Hall of Shame Jokes from ‘Saturday Night Live’ Monologues
Saturday Night Live episodes often live or die based on the strength of their host, with the opening monologue serving as the initial test. Sometimes those five minutes can change viewers’ perceptions about the person for the better, while others can bomb so hard they’ll never live down. And it’s those later moments we want to share today — the SNL monologues worthy of a spot in the Comedy Hall of Shame.
Note: We’re going to have to set at least one ground rule here. That’s steering clear of monologues that went so poorly that NBC has since tried to nuke all footage from existence, and there were plenty of those. Like when Steven Seagal mumbled his way through a cover of “Kung Fu Fighting” or that time that Louise Lasser suffered a nervous breakdown during her monologue. No, we'll be sticking to the monologue jokes that may have had good intentions behind them but either cratered on impact or broke the needle on the cringe meter.
Armstrong made this little crack about drug testing while he was in the midst of doping allegations that he would later confess to: “I’ve been working really hard on the show, trying to do a good job — but just not too good. Because the last time I did something too good the French started testing my urine every 15 minutes.”
Billionaire Republican presidential candidate Forbes hosted in 1996. He’d already ended his campaign, so what he hoped to accomplish by doing the show is unclear. The monologue consisted of Forbes fielding fake questions about his massive wealth while trying to steer the conversation back to his platform’s Flat Tax idea. It all fell flat, exacerbated by Forbes having the stage presence and charm of a broken calculator. The only saving grace was the irony of seeing the wealthy parasite flatly announce, “Rage Against the Machine is here!”
When a celebrity who is only famous for being famous gets to host SNL, expectations are already pretty low. But when Hilton hosted in 2005, she decided it would be best to let her pet Chihuahua Tinkerbell do all the talking for her. Kenan Thompson then brought out a Chihuahua of his own, and the rest of the monologue was an increasingly grating back-and-forth conversation between the two dogs. If that wasn’t degrading enough for Thompson, the dog he held peed on him.
This joke from February 2020 did well with the audience; however, given the spitful occupant of the White House at the time, perhaps it wasn’t the wisest choice, as it wound up with Mulaney getting investigated by the Secret Service: “Leap Year began in the year 45 B.C. under Julius Caesar. He started the Leap Year to correct the calendar, and we still do it to this day. Another thing that happened under Julius Caesar was he was such a powerful maniac that all the senators grabbed knives, and they stabbed him to death. That’d be an interesting thing if we brought that back now. I asked my lawyer if I could make that joke, and he said, ‘Lemme call another lawyer.’ And that lawyer said yes.”
When the New York Yankees owner hosted in 1990, it came on the heels of being ousted from his management role with the team. As indicated by the hecklers at the start of his monologue, Steinbrenner wasn’t exactly popular with New Yorkers at the time. His entire set was about the two types of people that typically host SNL, and listing off all of the different ways that he was not an entertainer, ultimately leading to this punchline: “So, the way I see it, if I’m not an entertainer, I must fall into that other category — beloved Americans from another walk of life.” (Two people politely laugh.)
It would be easy to drag Giuliani’s 1997 monologue from the perspective of the goblin he has become in the 25 years since. But we’re gonna take a slightly different route. While touting the safety of NYC under his leadership, the Borat 2 star begins listing off a series of other things New Yorkers are now safe to do, including hitchhiking, leaving bikes unlocked and borrowing police horses. The gag goes on for far too long, but what really descends into cringe territory is the “eating anything you find, no matter where you find it” bit where he awkwardly pretends to eat something off the bottom of his shoe, exclaiming, “Yum! New York-y!”
Strangely enough, Trump was the first presidential candidate to host SNL that went on to become President. For this monologue, the show fell back on the standard gag of having cast members impersonate the celebrity while the real deal looks “annoyed” by the mannerisms. Most of the time, that bit works. But given everything we know about him, you can tell by Trump’s face that having two guys acting like him get bigger laughs was bugging the holy hell out of him.
This one should qualify for the Hall of Shame and the Hall of Fame. We’re including it because one of the most basic responsibilities of hosting Saturday Night Live is demonstrating that you can play along with the show’s structure, stick to the script and not piss off the network execs. Which are three things Zappa was never known for, so SNL should’ve seen his rebellious noncompliance coming.
But as a troll job, Zappa's ban-worthy monologue in 1978 was incredible: “Hiya, hiya, hiya... Thank you, and remember, I’m reading this off these cards underneath this camera here (dripping with sarcasm). Thank you, it’s an awesome responsibility being selected out of millions of people to become the banner of NBC’s new look. God, I hope I’m good.”
Musk’s turn as SNL host is generally regarded as one of the worst episodes in recent memory. There’s no way to tell Musk how unfunny he is because that would require Musk to possess some form of self-reflection and shame. However, one joke during his monologue was so bad that people lost a lot of money. Granted, it was a bunch of crypto bros, so adjust your level of sympathy accordingly.
Musk is a huge promoter of the crypto token Dogecoin, which means many of Musk’s superfans are in on the action. But when Elon brought his mother on stage with him during the monologue, she said, “And I’m excited for my Mother’s Day gift. I just hope it’s not Dogecoin.” That triggered a panicked sell-off of Dogecoin, leading to the coin losing approximately 20 percent of its value just during the show itself.
In the following days, the cryptocurrency lost 91 percent of its value from the night before the show aired.