5 People ‘SNL’ Hurt More Than It Helped

Ashlee Simpson would like a do-over
5 People ‘SNL’ Hurt More Than It Helped

There’s no bigger kingmaker in comedy than Saturday Night Live, the show that turned complete unknowns like Eddie Murphy, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Bill Murray and Kristen Wiig into superstars. But the same magic wand that grants Hollywood wishes can destroy careers as well. Here are five performers that SNL hurt far more than it helped...

Charles Rocket

Talk about a blade that cuts both ways — Rocket was the breakout star of the worst-ever season of Saturday Night Live. He might have stayed with the show alongside Joe Piscopo and Murphy if it wasn’t for the expletive he let fly during a Dallas parody in which he was shot like J.R. Ewing: “I’d like to know who the f*** did it.” 

Rocket managed to work steadily after SNL but always in supporting roles that kept him out of the spotlight. The F-bomb was his career-defining moment — you’d be hard-pressed to find an obituary for Rocket (who tragically took his own life in 2005) that doesn’t have his SNL firing in the first paragraph.

Ashlee Simpson

There have been plenty of instantly forgettable musical performances on Saturday Night Live. But what happened to Simpson was worse, exposing her as either unwilling or incapable of singing live in front of an audience. 

It wasn’t just that Simpson got exposed as a lip-syncer.  We assume plenty of artists do that. It was her inelegant response, on live television, once the wrong track was played. First, there was the improvised hoe-down shuffle while her bandmates studied the stage floor. Then, rather than trying to make the best of it, she imitated another Simpson — Homer as he recedes into the bushes. Her career was never the same.

Chris Kattan

I’m getting literal with this one as Kattan claims he actually broke his neck during an MSNBC Investigates sketch. 

“I went backwards on my chair,” Kattan told Inside Edition. He hit the ground hard, and “I felt a snap on my neck when I hit the railing of the chair itself.” He kept the injury to himself because he didn’t want to miss a show, then underwent five surgeries to try to fix the problem. An addiction to painkillers and a DUI followed, putting a serious dent in his comedy career.  

Lana Del Rey

It wasn’t a failure of Ashlee Simpson proportions but Del Rey’s wooden performance in 2012 led to plenty of backlash. For some reason, NBC anchor Brian Williams got in on the hate, telling Gawker that “Brooklyn hippster (his spelling) Lana Del Rey had one of the worst outings in SNL history last night — booked on the strength of her TWO SONG web EP, the least-experienced musical guest in the show’s history, for starters.”

Entertainment Weekly devoted an entire story to the negative reaction, quoting a since-deleted tweet from actress Juliette Lewis: “Wow watching this ‘singer’ on SNL is like watching a 12-year-old in their bedroom when they’re pretending to sing and perform #signofourtimes.”

Del Rey later told Rolling Stone about the impact SNL had on her early career: “Everyone I knew suddenly wasn’t so sure about me... They were like, ‘Maybe I don’t want to be associated with her — not a great reputation.’”

Steven Seagal

Did Seagal’s disastrous SNL hosting appearance lead to his direct-to-video decline or merely shine a spotlight on the a-hole behavior that killed his movie career?

For such a reputed tough guy, the show gave Seagal’s reputation a thorough beating. He’s the easy answer to “worst host ever,” and SNL publicly threw him up against the wall on subsequent shows. During Nicolas Cage’s monologue, he joked that the audience must think he’s “the biggest jerk who’s ever been on the show.” 

Lorne Michaels set him straight: “No, no,” he said. “That would be Steven Seagal.”

Things got so bad, according to David Spade in SNL oral history Live From New Yorkthat “I think that was the first week that I heard talk about replacing the host and just doing a cast show.” Everyone would have been better off if SNL did just that. 


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