Top 20 Most Controversial Saturday Night Live Sketches Ever

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Top 20 Most Controversial Saturday Night Live Sketches Ever

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Tal Fox
The most controversial "Saturday Night Live" sketches ever had us laughing and gasping. For this list, we're looking at "SNL" skits that toyed with the line between laughter and public uproar. Our countdown includes Dejesus Uncrossed, Starbucks Verismo, word association, and more!
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Top 20 Most Controversial Saturday Night Live Sketches Ever


When it comes to comedy, where do you draw the line? Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 20 Most Controversial Saturday Night Live Sketches Ever.

For this list, we’re looking at SNL skits that toyed with the line between laughter and public uproar. We’ll be including “Weekend Update”, but excluding monologues, as they already have a list of their own.

#20: Weekend Update: Pete Davidson's First Impressions of Midterm Election Candidatesr


With the 2018 midterm elections approaching, Pete Davidson offered his opinions on the candidates . . . but walked right into controversy. As a picture of ex-Navy Seal Dan Crenshaw appears, you can hear Michael Che laugh nervously off camera. Pete isn’t thrown off in the slightest and proceeds to mock the veteran’s war wound, which definitely upset some viewers - Crenshaw included. The following week the newly elected representative was invited to appear on the show and given a chance for rebuttal. Pete was also made to apologize live on air, something practically unheard of on SNL. Davidson later addressed the incident in his 2020 standup special “Alive from New York”, poking fun not only at himself and his apology, but once again at Crenshaw.

#19: Aer Lingus


It’s hard to say whether viewers were more annoyed by the lazy stereotypes in this sketch, the accents, or just the fact that it wasn’t particularly funny. The Irish airline crafted a tongue-in-cheek response, calling the sketch “unwatchable” in Tweet written in the style of American President Donald Trump. Saoirse Ronan, who’s Irish, said she was surprised by the backlash and is actually a frequent flyer with Aer Lingus. Also, can anyone explain the joke about all the dogs? Of course, this wasn’t the only time SNL relied on Irish stereotypes and failed to stick the landing.

#18: Rosetta Stoner



This commercial parody starts off innocently enough with some happy Rosetta Stone users showing off their newfound skills. In a rapid escalation of events, things take a turn for the creepy when we cut to some men who purchased the Thai version of the software for a rather perverse purpose. While most language programs teach simple conversational phrases, the Thai vocabulary seems to be tailored for very specific ends. The show received backlash from the Thai government, with the cultural minister demanding the clip be removed from YouTube for “tarnishing Thailand’s image”.

#17: Biker Chick Chatr


It is not unheard of for someone to drop an accidental f-bomb on live television, but imagine doing so on your very first episode as a featured player. During the “Biker Chick Chat” sketch, Jenny Slate accidentally lets one slip and you can instantly see that she is completely mortified. She has since denied the speculations that this was the sole reason she was fired after just one season. But years later, with a little perspective and distance she decided to flip the narrative, questioning whether a man would have received as much backlash.

#16: Michael Cohen Wiretap Cold Openr


Trump and his administration have been the source of many sketches over recent years, with countless big names jumping on the bandwagon. So when the scandal emerged about Stormy Daniels and Trump, we knew SNL would be quick to respond. While your political stance might affect how outrageous you find this cameo, the adult movie actress made quite a storm with her surprise appearance in the cold opening. A lot happens in this skit but it’s the final few minutes that really grab our attention. And amidst all the action, Stormy had a message for the president...

#15: Weekend Update: Leslie Jonesr



When People named Lupita Nyong’o the most beautiful person in the world, Leslie Jones’ response at the Update desk sparked serious backlash. Leslie acknowledged Nyong’o’s beauty, but also joked that back in the days of slavery, her own size and strength would have been considered more important - leading to a better love life. The sketch ignited a firestorm on Twitter, where commentators took issue with her casual approach. In a series of 15 tweets, Jones fired back, stating that the joke was about her painful realization that black men aren’t really interested in her. Maybe there was a better way to bring this up …

#14: Heroin AMr


As will soon become apparent, SNL loves a good spoof commercial. In this case, they used the format of a typical pharmaceutical drug advert to introduce a much harder substance. It follows three parents who use Heroin A.M. to keep up with their hectic lives. This sketch divided viewers, with some unimpressed at how flippantly the issue was being addressed, especially as SNL alums Chris Farley and John Belushi both died of drug overdoses. However, others loved the sketch, crediting it as a good way to get America talking about an uncomfortable subject.

#13: First, He Criesr


In this skit, host Bea Arthur plays a doctor delivering biopsy results to a couple and it is not good news. The name of this sketch parodies NBC correspondent Betty Rollin’s book, “First, You Cry”, where she documents her struggles with breast cancer. However, this version has the self-centred husband playing the victim, as he’s distraught about living with his “deformed” wife, post-mastectomy. Not only did this prompt a barrage of complaints, but Bea Arthur received an angry phone call from a viewer who’d tracked down her hotel room number. On the flip side, Betty Rollin did write in to voice her support of the sketch.

#12: Weekend Update: Gov. David Paterson State of the Stater



SNL’s take on politics is usually comedy gold but that doesn’t mean they don’t occasionally miss the mark. When Fred Armisen parodied New York governor David Paterson, rather than focus on his political career or scandals, they focussed on his blindness. Needless to say, the governor was unimpressed, accusing the show of relying on offensive stereotypes. However, when he appeared on the show beside Fred Armensein, it looked like it was all water under the bridge. He was able to laugh at his own expense but also gave the cast a taste of their own medicine by throwing in some shots of his own.

