Top 10 People Banned from Saturday Night Live
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Written by Christopher Lozano
LIVE from the internet, it's the people not allowed on the show we're talking about! Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 People Banned from Saturday Night Live.
For this list, we're going over the performers and hosts who were so controversial, unpredictable, or hard to work with that they were never invited back onto the show. To be clear, they don't need to have been officially banned in any public way, just obviously made unwelcome. Temporary bans that have since been lifted will also be considered.
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LIVE from the internet, it’s the people not allowed on the show we’re talking about! Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 People Banned from Saturday Night Live.
For this list, we’re going over the performers and hosts who were so controversial, unpredictable, or hard to work with that they were never invited back onto the show. To be clear, they don’t need to have been officially banned in any public way, just obviously made unwelcome. Temporary bans that have since been lifted will also be considered.
#10: Rage Against the Machine
Considering their revolutionary political and anti-capitalist views, it would’ve been more surprising had Rage not made a statement during this public performance. Before performing their song “Bulls on Parade” on SNL in 1996, the group reportedly hung upside-down American Flags on their amps, which is widely considered a sign of distress. The act was a protest against billionaire Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes, who was the host that night. Take about a mismatched pair! Though the production crew removed the symbols before the band performed, Rage was escorted out of the building after their first song.
#9: Charles Grodin
Charles Grodin is an American actor and comedian known for such movies as “Catch-22,” “The Incredible Shrinking Woman,” and “Beethoven.” He is also known for his appearances on “The Tonight Show” and “The Late Show.” In 1977, he was invited to host Saturday Night Live. However, he allegedly missed rehearsals and was generally ill-prepared for his role. He also stepped over people’s lines and made the show difficult – as he reportedly forgot the show was “live”. It might not seem like much to many people, but it was enough to get him banned from the iconic comedy show.
Infamous American punk band Fear was invited to play SNL for the 1981 Halloween episode. John Belushi allegedly got them the gig, as he was a fan of the band. They played their usual assortment of offensive material and shouted obscenities at the crowd and listeners, which is all in a day’s work for Fear. The performance got so out of hand that they started what some called a small “riot”. Needless to say, the set was cut short and the broadcast went to commercial. Some may have thought that was too bad, as they’d just started playing “Let’s Have a War”!
#7: Elvis Costello
English singer-songwriter Elvis Costello was invited to perform his song “Less Than Zero” on SNL in 1977. A few seconds into the song however, he stopped his band and told the audience, “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but there’s no reason to do this song here.” He and his band then immediately started playing “Radio, Radio,” a song he’d explicitly been told not to play. Add to that the fact that Lorne Michaels is famous for REALLY disliking unrehearsed sets and the resulting ban was a foregone conclusion. Thankfully, it was eventually lifted and Costello was invited back in 1989, going so far as to parody the incident in 1999.
#6: Adrien Brody
This American actor, best known for his role in “The Pianist,” was invited to host SNL in 2003. The musical guests that night were artists Sean Paul and Wayne Wonder. In an unscripted move, Brody decided to come out on stage to introduce Sean Paul while wearing a dreadlock wig and spouting Jamaican stereotypes. Remember when we said Lorne Michaels doesn’t like things to be unscripted? Well, he REALLY didn’t like this. Adrien Brody was banned from the show and hasn’t returned since. Adding insult to injury, he was even parodied nearly a decade later on the show.
#5: Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa was a legendary, eccentric musician whose work spanned many genres, from rock to orchestral and jazz. In 1978, he was asked to both perform on and host the sketch comedy show. Unfortunately however, he and the crew got off to a rough start due to his strict anti-drug position. Things only got worse when the episode actually filmed, with Zappa making it rather clear to the audience that he wasn’t invested in the show. He actually drew the crowd’s attention to fact that he was reading from cue cards and allegedly “mugged to the cameras”.
#4: Martin Lawrence
Known for his award-winning hit show “Martin,” Martin Lawrence was invited to host SNL in February 1994. During his opening monologue, he went on to discuss women’s hygiene and genitalia in explicit and frank detail. Needless to say, this wasn’t appreciated. The edited version of the episode now simply shows a blank screen with words giving viewers the gist of what Lawrence said. It also states that many SNL employees nearly lost their jobs because of it. Perhaps contributing to his ban, Lawrence also allegedly improvised some dialogue in one of the sketches. We know Lorne loves that.
#3: Steven Seagal
Regarded by many of the cast and crew as the worst host in Saturday Night Live history, Seagal hosted the show in 1991. The actor and martial artist is best known for his roles in action films such as “Under Siege.” On SNL however, he was apparently notoriously difficult to work with and his sketch ideas did not sit well with the rest of the cast and crew. Seagal reportedly even refused to leave his room because he found it insulting that, as part of the dialogue in one sketch, two characters suggested they could beat him up.
#2: Andy Kaufman
Often cited as of the greatest comedians ever, Andy Kaufman made a career out of antagonizing and trolling people. He was truly ahead of his time. From his “Mighty Mouse” skit to wrestling women, people were never quite sure what to make of him. Was it real? Or was it all just an act? In 1983, then-executive producer of SNL Dick Ebersol asked the audience to vote on whether to keep Andy on the show or “dump” him. The audience voted him off and sure enough, he was never brought back.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Milton Berle
- Robert Blake
- Cypress Hill
#1: Sinéad O’Connor
This Irish singer and songwriter was invited to perform on the show in 1992. In what was perhaps the most notorious live television incident up until the 2004 Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction, Sinéad O'Connor presented a picture of the Pope after her rendition of Bob Marley’s “War” and then proceeded to rip it to pieces. It was an act meant to draw attention to the cover up of child abuse in the Catholic Church. It didn’t go over well with audiences across the country however, and though producer Lorne Michaels later expressed admiration for O’Connor and her actions, at the time, the show did everything possible to distance themselves from her statement.