Top 23 Most Controversial SNL Skits of Each Year 2000 22



Top 23 Most Controversial SNL Skits of Each Year 2000 22

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
SNL usually brings the laughs, but these skits proved too controversial for some. For this list, we'll be singling out the sketches that drew the most shock and outrage each year from the year 2000 to 2022. Our list includes “Father Daughter Ad” from 2015, “The Situation Room: Tiger Woods' Accidents” from 2009, “Africa Tourism” from 2020, and more!
SNL usually brings the laughs, but these skits proved too controversial for some. For this list, we’ll be singling out the sketches that drew the most shock and outrage each year from the year 2000 to 2022. Our list includes “Father Daughter Ad” from 2015, “The Situation Room: Tiger Woods’ Accidents” from 2009, “Africa Tourism” from 2020, and more! What do you think is the most controversial “SNL” skit? Let us know in the comments.

2000: “Regis Co-host Auditions”

With Kathie Lee Gifford’s exit, all eyes were on “Live with Regis” to see who would be the new co-host. The setup paved the way for the “SNL” cast to break out their impressions, with Tracy Morgan as Star Jones, Cheri Oteri as Barbara Walters, and Ana Gasteyer as Darva Conger. Things took an awkward turn when Jimmy Fallon popped up as Chris Rock, complete with a tooth gap and full makeup. While the impression was jarring in 2000, it gained even more notoriety two decades later when it resurfaced online. Fallon apologized amid the backlash, calling it a “terrible decision.” Rock didn’t express anger towards Fallon, calling him a “great guy” who “didn’t mean anything.” However, Rock still considers the impression “bad comedy.”

2001: “War Party”

Another bit that only gained more notoriety over time, this 2001 sketch aired one month after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. With the announcement that the Northern Alliance has taken Kandahar, a cocktail party turns into a jazzy musical number about the southern Afghan city. Things get solemn, albeit still nonsensical, when Tracy Morgan breaks into a monologue, but it isn’t long until the celebratory singing resumes. People remain divided on the sketch, with some calling it a sharp, dark satire and others finding it tone-deaf, especially since the War in Afghanistan remains the longest in U.S. history. Former “SNL” writer Michael Schur defended the sketch, saying, “The point was to make fun of how cavalier and ignorant we were being about the invasion.”

2002: “Bambi 2002”

It’s a good thing that satire is protected under the First Amendment. Otherwise, we’re not sure Disney would’ve been so lenient about this TV Funhouse segment. Even if “SNL” avoided any legal action, “Bambi 2002” still pushed the envelope of how far you can go in satirizing a beloved Disney classic. Giving Bambi a 21st-century makeover, this faux direct-to-video sequel is hilariously relentless in its sendup of corporate greed, shamelessly succumbing to the latest trends, and the essence of childhood. Robert Smigel wasn’t a huge Disney fan growing up, although he developed a love for their movies upon becoming a parent. That didn’t stop him from depicting Bambi’s mom with head trauma or an adult film version of “Pocahontas.” What’s next? A pre-scandal Jared?

2003: Adrien Brody’s Dreadlocks

Going off script is rarely, if ever, a wise idea on “SNL”, unless you’re looking to get on Lorne Michaels’ bad side. We doubt that was Adrien Brody’s intention when he hosted only a couple of weeks before winning an Oscar. However, his urge to improvise would get him banned from “SNL.” It’d be one thing if the ad-lib was funny, but this incident demonstrates why Brody is probably better suited for drama than comedy. Introducing musical guest Sean Paul, Brody went rogue with dreadlocks and a Jamaican accent. And yes, Paul is Jamaican, which only made the bit more offensive. Michaels wasn’t the only one that Brody antagonized. Speaking with Howard Stern, Tina Fey called Brody “cocky” and said he pitched “terribly unfunny ideas.”

2004: Ashlee Simpson Lip-Syncing

Ashlee Simpson is known for many things, but her infamous “SNL” appearance is one that she’s never been able to shake. The musical guest’s first performance of “Pieces of Me” went off without a hitch. When her second performance commenced, though, viewers became overcome with deja vu as “Pieces of Me” played again. Nobody was more confused than Simpson, who did a hoedown as her band tried switching gears. Simpson subsequently left the stage as the telecast awkwardly cut to commercial. As the show wrapped, Simpson claimed that her band played the wrong song, which was supposed to be “Autobiography.” However, it was pretty obvious that Simpson had been lip-syncing, and she’d later say that she was resting her voice because of acid reflux disease.

