Dark secrets the cast of SNL tried to hide

Saturday Night Live is probably the most prestigious comedy show in history. As a late-night institution that's been running for more than 40 years, it's launched the careers of some of the biggest stars of movies and TV, such as Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, and Amy Poehler. They may be some of the funniest, talented, and photogenic people in the world, but SNL cast members are still just people—which means they're prone to the same scandals, gaffes, dumb ideas, and tragedies as the rest of us. Here are some the darker moments in the lives of SNL cast members.

Fred Armisen had a traumatic and awful marriage to Elisabeth Moss

Fred Armisen and Elisabeth Moss met while doing Saturday Night Live in 2008. Armisen was a cast member; Moss did a cameo on an episode hosted by her Mad Men co-star Jon Hamm. Just a few months later they were married, the "happily ever after" part of a whirlwind romance. Well, not exactly. The marriage lasted just eight months before Moss filed for divorce

What happened? Well, one tends to not want to stay in a marriage that they find "extremely traumatic and awful and horrible," as Moss told New York in 2014. "I'm glad that it didn't happen when I was 50. I'm glad I didn't have kids," Moss added. On an episode of WTF with Marc Maron, Armisen took the bulk of the blame for the ill-fated marriage. He says he got caught up in the romantic notion of marriage, as well as the "intoxicating" early period of a relationship, adding that he was "heartbroken at himself" for not putting enough work into it. He also blamed intimacy issues and infidelity, which he says similarly affected previous relationships.

Tina Fey was attacked as a child

"Weekend Update" anchor, Sarah Palin impersonator, and 30 Rock star/creator Tina Fey has a barely noticeable scar on the left side of her face. It's not a big deal whatsoever—but the story of how Fey came to acquire that scar is shocking, to say the least. 

In the January 2009 issue of Vanity Fair, Fey told it. When she was five years old, she was playing in front of her home in sleepy Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, when a stranger approached, and, for no reason, slashed Fey across the cheek with a knife. Fey said she never much let the traumatic incident affect her. "I proceeded unaware of it. I was a very confident little kid. It's really almost like I'm kind of able to forget about it, until I was on-camera," says Fey.

Chris Farley tried really hard to get clean

Chris Farley, one of the all-time SNL greats if only for the sketches about "Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker" (he lived "in a van down by the river!"), tragically passed away at the young age of 33 in December 1997. He'd starred in just a handful of movies (such as Tommy Boy and Black Sheep) before he lost his long, difficult struggle with addiction. But the man tried hard to beat his chemical dependencies—in what would turn out to be the last two years of his life, Farley went through drug rehabilitation programs no less than 17 times. The last time was a single night at the renowned Hazelden center in Minnesota a week before he died. Ultimately, the Cook County Medical Examiner determined the cause of Farley's death to be an overdose of morphine and cocaine.

Chris Kattan has secretly dealt with serious health problems for years

Chris Kattan has kept a relatively low-profile since leaving SNL in 2003. The erstwhile Mango and Goth Talk host Azrael Abyss co-starred on ABC's The Middle for a while, and in 2017 competed on the network's Dancing with the Stars. He was the first contestant eliminated in his season, but frankly its remarkable that he was even able to submit to the extreme physical rigors of the dance competition. 

While doing press for Dancing with the Stars, Kattan revealed that nearly 15 years earlier, he broke his neck in what he would only refer to as "a stunt thing" that has precluded him from doing physical comedy ever again. The injury had effects throughout Kattan's body, and he's had four surgeries to attempt to correct those problems, including one in his throat and one on his back. Kattan kept his struggle secret because he worried having a "physical drawback" would cost him roles. Kattan has in part blamed being in pain—and being on pain-alleviating medications—for some of his past, tabloid-worthy behavior, such as the time in 2015 he was removed from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport for acting weird.

