Old School Americana & Nostalgia

TV

‘Saturday Night Live’s Most Controversial Moments

‘Saturday Night Live’s Most Controversial Moments

Sketch comedy juggernaut Saturday Night Live has been on the air for nearly fifty years, so it’s had its fair share of controversial moments. Here are a few shocking events that shook the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” to their core.

Charles Rocket Drops the F-Bomb

Charles Rocket was intended to be the breakout star of the first cast lineup to replace the OG Not Ready for Primetime players. He had classic Hollywood looks and a bit of the swagger that made Chevy Chase a legend. Rocket even took over the coveted “Weekend Update” slot.

However, Rocket’s hopes of being an SNL stand-out derailed in the 11th episode of Season 6. This particular episode revolved around Charlene Tilton’s hosting duties and showcased a recurring joke of “Who Shot Charles Rocket?” In the end, Rocket, who had suffered a gunshot wound, appeared in a wheelchair during the cast’s farewell. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, Rocket was asked offscreen to fill in the gap, and his response to Tilton’s question, “Charlie, how do you feel after being shot?” was an offhand, but clear, “It’s the first time I’ve ever been shot in my life. I’d love to know who the f–k did it.” Rocket was subsequently fired.

Nirvana Band Members Make Out

The legendary band Nirvana openly expressed their strong opposition to homophobia as they soared to stardom. Cobain proudly graced the cover of The Advocate, and the band made a famous appearance on MTV’s Headbangers Ball, donning ball gowns.

During their live SNL TV performance, Cobain, Dave Grohl, and Krist Novoselic expressed strong opposition to hate. They played songs from the iconic album Nevermind, including “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. As a spontaneous farewell, all three band members engaged in passionate kisses to challenge any homophobia in the nationwide audience. Novoselic started by kissing Grohl passionately before sharing a French kiss with Cobain. Cobain, with his bold pink hair, played his part in this audacious display.

Though the kisses seem quaint by today’s standards, NBC was left clutching their pearls. The network decided to censor the three-way make-out scene from all reruns. Even the streaming version on Peacock replaced it with the dress rehearsal credits, devoid of any kissing.

‘Saturday Night Live’s Most Controversial Moment Dates Back to the First Season

SNL producer Lorne Michaels’ decision to have the iconic comedian Richard Pryor as the host for the seventh episode of season one, left NBC apprehensive about potential challenges. Pryor’s reputation as a masterfully irreverent and outspoken stand-up comedian prompted the network to introduce a never-before-used 10-second delay during the “live broadcast.” Network execs were likely biting their nails watching the live show, worried at what controversial moments Pryor would bring to Saturday Night Live.

Of course, the pearl-clutching reached its peak in the “Word Association” sketch. Pryor, a job applicant, is subjected to a series of prompts by potential employer Chevy Chase. The innocent prompts gradually escalate to racially charged territory, with Chase eventually using the most inflammatory racial slur humanly possible. Pryor, previously timid, responds with “Dead honky,” evoking cathartic laughter from an increasingly anxious live audience.