2005: System of a Down Performs “B.Y.O.B.”

Once again, an “SNL” musical act went off the rails. Heavy metal group System of a Down performed their 2005 song “​​B.Y.O.B.,” which stands for “Bring Your Own Bombs.” Playing such a politically-charged song during the Iraq War already invited potential controversy. On top of that, the band refused to omit an explicit lyric that wouldn’t fly on NBC. The censors thought that they could work around this by using the five-second delay to bleep the profanity. This approach seemed to work, as the censors managed to mute the recurring lyric all five times it was uttered. However, they weren’t prepared for Daron Malakian closing out the performance with one last f-bomb that ultimately slipped by, solidifying the band’s “SNL” ban.

2006: “D*** in a Box”

Censoring a song is easier when it isn’t performed live. With this iconic Digital Short song, it was clear that The Lonely Island and Justin Timberlake had delivered a winner. The song even won a Primetime Emmy. However, the title alone was a red flag for the FCC. “SNL” reached a compromise, airing the song with one particular word bleeped 16 times. “SNL” didn’t need the FCC’s permission to share the explicit version online, though. The uncensored cut received backlash from Parents Television Council president L. Brent Bozell, who called it “a new low for NBC.” That didn’t stop the song from becoming a viral sensation and breaking new ground for shows digitally releasing content too risque for network TV.

2007: “Danny’s Song”

If you’re a Kenny Loggins fan, you’ll recognize “Danny’s Song” as a sentimental tune that the artist wrote to commemorate his nephew’s birth. “SNL” viewers will also recognize the song from this divisive sketch. As four friends reminisce about the good old days, Bill Hader’s character makes an uncomfortable comment about his father having Down Syndrome. This wasn’t the sketch’s only shocking moment, but it’s the one where some drew the line. “SNL” and the higher-ups at NBC received an angry letter from Jon Colman and Pam van der Lee of the National Down Syndrome Society. They wrote that people with Down Syndrome “deserve to be respected and celebrated for their success and achievements, and not to have their clinical diagnosis used as a punchline.”

2008: “Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank on the Financial Bailout”

Being an election year, 2008 offered no shortage of political material for “SNL” to work with. While most of it was comedic gold, there were a few missteps. Fred Armisen debuted his Barack Obama impression, which likely wouldn’t fly today for obvious reasons. Another sketch featuring Jason Sudeikis as President Bush and Kristen Wiig as Nancy Pelosi proved so controversial that it had to be modified online. Satirizing the bailout, the sketch targeted Herb and Marion Sandler of World Savings, captioning them as “people who should be shot.” After being released online, NBC’s lawyers removed the sketch. While the Sandlers reportedly didn’t pursue legal action, NBC stated that they found “elements in the sketch that didn’t meet [their] standards.” The sketch was eventually reposted, albeit edited.

2009: “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.

2010: “Weekend Update: Fred and Gov. Paterson”

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.

2011: “Jesus Visits Tim Tebow and The Denver Broncos”

Jason Sudeikis is known for playing the Devil on “SNL,” but it was his portrayal of Jesus that summoned a plague of controversy. As Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos thanks Jesus for taking the team so far, the messiah himself enters the locker room. Jesus takes full credit for their six-game winning streak, but requests that they start pulling their own weight. He gets the team pumped and also confirms that Mormonism is the real deal. There’s really nothing mean-spirited or anti-religious about the sketch, but whenever Jesus is satirized, there are bound to be naysayers. Televangelist Pat Robertson called the sketch “anti-Christian bigotry that is just disgusting.” Fox News’ Bob Beckel called it “despicable,” but it’s not like they’re “SNL’s” target demographic anyway.

2012: “What Up With That?: Samuel L. Jackson & Carrie Brownstein”

“What Up With That?” is a recurring sketch that never gets old, even if it basically recycles the same formula over and over again: Kenan Thompson’s Diondre Cole repeatedly sings the irresistible theme song, sidelining his high-profile guests and Bill Hader as Lindsey Buckingham. We usually know what we’re gonna get, but Samuel L. Jackson helped this iteration stand out. As the sketch wrapped, Thompson was apparently supposed to interrupt Jackson mid-profanity, but the timing was off. According to Thompson, the cue card only had an “F” on it, but Jackson went all-in and threw in an extra swear word. The incident led Jackson to believe that he was banned from “SNL,” although Thompson later clarified that he’s still welcome on the show.

