There are few television shows as able to make an act mainstream as quickly as Saturday Night Live. The Lorne Michaels show has turned musical acts into pop stars overnight for decades now with just one flick of its musical muscle. Using their guest hosts, edgy comedy and musical spots to launch careers across the nation.
Some artists, however, aren’t interested in social space travel and, rather than jump aboard Michaels’ rocket ship to the top of the pile, would rather let the whole thing burn. One artist in particular left smoke flowing through the iconic Studio 8H. Cypress Hill, the now-iconic Californian hip-hop group, hit the headlines in 1993 when DJ Muggs smoked a joint during a live broadcast.
Now, in reflection, Muggs’ actions hold less levity, with weed dispensaries now a common sight in North America and Muggs even a part of an executive board for a marijuana company. However, in 1993, when weed was still illegal in the state and officers were happy to crack down on pot smokers, Cypress Hill managed to cause quite the stir.
“Well, there’s a lot of stories behind why Muggs lit that joint,” Sen Dog later told Village Voice of the infamous moment. “I remember Saturday Night Live gave us a green room and said, ‘Do whatever you want in here, just don’t light up out of here’. Muggs felt like he needed to make a statement with his performance. It wasn’t just the Saturday Night Live people saying he couldn’t smoke up on air. It was everyone: our record label, our management, our friends. I felt like, to me, Muggs wanted to make that statement.”
He would certainly do that. After being told that the band could do whatever they wanted in the aptly named green room, Muggs and co toyed with the idea of smoking a joint live on stage. “He asked me to light the joint up on stage, and I said, ‘I’m not doing that, man’. Before we did that second song [‘I Ain’t Going Out Like That’], we agreed that we weren’t going to light up nothing. If you look, I was surprised that he did that.”
Despite Lorne Michaels, the show’s judge jury and executioner, quickly banning the group, their infamy shot them into the public consciousness as quickly, or perhaps more so, than any flawless performance would have. “People loved it—people at the show loved it, because at the after-party they said, ‘That was so cool’. But when the hammer swung, and we were banned from Saturday Night Live forever, we understood how serious it was.”
“And understandably so — the world wasn’t ready for anything near that at that time. If he did it now, I don’t know what kind of backlash he’d have, but in the early ’90s, it earned us a kick in the ass from Saturday Night Live, and I haven’t seen that episode in reruns.” When you look back at some of the other reasons acts were banned from the show, this one feels kind of justified.
Sen Dog reflects, “It would have been cool to do Saturday Night Live again, but me personally, I didn’t think it was a great thing to do for our first time on SNL, but we paid the price, and we moved on.”
Famously known for holding grudges, we’re not expecting Michaels to rescind this one anytime soon. When asked if there was ever a discussion about ending the ban, Sen Dog said: “No sir, not at all. I would not expect them to.”
You can see the moment Muggs lit up at around the 4:23 mark in the below clip.