Rob Lowe’s First ‘SNL’ Monologue Somehow Joked About His Underage Sex Tape

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Rob Lowe’s First ‘SNL’ Monologue Somehow Joked About His Underage Sex Tape

Don’t believe it every time someone says, “You can’t do that anymore or you’d be canceled!” But in Rob Lowe’s case, it’s true. What Lowe did in 1988 would not so easily be forgiven and forgotten today — and it definitely wouldn’t be turned into a nudge-you-in-the-ribs Saturday Night Live sketch. The offense: Lowe videotaped himself having sex with two young women — one who was 22 and a second who was only 16 years old. The incident occurred in Georgia where the legal age of consent was 14 at the time (!), but other legalities (and morality) were involved. Long story short: Lowe got off with a badly tarnished reputation and 20 hours of community service.

The last thing you’d think Lowe would want to do was turn the ugly mess into an SNL bit, but that’s exactly what happened. The 1990 episode’s cold open cuts away from Dana Carvey goofing on George W. Bush to a concerned Rob Lowe talking backstage with Lorne Michaels. Lowe is worried about performing in front of a live audience for the first time since, you know, “the thing.” (The thing, in this case, is a taped sex offense.)

Michaels is dumbfounded. “Would they even remember it?” 

“Yeah, I think they might,” Lowe confesses.

The two are joined by Kevin Nealon and Victoria Jackson, who share Michaels’ nonchalance. Lowe worries that the crowd will think he’s a sleaze or a lowlife, but Nealon is confident that Mr. Joe Average American is oblivious. “I promise you, if they’ve even heard of the tape, they forgot about it a long time ago. Nobody cares!”

Jackson argues that the tape actually helps Lowe “if enough people know about it.” Properly encouraged, Lowe declares himself psyched and gets ready to do his monologue.

Here, the show has some fun with the idea that people do believe Lowe is a disgusting creep. The audience has clearly been prompted not to applaud or laugh (although the absence of reaction to Lowe’s jokes inspires plenty of giggles nonetheless). An audience plant shouts at Lowe as he stumbles through the monologue: “You’ve got a lot of nerve! I’ve got a daughter!”

On the one hand, that’s the right response to Lowe’s “unfortunate situation,” one that’s “been very difficult for me.” On the other hand, SNL is still playing Lowe’s sex crimes for laughs. It’s one thing to forgive Lowe for his transgressions and another to make comedy out of them.

Lowe says he’s learned a valuable lesson. No, it’s not that he should avoid having sex with 16-year-old girls. The lesson is that he has a lot of friends who stuck by him during a tough time. “We’re not your friends!” shouts an audience member. “I’ve got a daughter!” screams the first guy. Now the rest of the audience is in on the bit, refusing to laugh or applaud as Lowe introduces the musical guest and tries to rally some whoops for St. Patrick’s Day. Finally, Jon Lovitz bails out Lowe by sending him offstage to get ready for the next sketch before leading cheers for the Pogues. 

From the vantage point of 2024, the whole thing is wild. Making a real-life underage sex scandal the subject of a comedy bit was a supremely weird choice — not apologizing while extolling the value of Brat Pack friends was an inexcusable one. In the words of Lowe’s Parks and Rec character Chris Traeger, this was literally one of the most bizarre monologues in SNL history.

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