Saturday Night Live is the pinnacle of entertainment in America and, once there’s no greater honour in the world of celebrity than hosting an episode from Studio 8H. When you’ve done that, you know you have made it. However, live television can be nerve-wracking, and on occasion, hosts have accidentally let their loose lips take over by dropping an F-bomb.
With its giant audience, the show can be a launching pad for anyone and has created some truly iconic moments. The heat of the occasion can often get to a celebrity, who suddenly forgets where they are and uses the F-word live on prime-time television. SNL, so furious with those who break the rules, they have been known to dish out lifetime bans. It’s the kind of thing that makes SNL legendary and keeps Lorne Michaels’ name in the good books of advertisers everywhere.
We all know the format. Each episode features a musical guest, in the shape of a solo act or a band, who will then perform two or three tracks after being introduced by the show’s host. Then, throughout the show, the host takes part in skits with SNL regulars, and you get to really see their true colours when they are thrown into a comedy routine with Kenan Thompson.
While you’d think most hosts wouldn’t crumble under the pressure, you’d be right, but on the odd occasion some have let the mask of professionalism momentarily slip.
All the F-words in SNL history
Paul Schaffer (1980)
The first-ever person to accidentally curse on SNL is Paul Schaffer, the Canadian was flexing his acting muscles during a sketch and things ended terribly. As part of a joke, every other word in the skit was ‘flogging’ and Schaffer did incredibly well until towards the end when he made a Freudian slip.
“It went really well in the dress rehearsal,” he remembered in his memoir. “So well that I added extra ‘flogging’s until there was finally just a total slip. I went white. When it was over, Lorne Michaels came up and said, ‘You broke down the last barrier.'”
Charles Rocket (1981)
Schaffer managed to somehow avoid the sack after his cursing, but it wasn’t a positive ending for Charles Rocket, who was fired mid-season for his use of a certain four-letter word.
His faux-pas came about during a Dallas-themed sketch in which he was playing the famous J.R. Ewing, and for some reason, decided to say, “It’s the first time I’ve ever been shot in my life. I’d like to know who the f**k did it.” That’s one way to lose your job, Charlie.
When Prince performed at Studio 8H as a 22-year-old whippersnapper in 1981, he was still green and hadn’t quite worked out how to censor his lyrics. During a performance of ‘Partyup’ from 1980’s Dirty Mind, Prince sang the line ‘Fightin’ war is such a fuckin’ bore’ like he wasn’t on primetime television.
Seemingly everyone was so awe-struck by the greatness of The Purple One that they failed to notice and he got away with it. Or they were too scared to tell him off for it. Even though he was only 22, Prince still had a supernatural aura to him which allowed him to get away with operating on his own terms.
Jon Lovitz (1989)
Lovitz was a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1985 until 1990 and kept his cool throughout hundreds of skits, but in 1989, he got famously caught out. Tony Danza introduced a sketch, in which the cast had to repeat the word “fonkin'” continuously, but unlucky for Lovitz his tongue slipped.
Although, he did deny any cursing in 2017 when he said, “The censor for SNL, Bill Clotworthy, who was a very nice man, was quite clear on what we couldn’t say. We had to say “fonkin”… no slips allowed.” Lovitz claimed the reason why the sketch never aired again was because it was too “risky”…
Steven Tyler (1990)
The opportunity for a musical act to make their name on SNL is too much to avoid. The singer for Aerosmith, Steven Tyler, knew this and was happy to pick up the mantel and be a part of one of Mike Myers’ legendary Wayne’s World skits on the show.
However, Tyler is still a rock star at heart and seemingly cared very little for Lorne Michaels’ strict rules on set. During a performance of ‘Monkey on My Back’ Tyler’s uncensored version of the song hit the airwaves as he sang “get the f**king monkey off my back”.
Morris Day (1990)
When Morris Day showed up to Studio 8H in 1990 he arrived with his band The Time and a smash hit in their song ‘Chocolate’. During a short break in the song, Day inexplicably asked “Where the f**k this chicken come from? I thought I ordered ribs!”