#11: Dejesus Uncrossedr


If you’re going to parody Jesus Christ, be prepared to ruffle a few feathers. Christoph Waltz takes the lead in a movie trailer that gives this biblical story a Quentin Tarantino style makeover. It’s incredibly gory and bloody, plus we’re pretty sure that the source material never included guns. Some religious groups were offended by this sketch, which portrays Jesus as super-violent, rather than forgiving. The Council on American-Islamic Relations released a statement saying that they understood the show wanted to “provoke a humorous response”, but that it was “a distasteful portrayal”.

#10: Alan Dershowitz Visits Hell


You know those jokes where you don’t know whether to laugh or groan? In this sketch, attorney Alan Dershowitz makes a pit stop in hell where he’s greeted with open arms by the devil. In hell, we meet the writer of “Baby Shark”, Flo from “Progressive”, Mr. Peanut and Mark Zuckerberg. But it’s Adam Driver’s Epstein that receives an audible mix of groans and laughter due to his edgy punchlines. From a pun about his death … to a joke about how the devil appears to him ... we’d be lying if we said we didn’t wince even a little.

#9: World's Most Evil Invention


While at a super villain convention, the attendees compete for the most evil invention in the world. There’s a shrink ray and freeze gun - pretty standard villain stuff. But when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s character steps up, things take a seriously dark turn and even the other villains voice their outrage. A number of viewers objected to the skit, arguing that it trivialized sexual abuse. The sketch also takes a strange turn as it’s revealed that this has all been a disturbing commercial for “White Castle”.

#8: Teacher Trial with Ronda Rousey


You know when they say some things are better left to the imagination? Blurring fantasy and reality, this sketch sees a 16-year-old student testify in court after his affair with his teachers is exposed. The apparent joke here is that everyone is super impressed by a kid scoring with his teachers, despite the legal and moral implications. Some pointed out that if the genders had been flipped, no one would think this sketch was funny. Once again, SNL was under fire for joking about a serious subject - as some viewers argued they’d gone too far.

#7: Gonna Get Me a Shotgun


In this sketch, Garrett Morris plays a musically talented prison inmate who presents a song about his life philosophy. Morris later said this was his favorite skit but he can only imagine how it would be received in the age of social media. According to him, the song was inspired by a racist old woman from North Carolina who had a similar song using the N-word. He argued that political incorrectness is what made SNL so great back in the day, but now people are too afraid of causing offense.

#6: Father Daughter Ad


Chris Rock’s “Shark Tank” sketch may have missed the mark. But it was this spoof of a Toyota commercial starring guest host Dakota Johnson and cast member Taran Killam that drove viewers to express their outrage on Twitter. At first, viewers are lulled into a false sense of security thinking that what they’re watching is a heartwarming moment between a father and daughter. Then a pickup truck full of heavily armed men comes into view. The controversial cherry on this dubious cake is when a tearful father tells these men to look after his daughter and one responds. So really they couldn’t have been all that surprised that this sketch would incense viewers.

#5: Starbucks Verismo


You know when you go to a coffee shop and let’s just say it's not just the coffee that’s bitter? Well, this sketch was about bringing that experience home with the Starbucks Verismo. The coffee machine is rude, stupid, and incompetent. The female version, Verquonica, is no better. What viewers noticed though, were stereotypical black accents and jokes that reinforce negative stereotypes. Surely there was plenty to laugh about without falling back on racist tropes to get to the punchline. Needless to say, the sketch left viewers with more of a sour taste in their mouths than expired milk.

#4: Safelite AutoGlass


This sketch first made headlines when Safelite AutoGlass tweeted their disappointment. The controversy only continued when SNL suddenly made it disappear without saying a word. The sketchy spoof commercial involves a Safelite repairman, played by Beck Bennett who keeps smashing a woman’s car windshield in order to essentially stalk her teenage daughter, played by Melissa Villaseñor. While the sketch does a pretty good job mirroring the source material, these very dark added undertones just seem unnecessary. While SNL did their best to erase any memory of this sketch, the damage had already been done.

#3: Word Association


We guarantee that this skit would never fly today. In a job interview sketch, Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor engage in a word association game. Things start out innocently enough. But the game soon exposes Chase’s character’s prejudices, becoming heated and racially-charged. In a climactic moment that makes us wince, Chase throws out the N-word - and Pryor isn’t taking it lying down. Paul Mooney, who wrote the skit, said it was inspired by his own interview for SNL. It’s been called one of the show’s most shocking - and greatest - sketches.

#2: Canteen Boy & the Scoutmaster


This recurring character played by Adam Sandler is considered an SNL classic, but this particular sketch divided audiences. Alec Baldwin plays a scoutmaster who makes obvious and uncomfortable sexual advances toward Canteen Boy. According to Baldwin, the sketch caused 300,000 phone call complaints and the loss of seven affiliates. The Boy Scouts of America weighed in on the controversy too. In response to complaints, when showing reruns the sketch was preceded by a disclaimer saying that Canteen Boy is actually 27. Given the character’s childlike nature though, the clip has a considerably darker tone.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

The Missing “Bailout” Sketch
Removed by NBC for Legal Reasons

What Up With That?
Did Samuel L. Jackson Just Drop an F-Bomb?

Nude Beach
Did They Set a Record With the Number of Times They Referenced Male Anatomy?

E-Meth
Riding “the Ice Pony” Is Not the Best Advice

#1: The Situation Room: Tiger Woods' Accidents


SNL’s tone-deaf take on Tiger Woods’ affairs left some viewers understandably fuming. We see the golfer at press conferences and every time the camera cuts back to him, he’s sporting a new injury, clearly caused by his wife, played by Blake Lively. Even his cries for help are turned into a punchline. Many viewers pointed out that if the roles had been reversed, it would never be treated so lightly, while others pointed out the poor timing due to musical guest that week, Rihanna. While some people did see the funny side, most thought the show had gone too far.
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