Eddie Murphy was caught with a prostitute

After rocketing to fame as part of the Saturday Night Live cast in the early '80s, Eddie Murphy starred in comedy classics like Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, and Coming to America…and then a bunch of bombs, such as The Adventures of Pluto Nash. And yet, Murphy's personal life has sometimes been more embarrassing than a movie about a guy who owns a nightclub on the moon. At 4:45 a.m. one night (morning?) in May 1997, Murphy was busted by cops in a West Hollywood area reportedly well-known as a hotspot for prostitution. Inside the Land Cruiser (which belonged to Murphy's wife), police found the star with 20-year-old Atisone Seiuli, who was immediately arrested when a check revealed an outstanding warrant for a prostitution charge. (Also, because this was 1997, a time somewhat less enlightened than the present day, the media made a big deal of the fact that Seiuli was a "transexual.") The official line was that Murphy said he was simply giving Seiuli a ride home—as one does with prostitutes in the middle of the night—and since no illegal money-for-services transactions were determined to have taken place, Murphy wasn't charged with any crimes.

Eddie Murphy has fathered a lot of kids with a lot of women

So Murphy doesn't solicit hookers—after all, he's a family man. And how: the star has fathered nine children with five different women. Here's a rundown of Murphy's dizzying romantic and virility history. A brief relationship in 1989 with a woman named Paulette McNeely resulted in a son, Eric Murphy. Then in 1990, Murphy and Tamara Hood Johnson had a son together named Christian. Also in 1990, model Nicole Johnson gave birth to Murphy's daughter, Bria, the first of the five children they'd have together. Murphy and Johnson married in 1993 and divorced in 2006. The next year, Melanie Brown, a.k.a. Mel B., a.k.a. Scary Spice of the Spice Girls, gave birth to a baby girl named Angel…whom Murphy denied fathering until a DNA test proved otherwise. Murphy's youngest child is a daughter named Izzy, whom he had with model Paige Butcher in 2016.

Melissa Villaseñor deleted tons of questionable tweets

One of the new additions to the cast of Saturday Night Live for the 2016-17 season was Melissa Villasenor. As a gifted impressionist, Villaseñor is the first Latina cast member in SNL history. A win for diversity, sure, but her sudden rise to the pre-eminent comedy show wasn't without controversy. Social issues writer Aura Bogado and activist April Reign (who started the #OscarsSoWhite campaign) discovered that Villaseñor apparently thoroughly scrubbed her Twitter account and deleted around 2,000 tweets. Many of them were jokes, as is the way with Twitter. Unfortunately for all parties involved, it would seem that many of those jokes were of the tasteless and/or racist variety. (Because nothing ever really gets deleted off of the internet, some of those tweets can be seen in screencapped form here and here.) 

Darrell Hammond struggled with addiction and self-abuse

Hammond is arguably the best celebrity impressionist SNL has ever had in its cast, turning in uncannily accurate impressions of Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump, to name but a few. But for as much joy as he brought SNL viewers in his 14 seasons on the show, Hammond has struggled with the dual miseries of addiction and self-harm. In his harrowing 2011 memoir, God, If You're Not Up There, I'm F*cked, Hammond wrote of the extensive abuse his mother dished out, saying that she hit him, stabbed him, and tortured him. The comedian has been in therapy since age 19, but it wasn't a cure-all. He self-medicated and would cut himself backstage at SNL, to the obliviousness of his co-stars. "Most of the time it was really manageable," Hammond said on NPR's Fresh Air, adding that when alcohol was introduced to the mix it "sometimes got a little messy." Hammond says that on multiple occasions he sought the help he needed, checking himself into a New York psychiatric hospital.

Chris Rock blames himself for the end of his long marriage

Chris Rock and Malaak Compton-Rock met in 1994 and were wed two years later. It appeared that they had one of the more stable marriages in Hollywood, where it's something of an accurate cliché that relationships don't seem to last very long. It was a little shocking then when Rock and Compton-Rock, who had two daughters together, separated in 2014, with the divorce finalized in 2016. So what happened? Well, those two decades together hadn't been altogether blissful. In 1998, the couple separated, a period in which Rock hooked up with a model named Monika Zsibrita, who later had a child she claimed was Rock's. A DNA test proved Rock wasn't the father, and Zsibrita later filed a report with the Los Angeles Police Department that claimed a sexual encounter was actually sexual assault; no charges were filed against Rock. The comedian has suggested that he had a problem with remaining faithful to his wife. "I was a piece of s***," Rock said in a post-divorce comedy set in which he also talked about indiscretions with three different women.

