The Worst Behind-the-Scenes ‘Saturday Night Live’ Behavior
From Alec Baldwin trying to seduce Adam Sandler’s Canteen Boy to Jimmy Fallon impersonating Chris Rock in blackface to pretty much the entire Donald Trump and Elon Musk episodes, Saturday Night Live has provided plenty of on-screen cringe over the years. But that’s nothing compared to what’s happening when the cameras aren’t rolling. Here are nine supremely shameworthy SNL moments that weren’t broadcast live from New York.
Jim Belushi Throwing a Fire Extinguisher-Fueled Tantrum
Before you hire Jim Belushi for that project manager job, you might want to know about an ugly incident that didn’t make his LinkedIn page. “Somebody threw a chair through a wall,” reminisced Julia Louis-Dreyfus about her SNL tenure. “I think that was Jim Belushi.”
JLD’s memory may have gotten hazy over the years — co-worker Belushi clarifies that he hurled a fire extinguisher, not a chair. (It's heavier and more aerodynamic!) And while it indeed caused some wall damage, it was actually aimed at SNL producer Dick Ebersol. “I remember going down the hall and getting really pissed and grabbing the fire extinguisher off the wall and heaving it toward his office,” says Belushi. But John’s little brother asks that we cut him some slack because, after all, he “was a hungry, aggressive young man.” Tell it to HR, Jim.
Shane Gillis Getting Fired Before He Ever Appears on the Show
In 2019, Saturday Night Live announced three exciting new hires: Bowen Yang, Chloe Fineman and Shane Gillis. *record scratch* Make that two exciting new hires.
That’s because just hours after his hiring was announced, the reality of Shane Gillis was brought to the attention of Lorne Michaels and company. For example:
- Gillis recorded a podcast in which he says of Chinatown, “let the f*cking ch*nks live there,” throwing in his “comic” Chinese accent for good measure.
- On a different podcast, he called Chris Gethard and Judd Apatow “white f*ggot comics.”
- Rather than apologizing for his slurs after they received public scorn, Gillis took to Twitter to explain that he’s a “comedian who pushes boundaries.”
All of which got him pushed right out the 30 Rock door.
Robert Blake’s Destructive Criticism
The week Blake was hosting, comic/writer Gary Kroeger pitched a sketch called “Breezy Philosopher,” with Blake as a biker tough guy who pontificated about Kierkegaard. Blake’s take on the bit? “I hope you got a tough asshole, pal, ’cause you’re going to have to wipe your ass with that one,” he remarked before wadding up the script and chucking it in Kroeger’s face.
Hello, lifetime SNL ban!
Bottomless Jars of Urine
“There is an actual difference between men and women comedy writers,” Tina Fey confided in her book Bossypants. “And I’m going to reveal it now. The men urinate in cups. And sometimes jars.” Fey found out the hard way when she almost took a sip from a random cup in an SNL writers’ room. Another scribe grabbed it out of her hand before any damage was done, explaining that whizzing in cups was “just something guys did when they were too lazy to go to the bathroom.” And here we thought that only happened in Amazon warehouses.
One other Fey observation about her male colleagues at SNL: “Also, they like to pretend to rape each other. It’s… Don’t worry about it. It’s harmless actually.”
Pretty Much Everything Chevy Chase Did and Said When He Wasn’t On-Screen
Some peak cringe Chase moments:
- After ditching the show and leaving the cast in the lurch, Chase returned to host and promptly kicked Jane Curtin off the Weekend Update desk. Her reaction: “You sit there, and you have pieces of your arm bitten off.”
- Got into a backstage fistfight with Bill Murray, who scored the winning blow when he called Chase a “medium talent.”
- Returned in the mid-1980s to host again, telling Robert Downey Jr., “Didn’t your father used to be a successful director? Whatever happened to him? Boy, he sure died. You know, he sure went to hell.”
- Suggested a sketch to openly gay cast member Terry Sweeney: “How about we say you have AIDS and we weigh you every week?” He also invited Sweeney to lick his balls.
- Returned again in the 1990s, telling a female writer, “Maybe you can give me a hand job later.”
- “Joked around” by smacking Cheri Oteri in the back of the head.
The only thing more mortifying would be stories about Chase’s days on Community.
Firing Sarah Silverman Via Fax
Not much more to say about this one, other than that she only lasted 18 weeks.
Chris Farley’ s Shit-Covered Hands
It’s no secret that Farley occasionally dabbled in scatological humor. Jay Mohr tells the tale of the time he and Dave Attell offered Farley a hundred bucks “to take a dump out of our window.” Game on! After much exertion, Farley managed the deed, and with no toilet paper in the office, proceeded to wipe himself with his hand. “I had never seen anyone do that before,” Mohr explained in one of the more relatable things he’s ever uttered. “Then Chris jumped off the window ledge and began chasing Dave and me across the office, his shit-stained paw outstretched.”
The two comics escaped, presumably dodging jars full of writer urine in the process.
Victoria Jackson for Jesus
When she no longer felt like the comedy was working at SNL, Jackson told Riverfront Times she had a revelation. “Look, I'm not qualified for this,” she thought. “Maybe this is my mission field. I’m supposed to tell my cast members about Jesus!”
Shockingly, cast members like the Jewish Jon Lovitz weren’t all that interested. But that didn’t stop Jackson from spreading the good word. She even gifted audio versions of the Bible to the entire cast one Christmas. Many were returned to sender. Al Franken once told Jackson he didn’t care for her ditzy comic persona. But she argued that she had a good reason for playing dumb: "Maybe I'm overcompensating because everybody here is dying and going to hell, and I'm supposed to tell them about Jesus."
Bless her heart.