Being added to the cast of “Saturday Night Live” is a big thing for most people, and it would have been big for Shane Gillis. The problem? The internet has a long memory. After the announcement that Gillis had been hired, some clips made it out featuring Gillis making racist comments about Asians. This led to Gillis being removed from the cast before even making his debut.

 
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Sam Kinison

Sam Kinison
Darlene Hammond/Getty Images

Kinison, never a shrinking violet, managed to get two separate jokes edited out of his episode as host for the West Coast feed. During rehearsals, he had made a joke about the Crucifixion, which he had been asked not to tell. He did not listen. Also, he surprised everybody with a marijuana joke that he had not done at rehearsal. This was a different time, so the fact his joke was not negative meant it violated NBC’s policy.

 
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Donald Trump

Donald Trump
Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

Maybe we should have ended with a more-fun example, but this is perhaps “Saturday Night Live” at its most controversial. In a truly egregious grab at ratings, Lorne Michael invited Trump to host while he was running for President prior to the 2016 election. Despite his multitude of personality issues, his abhorrent comments during campaigning, and also his entire lack of talent as a performer, the show decided to let him go ahead and use their show to boost his signal. Also, he was only in 12 minutes of the episode anyway. What a profound waste of everybody’s time. Hey, at least Lorne got his ratings boost.

Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the books The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.

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