- Some “Saturday Night Live” sketches have earned cult followings, but the show has produced some highly controversial sketches throughout its 45 years, as well.
- Some sketches haven’t aged well, like when Chevy Chase used the n-word or when Chris Farley joked about his weight.
- In other sketches, “SNL” was accused of making light of serious issues like domestic abuse and sexual assault.
- The new season of the show starts on Saturday, October 3.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Over the course of “Saturday Night Live’s” history, some sketches have earned cult followings and can be viewed as the pinnacle of comedy. But there are some sketches in its backlog that the show may wish to forget.
Throughout the show’s 45 years, there have been times when sketches have been accidentally insensitive. Other skits have been criticised for making light of domestic abuse, for poking fun at sexual assault, or for body shaming.
Keep reading to learn more about the “Saturday Night Live” sketches that haven’t aged well.
Chevy Chase infamously used the n-word during a sketch with Richard Pryor — it has not aged well.
In 1975, Chase and Pryor appeared in a sketch together in which Chase’s character interviewed Pryor for a janitorial position. During the interview, Chase starts a word association game, asking Pryor to say the first word that comes to mind. At first, it’s harmless until they descend into racial slurs. Eventually, Chase says the n-word live on air.
At the time, the sketch was heralded as groundbreaking. In fact,Rolling Stone wrote in 2014, “It could be the last time a white guy said the N-word on TV and actually diffused racial tensions rather than ignited them.”
But the sketch has not exactly aged well. Today, the sketch would be seen as highly problematic. No one would be allowed to say a racial slur on the show today.
The “Chippendale’s Audition” sketches with Chris Farley have been criticised for body shaming.
In the now-famous skit from 1990, cast member Chris Farley and host Patrick Swayze performed a striptease to get a job as a Chippendale. The joke was that Farley would never get a job as a stripper because of his weight.
“It’s funny – or at least it was – because Farley, dancing without his shirt on to Loverboy’s ‘Working for the Weekend,’ presents himself as hideous,” the Washington Post wrote in 2018. “But that was 28 years ago, and body shaming is no longer cool or funny.”
“Although I love this kind of comedy, sometimes I feel trapped by always having to be the most outrageous guy in the room,” Farley said in 1996, the Washington Post reported.
Fellow cast member Chris Rock said the sketch was even detrimental to Farley’s mental health.
“‘Chippendales’ was a weird sketch. I always hated it … The joke of it is, basically, ‘We can’t hire you because you’re fat.’ There’s no comic twist to it. It’s just … mean. Chris wanted so much to be liked,” Rock said in 2008 in a biographical book – titled “The Chris Farley Show” – about Farley. “As funny as that sketch was … it’s one of the things that killed him.”
Farley died of a drug overdose in 1997.
In one sketch, Alec Baldwin makes sexual advances towards Adam Sandler’s character, and it made most viewers uncomfortable.
While on the show, Adam Sandler developed his “Canteen Boy” character as a dim-witted adult who is still in the Boy Scouts. But one “Canteen Boy” sketch in 1994 made viewers uncomfortable. In it, Alec Baldwin plays the scoutmaster, and he makes inappropriate sexual advances towards Sandler’s character. At one point, Baldwin rips open his shirt and says, “Whoops, my shirt fell off.” Toward the end, they are forced to lie in the sleeping bag together.
Film critic for the Chicago Times, Richard Roeper, said he received several complaints about the sketch, and some viewers told him they turned off the TV mid-sketch. Even the Boy Scouts of America reached out to Roeper to complain about the inappropriate skit.
“We see nothing funny about child molestation, and are surprised that this unfunny subject would be selected for a comedy sketch,” a rep for the Boy Scouts of America told the columnist at the time.
Jimmy Fallon impersonated Chris Rock while wearing blackface. He apologised when the clip resurfaced 20 years later.
Back in 2000, Jimmy Fallon did a sketch opposite Darrell Hammond in which he impersonated Chris Rock, who was a cast member of the show years before. To complete his impersonation, Fallon wore blackface. Although there was no public outcry at the time, a tweet in 2020 brought the sketch back to the forefront, according to Variety.
Once the clip went viral, #jimmyfallonisoverparty started trending on Twitter, prompting Fallon to respond 20 years after the sketch went live.
“In 2000, while on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface,” Fallon wrote in May 2020 on Twitter. “There is no excuse for this. I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable.”
In September, Chris Rock addressed it during an appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” (pictured), Insider previously reported.
While on a Zoom call with Fallon, Rock knowingly asked him, “How’s your summer been?’ to which Fallon responded: “I’m learning, I’m always learning man, you know I love you buddy.”
New York’s former governor David Paterson, who is legally blind, was portrayed as “disoriented and buffoonlike” in a controversial “Weekend Update” sketch.
In 2008, cast member Fred Armisen appeared on the show’s “Weekend Update” segment as New York Governor David Paterson. Armisen did not hold anything back when it came to the impersonation, including squinting his eyes to pretend that he is blind. As a joke, he holds up charts incorrectly and acts like he is too stupid to do menial tasks.
At the time, The New York Times described the portrayal as “disoriented and buffoonlike.” Paterson’s office seemed to agree. His communications director, Risa B. Heller, released a statement criticising the sketch.
“The governor engages in humour all the time, and he can certainly take a joke,” Heller said in the statement obtained by The New York Times in2008. “However, this particular ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit, unfortunately, chose to ridicule people with physical disabilities and imply that disabled people are incapable of having jobs with serious responsibilities. The governor is sure that ‘Saturday Night Live’ with all of its talent can find a way to be funny without being offensive.”