Taken in isolation, it’s hard to see this moment as anything but legendary. Though it didn’t help out Day’s career, it did provide a TV moment that will undoubtedly go down in history.
Michale Stipe (1994)
Thanks to their huge success, people often forget how subversive R.E.M. were during their heyday. By 1994, the Michale Stipe-led group had become alt-rock heroes and they used their position on SNL to throw a couple of fingers up to the establishment.
On the show to perform their now-iconic track ‘What’s The Frequency Kenneth’, Stipe had all intentions of singing the song’s swear words but made sure, in a cunning piece of trickery, to turn his back to the camera when he did so. It offered up an extra layer of mystery for Lorne Michaels to decipher and also left audiences scratching their heads as to what they had witnessed. A genius move.
Beastie Boys (1994)
Sometimes it can’t be helped. When you’re as energetic and feverish as the Beastie Boys were in 1994, then sometimes these things just happened. When the rap group were performing their new song ‘Sure Shot’ on SNL, they accidentally slipped in the F-word and got a severe telling off for it.
It hasn’t stopped the group from returning to the show and there’s a hint that Michaels and his team wrote this one off as bad luck.
Norm MacDonald (1997)
It shouldn’t be understated that Lorne Michaels holds his regulars to a very high standard. While all bets are off while the red light follows suit, when the cameras turn on, and the show is live on air, the executive producer expects perfection from his cast members, something that was all too apparent to Norm MacDonald.
MacDonald used the F-word during the Weekend Update skit; fumbling over his words, he said: “What the f**k was that?” Clearly aware of what such a slip could do for his career, he continued: “My farewell performance… Maybe I’ll see you next week, folks.”
System of a Down (2005)
If you’re a mainstream show that straddles the line between late-night and family entertainment, then chances are you will run afoul of the f-word every so often. When you invite System of a Down to perform their song ‘B.Y.O.B.’ on the show, then you have an inevitable clash on your hands.
During the song, the band say the word a lot. But SNL are professionals and were happy to bleep out every time the word was sung, all up until an ad-libbed f-bomb squeaked past. The offending word came from the band’s guitarist Daron Malakian and saw System of a Down banned from SNL.
Jenny Slate (2009)
As we mentioned, Michaels’ expectation for cast members is ludicrously high, but most succeed without fail. Not so for Jenny Slate, who tripped up on her very first show. During a performance with Kristen Wiig, Slate dropped the F-bomb to an audible audience gasp.
Slate’s eyes widen and her cheeks puff out, just as one imagines when a child is caught in the act. It makes the whole thing very cringe-worthy, something compounded by the fact Slater was let go at the end of her first season with the show.
Samuel L. Jackson (2012)
Surely, if there’s one man who is allowed to swear on 8SNL* then it has to be Samuel L. Jackson? The iconic potty-mouthed actor dropped the F-word in a skit starring Kenan Thompson.
Jackson later made two claims about the incident. Firstly, he laid the blame at the feet of Thompson, claiming that the actor was supposed to cut him off earlier. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, Jackson claimed that he only ever said “fuh” but we’ll let you make your own mind up.
Kristen Stewart (2017)
Possibly one of the best hosts the show has seen in years, when Stewart appeared on the show for her first time hosting, she was cool as a cucumber. Up until she dropped a casual F-bomb, that is.
It was a big night for the star who, as well as addressing the obsession of then-president Donald Trump with the Twilight actor, also came out to the nation as a gay woman. It was a big night and one made only a fraction more difficult by her cursing.
Sam Rockwell (2018)
The most recent appearance of the F-word came in 2018 as Sam Rockwell took over guest-hosting duties. The actor is famed for his inability to keep a lid on his language and couldn’t get through even his first skit without dropping the F-bomb.
Whether or not Lorne Michaels expected the swear is one thing, but as Rockwell’s ‘Mr. Science’ became increasingly frustrated with his students the swearing was always going to happen.