2013: “Djesus Uncrossed (Director’s Cut)”

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”.

2014: “Shark Tank”

The sharks on “Shark Tank” can certainly be intimidating, but not as intimidating as the pitchers in this jaw-dropping sketch. With the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria taking center stage, this sketch dived headfirst into bad taste and never came up for air. The sketch ends with the pitchers being captured thanks to Daymond John, who’s played by Kenan Thompson. The real John wasn’t so assumed, however. The Shark Group founder said that he “[wasn’t] excited about the topic” and “found it a little insensitive.” However, John did appreciate the fact that he was the one who saved the world. A sensitive topic for sure, but it wouldn’t be the last time that “SNL” parodied this controversial group.

2015: “Father Daughter Ad”

This spoof of a Toyota commercial starring guest host Dakota Johnson and cast member Taran Killam drove viewers to Twitter to express their outrage. 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.

2016: “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. 2016’s “Heroin AM” was another divisive sketch, especially since some former cast members lost their lives to drugs.

2017: “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”.

2018: “Weekend Update: Pete Davidson’s First Impressions of Midterm Election Candidates”

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.

2019: “Pound Puppy”

You want to get intimate with your partner, but the dog’s in the room. What do you do? Get a giant fake dog to kanoodle inside! While outrageous, this “SNL” faux commercial isn’t exactly offensive or even that daring compared to some others on this list. However, its controversial nature stems from accusations of plagiarism. Nick Ruggia and Ryan Hoffman of the comedy group Temple Horses claimed that “SNL” ripped off their sketch “Pet Blinders,” which was uploaded to YouTube in 2011. They also noticed similarities between “SNL’s” “Pumpkin Patch” and one of their sketches. The comedians expressed their grievances to NBC. Following an internal investigation however, NBC’s attorneys said they “found no similarities to the Temple Horses sketches that would be protected by copyright law.”

2020: “Africa Tourism”

In this sketch, three women who all coincidentally have the same name explain why Africa is the best destination for divorcées of a certain age. Two things overshadow their monotone dialogue, however. First, there’s Adele repeatedly breaking throughout the sketch. Second, there’s the Black men in the background getting comfortable with other ladies. Some found the sketch ill-timed given the End SARS movement and ongoing police brutality. It didn’t help that about a month earlier, Adele posted an Instagram photo of herself sporting a traditional African hairstyle, which was criticized as cultural appropriation. Timing aside, some took issue with the usage of words like “tribesmen,” finding that the sketch objectified Black men, although others felt that white women were the real targets of the satire.

2021: “Gen Z Hospital”

Elon Musk plays a doctor at a hospital specifically for Gen Z. For many viewers, the sketch not only failed to authentically capture how Gen Z talks, but also went to unexpectedly offensive places. Critics argued that some of the lingo stemmed from African-American Vernacular English, which has been frequently appropriated on TikTok and Twitter. John Rickford, a Stanford University linguistics professor, called the sketch “an embarrassment,” claiming it “[negated] the powerful, positive ways in which African American English is used in everyday life.” Michael Che, who came up with the sketch, wasn’t familiar with AAVE until after the backlash. Che responded, “Look, the sketch bombed. I’m used to that. I meant no offense to the ‘aave’ community. I love aave. Aave to the moon!”

2022: “Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Trial Cold Open”

A sketch about Roe v. Wade was sure to press buttons, but many still found it to be clever satire. The same can’t be entirely said about “SNL’s” take on Depp v. Heard. Given the serious subject matter behind the trial, some felt it was wrong for “SNL” to even touch it. Being such a highly-publicized court case with its fair share of bizarre moments, though, “SNL” likely felt obligated to commentate on it. There was definitely potential for smart, even insightful satire. Instead, what we got was about five minutes dwelling on the defecated bed incident. While Kyle Mooney does a solid impression, people got more out of the real Johnny Depp saying “fecal matter” than anything from this misguided sketch.