Two years later, Paterson actually appeared on “Weekend Update” to interrupt Armisen’s impression and call him out for the portrayal. Armisen and Seth Meyers apologised to him for the parody and promised to be more respectful of people with disabilities.
Audiences felt the show made light of domestic abuse after Kenan Thompson played a battered Tiger Woods.
“SNL” decided to poke fun at the scandal that surrounded Tiger Woods in 2009, when the golfer was accused of cheating on his wife with multiple women. In the skit, Kenan Thompson plays Woods as he addresses the media on Wolf Blitzer’s “The Situation Room.” During the interview, Woods keeps going off-camera and coming back with more injuries. It’s hinted at that his wife, played by Blake Lively, is beating him.
Shortly after the sketch aired, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence said she was “horrified.” She said she felt the skit “made such a mockery of abuse.” It didn’t help that the musical guest that week, Rihanna, had herself been a victim of domestic abuse.
Although several people have cursed on “SNL,” none was more shocking than the moment new cast member Jenny Slate dropped the f-bomb.
Although Prince, Jon Lovitz, Steven Tyler, Norm Macdonald, and Samuel L. Jackson all cursed on the Studio 8 stage, none was more shocking than when new cast member Jenny Slate dropped the f-bomb during her first-ever live sketch. Slate joined the cast in 2009, and accidentally cursed during a sketch opposite Kristen Wiig. In the skit, Slate says, “I f—ing love you for that” when she was supposed to say “friggin’.”
Slate only lasted one season on the show before she was fired. Despite rumours she lost her job over the swear word, she told InStyle in 2019 that wasn’t true. “I just didn’t belong there. I didn’t do a good job,” she said.
Still, she can’t bring herself to watch that moment, she told Glamour in 2014. “That would be like watching yourself fall down the aisle at your wedding!” she said. “I feel like it happened to somebody else, and I want to tell her, ‘Oh, girl. I’m so sorry, but you need to move on.'”
In 1988, audiences took issue with the “Nude Beach” sketch.
In the “Nude Beach” sketch, host Matthew Broderick is the new guy at a nude beach and is introduced to a group of other men who are – you guessed it – nude. As the sketch progresses, they talk about their bodies. By the end of the sketch, the word “penis” is uttered over 40 times.
The public found the sketch crude. In fact, the show received over 46,000 letters, complaining about the usage of the word, according to IFC.
A skit of Jesus coaching NFL player Tim Tebow was called “disgusting” by viewers.
In 2011, “SNL” aired a sketch where Taran Killam plays Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, and Jason Sudeikis plays Jesus. In the sketch, Jesus reveals that he has been helping the Broncos win, and he hints at the fact he is annoyed with Tebow’s constant praying. The sketch ends with Jesus saying, “Oh, by the way. Mormonism. All true, every single word.”
Turns out, Christian groups did not like that the show poked fun at Jesus. Televangelist Pat Robertson called the sketch “anti-Christian bigotry” and “disgusting.” Meanwhile, Fox News’ Bob Beckel said the skit was “despicable.”
In 2015, Louis C.K. opened the show with jokes about child molestation.
In his opening monologue in 2015, comedian and actor Louis C.K. attempted to make a joke about child molesters. First, he said he was disappointed that the child molester in his neighbourhood growing up wasn’t interested in him. Then the comedian went on to try and understand a child molester’s motivations.
“From their point of view, it must be amazing, for them to risk so much,” Louis said in the monologue.
The opening was not well received. One person on Twitter called it the “unfunniest, most offensive ‘SNL’ monologue” in the show’s history. Another person said her “heart aches for humanity” after listening to the monologue.
Two years later, Louis C.K. was accused of inappropriate behaviour and unwanted sexual advances by multiple women. “These stories are true,” he said in a statement after the accusations.
“SNL” aired a commercial parody where a father drops his daughter off to join ISIS, and it angered a lot of people.
In the 2015 sketch, Taran Killam drops his daughter – played by Dakota Johnson – off at an airport. At first, they share an emotional goodbye, leading viewers to think she is joining the military. But the whole sketch gets turned on its head when a car pulls up with men holding guns.
“You be careful, OK?” the father asks, to which the daughter responds, “Dad, it’s just ISIS.”
From there, the sketch makes light of the terrorist group and ends with the words, “ISIS: We’ll take it from here, Dad.”
The sketch did not sit well with people. One person wrote on Twitter, “Just saw maybe the most unfunny #SNL piece of all time,” while another said, “Wow. I found NOTHING funny about that ISIS #SNL skit. Sorry, but no laughing matter. Ever.”
When Donald Trump hosted “SNL” during the 2016 presidential election, the entire show was met with controversy.
When Donald Trump was a presidential candidate back in 2016, he was tapped to host the show on November 8, 2015 – almost exactly a year before he was elected. During the show, he poked fun at his excessive tweeting, his comments about Rosie O’Donnell, and his fortune. But not everyone found his jokes funny.
About 200 people marched around 30 Rockefeller Centre and protested the event. Many protesters said the candidate’s racist and sexist remarks in the past should prevent him from hosting a national TV show. It quickly became the most controversial episode in the series’ history.
“At the end of the day, there is nothing funny about what Donald Trump has had to say about our communities,” one protester told NBC News at the time.
However, the episode drew the show’s best ratings in years.
- Read more:
- WHERE ARE THEY NOW: All 152 cast members in ‘Saturday Night Live’ history
- 10 celebrities who were fired from ‘Saturday Night Live’ and went on to become stars
- 38 of the most memorable characters and sketches in ‘Saturday Night Live’ history
- 11 things you probably never knew about ‘Saturday Night Live’
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.