Saturday Night Live has been best known for blazing trails of irreverence and disrespect since it first launched in 1975, oddly in the midst of the birth of political correctness. The writers and cast have mocked one and all, from every US President to international leaders, celebrities and musicians, so it seems odd Lorne Michaels, creator and producer of SNL, could deem any behavior bad enough to get a guest forever banished from the show. Here’s a rundown of some of those who will never be invited back.
Sometimes fame goes to your head and you start to believe you can do no wrong. Just a year after Adrien Brody won an Oscar for his title role in The Pianist in 2002, he was asked to host SNL. Instead of simply introducing the night’s reggae musical guest Sean Paul, Brody donned a dreadlock wig and used a clichéd Jamaican dialect to present the musician. Much to his dismay, no one – especially Lorne Michaels – appreciated the impromptu gesture. Brody’s ill-conceived improvisation resulted in him never being asked back.
In 1977 Elvis Costello dropped his solo album My Aim Is True and his label, Columbia Records, insisted he play the hit cut “Less Than Zero” when he appeared on SNL. After a few bars, Costello halted the performance with, “Stop! I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen, there’s no reason to do this song here,” immediately leading the band to in a rendition of “Radio Radio,” which they’d wanted to play from the get-go. The powers that be at SNL didn’t appreciate the last minute switch and Costello wasn’t invited back until 1989.
Not ever known for playing well with others, original SNL cast member Chevy Chase and one of the most beloved by fans was banned from SNL in February 1997 for being verbally abusive of the show’s crew and cast during rehearsals. He was particularly rude to openly gay cast member Terry Sweeney, whom he’d reportedly first offended in 1985 when suggested the comic be featured during a skit about an AIDS victim who gets weighed on a weekly basis. SNL relented in later years, inviting him to participate in the 1999 25th anniversary show, two cameos in 1999 and 2001, and a 2007 Weekend Update segment
He was arguably one of the weirdest rock performers of all time but that claim to fame didn’t cut Frank Zappa any slack on SNL. As the host opened the show, he read the cue cards in a halfhearted monotone while telling viewers he wasn’t even trying to do the job well. No one was amused and the awkward moment resulted in Zappa’s lifelong ban from the show.
One of the most memorable hosts banned from SNL is Sinead O’Connor. While she crooned an a cappella version of “War” by Bob Marley, she ripped a photo of Pope John Paul II in half. The staff on the show reported she had a photo of a starving child in her hands during rehearsal to reflect her belief that the song was about child abuse, a picture she slyly switched out right before her performance. Although Lorne Michaels later praised her strong political statement in a book interview, O’Connor was never invited back.
Known for being off the wall and spontaneous, Andy Kaufman had the distinction of being on the premier episode of SNL. On a later show, his skit about wrestling against women got up the ire of Dick Ebersol, the show’s producer at the time, who wanted Kaufman gone forever. An audience vote initiated by Kaufman to keep his invitation open failed by over 25,000 votes and Kaufman never again graced the SNL stage.
Never known for being easy to get along with even before the murder charges, Baretta and In Cold Blood star Robert Blake was labeled by SNL writer David Sheffield as the worst host of all time. When he didn’t like the skit SNL asked him to perform, he wadded up the script and commented to cast member Gary Kroeger, “I hope you got a tough a**hole pal, ‘cause you’re going to have to wipe you’re a** with that one.” He was immediately banned and in the words of Baretta, “And that’s the name of that tune!”
In another case of thinking your stardom gives you carte blanche to say whatever you want, Martin Lawrence, a mega sitcom star in the 90s with his show Martin, took a bit too much liberty in his opening monologue. He was already dancing on thin ice with quips about the John and Lorena Bobbitt story but when he abruptly switched to a tirade about feminine hygiene. His remarks were so inappropriate they were removed from the syndicated episodes of the show.
While Steven Seagal didn’t pull any on-air stunts to get him banned, he was such a pain in the patootie backstage with the cast and crew he wore out his welcome in record time. He allegedly called the writers stupid and criticized the cast, which earned him a spot on the “Do Not Call” list. Lorne Michaels got in a dig about Seagal’s visit to the show during a later monologue for a show hosted by Nicholas Cage. When Cage bemoaned in his monologue that the audience might deem him the biggest jerk to ever appear on SNL, Michaels sniped, “No, that would be Steven Seagal.”
One of the most mundane bans was that of veteran actor Charles Grodin in 1977. He didn’t speak out of turn, insult anyone, or tear up any pictures of religious leaders; he was just disrespectful and lazy. He allegedly missed several rehearsals and when the show went live, he flubbed his lines while stepping on those of cast members. Such a seasoned professional should have known better.
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