Top 10 Saturday Night Live Sketches That Went Wrong



Top 10 Saturday Night Live Sketches That Went Wrong

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Spencer Sher
These are the times “Saturday Night Live” sketches went wrong. For this list, we're taking a look at mistakes, gaffes, character breaks and other things that went wrong during live “SNL” sketches. Our countdown includes uncooperative dogs, unsuppressed smiles, Ryan Gosling's giggles, and more!
When things are live, anything can happen. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for 10 Times Saturday Night Live Sketches Went Wrong.

For this list, we’re taking a look at mistakes, gaffes, character breaks and other things that went wrong during live “SNL” sketches. However, we’ll only be including sketches, so Ashlee Simpson’s infamous lip-syncing debacle will not be included.

#10: Chance the Rapper & Cecily Strong Are Unsteady
“Love at First Sight”

Chance the Rapper’s time as SNL host and musical guest wasn’t all smooth sailing as evidenced by this wire work fail. Thanks to his character’s confident demeanor, we’re initially led to believe that he'll successfully sweep Cecily Strong’s Jennifer off her feet, despite the bartender warning that there’s no room to dance. And sure enough, he’s right. After the dance partners are awkwardly and artificially raised into the air, they end up too little too close to the bartender and the other patrons, dangerously knocking over wine glasses, and bumping into furniture. While it’s clearly not completely their fault, what is clear is the worried expressions of the other actors who are trying not to break character while simultaneously avoiding being harmed.

#9: Aidy Bryant's Bungled Costume Change
“Inside the Beltway”

When done correctly, a costume change can be a useful tool in a live broadcast, transporting characters across time and space by swapping out one or more articles of clothing. However, when done poorly, it can lead to embarrassment, character breaks, and “Saturday Night Live” infamy. Such is the case during this season 45 sketch featuring Aidy Bryant, Cecily Strong, Kenan Thompson, and host Woody Harrelson. The plan was to have the cast switch clothing between clips to give the impression of a news flashback, but an overzealous aid comes onstage and attempts to take Aidy Bryant’s coat while the cameras are still rolling. The flub is obvious to viewers as well as the studio audience and it causes all four actors to break character.

#8: Uncooperative Dogs
“Dog Court”

Actor and comedian W.C. Fields once said, “Never work with animals or children” - possibly because both are unpredictable. Well, we doubt the writers at “SNL” had ever heard this quote before. How else can you explain their decision to use multiple dogs in the 2019 sketch “Dog Court?” Things actually get off to a pretty good start, despite the number of dogs present. However, things quickly go off the rails when Cecily Strong attempts to deliver a verdict while holding a pug. The pooch thrashes around violently in her arms, knocking around her glasses and generally being an adorable nuisance. The lesson: dogs and live TV don’t mix.

#7: Unsuppressed Smiles
“The Californians: Stuart Has Cancer”

“The Californians” is one of the most popular recurring segments in recent “Saturday Night Live” history, thanks in part to its continuously star-studded roster and the countless character breaks it’s caused. Few would argue that the first iteration of the sketch was the funniest, and those same people would likely agree that it was also the most out of control. Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen can barely make it through a sentence in their ridiculous Californian accents, stifling laughter at every turn. However, the worst offender is Bill Hader, who all but gives up on staying in character the moment Fred Armisen opens his mouth. We believe you can safely file this one away in the “it’s so bad it’s good” category.

#6: The Cast Losing It
“Debby Downer: Disney World”

Debbie Downer is one of the funniest characters that “SNL” has produced in its long history. She made her debut in 2004, flanked by host Lindsay Lohan and a handful of comedy legends. However, no amount of talent could have saved this sketch from devolving into one giant character break. Juxtaposing Debbie’s depressing facts and anecdotes with the innocence and happiness of a place like Disney World is pure comedic genius. Any chance Lohan and company had of making it through the sketch in one piece disappeared the moment Rachel Dratch broke during a slow zoom on her face. From that point on, the question wasn’t if everyone would break, but when?

#5: Ryan Gosling’s Giggles
“Close Encounter”

You know you’ve penned an A+ sketch when you get Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling to break. The Canadian actor was unable to maintain his composure in the face of Kate McKinnon’s hilarious retelling of an alien abduction. McKinnon’s graphic story actually makes everyone on stage break at one point or another, and it’s clear she relishes her ability to make her peers crack up. Gosling was once again the victim of McKinnon’s superior comedic talent when he appeared in “Another Close Encounter” two years later. However, this time it was McKinnon’s, uh, handsy approach that had him in stitches.

#4: Bill Hader's Mad Maneuvers
“Girlfriends Game Night”

Bill Hader hosted “SNL” for a second time in 2018, and while he had a number of hilarious sketches, nothing tops “Girlfriends Game Night” …though not for the reason you’d expect. Hader played Horace, a wheelchair bound senior citizen dating a much younger woman. The two attend a game night together, but Horace’s inability to control his electric wheelchair nearly causes him to flip the table. Later in the sketch, he puts it in reverse and nearly runs over Melissa Villasenor. Set breaks and character breaks ensue, and through it all Bill Hader looks like he’s having the time of his life.

#3: John Belushi’s Wild Swing
“Samurai Stockbroker”

Few “SNL” sketches illustrate just how far live television has come quite like this one. The scene in question involved John Belushi playing one of his most popular recurring characters, a modern-day samurai. Every appearance of the character saw him in a different profession, from "Samurai Tailor" to "Samurai Psychiatrist." However, the one we’re here to talk about is the "Samurai Stockbroker" episode. In it, Belushi is sporting his trademark samurai look, which includes a katana. At one point he starts to attack a wall with the blade, but in his fever accidently hits Buck Henry in the head. You can clearly see Henry stumble backwards, and for the rest of the episode he had a band aid on his head. So yeah, live TV and swords don’t mix.

#2: Adam Driver's Bird Mishap
“Career Day”

The bird incident guaranteed this sketch immortality, but it was pretty amazing even before that point. Driver plays a curmudgeonly oil baron attending career day at his son’s high school. He ruthlessly attacks his son for his lack of strength, berating him in front of the entire class. While we could point to Pete Davidson breaking character (and honestly, who can blame him), things truly go off the rails when Driver produces a fake bird from a burlap sack and smashes it into the ground. He then slams his cane into the bird by accident, skewering it with a fury typically reserved for a bloody historical drama. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Abraham H. Parnassus deserves his own film!

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are some dishonorable mentions:

Kate McKinnon Breaks Character
“Weekend Update: Smokery Farms”

Peter Sarsgaard & Rachel Dratch Can't Get It Together
“Hotel Room TV”

Jimmy Fallon Thrown Off by the Teleprompter
“Weekend Update”

Kristen Wiig Almost Running Maya Rudolph Over
“Super Showcase “

#1: Stefon at All Times

Arguably Bill Hader’s most memorable “Saturday Night Live” character, Stefon never failed to bring the laughs during his visits to the Weekend Update news desk. The character was the brainchild of Hader and then-“SNL” writer John Mulaney, and he became a hit thanks to his off-the-wall New York City party recommendations and sassy attitude. However, Bill Hader simply could not make it through a Stefon appearance without breaking character. He’d constantly cover his mouth to hide his laughter, something that was often due to him not seeing the jokes for the first time until he was on air. While Hader’s character breaks may have constituted a sketch “going wrong” when Stefon first debuted, nowadays they’re considered part of the act. And we wouldn’t have it any other way!