Norm Madonald got into a fight backstage at SNL with an intern

Wyatt Cenac of The Daily Show and People of Earth got his start as an intern for Saturday Night Live in the mid-'90s. Cenac spent a lot of his time behind the scenes hanging out with cast member Norm Macdonald. One time, Cenac and Macdonald were playing soccer in a hallway of SNL's production offices. "Norm and I got into a bit of a scrum for the ball, and I ended up clipping him in the shin," Cenac told Stephen Colbert on The Late Show in 2016. "And he grabbed me, tried to throw me across the room, which is not how soccer is played. And I pushed him off me." From there, the intern Cenac and star Macdonald kept shoving each other and screaming in each other's faces until SNL cast member Colin Quinn (and Stephen Colbert, a writer on the show at the time) separated them. Cenac thinks the whole thing started because Macdonald was agitated from trying to quit smoking.

Michael Che was sorry-not-sorry for defending catcalling

"Weekend Update" co-anchor and standup comedian Michael Che may deliver cutting, insightful jokes on a regular basis, but he was accused of being not-quite-woke in 2014. It started when "viral video agency" Rob Bliss Creative posted a YouTube video called "10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman." As a woman walked down the street, she was bombarded with more than 100 instances of men hitting on her, leering at her, or following her around. The unsettling video racked up millions of views (more than 40 million to date) and alerted many people to what a lot of women have to go through on a daily basis. Che offered up his own think-piece on his Instagram account—a defense of catcalling, comparing unwanted attention of a sexual nature to when fans stop him on the street: "I wanna apologize to all the women that I've harassed with statements like 'hi' or 'have a nice day' or 'you're beautiful'. I cant imagine what that must feel like. The closest thing I've experienced is maybe when a girl recognizes me from TV."

When people began angrily @-ing Che, he tried to explain himself, saying, "I think some of you are misunderstanding that post. I'm simply just making fun of something that is important to a lot of people." But he couldn't leave well enough alone—he wrote another short piece in which he said he wasn't really sorry for any of it: "I wanna apologize for my last apology. Sometimes I forget that I belong to all of you now, and that any thought I have should be filtered through you, and receive your approval. It's tough, because I'm used to taking risks and finding humor in places of discomfort. But thats all over, 'cause I have a job on TV."

An ex of Tim Meadows shamed him on Twitter

Meadows was an SNL stalwart from 1991 to 2000, and is probably best known for his portrayals of murder trial-era O.J. Simpson and Leon Phelps, "the Ladies Man." While that character very much loved women, an ex-girlfriend could argue that Leon would have treated her better. In 2016, an ex of Meadows' named Lynsie Lee called out the actor on Twitter, claiming he poured his heart out and then ghosted her. "He seriously told me he loved me and still wanted to be together and then never talked to me again. So strange," Lee says. Even worse, Lee says Meadows cheated on her…on Valentine's Day. "He's not a ladies man," Lee cleverly posted, "he's a coward."

Jay Mohr stole another comedian's work for an SNL sketch

Star of multiple short-lived sitcoms (Action, Gary Unmarried) and his own national sports talk radio show, Mohr got his big break when he was cast as a featured player on SNL in 1993. But Mohr had trouble differentiating himself in SNL's high-pressure environment, and he struggled to get his sketches into the show. In his 2004 memoir about SNL titled, appropriately enough, Gasping for Airtime, Mohr admitted that in desperation he stole a routine from a well-known standup comedian, turned it into a sketch…and it got on the air. Before long, SNL higher-ups found out that Mohr's sketch about a bar called "O'Callahan and Sons" was nearly identical to comedian Rick Shapiro's "Irish Bartender" routine. Mohr was let go at the end of the season.

Chevy Chase is reportedly quite difficult to work with

On-screen, Chevy Chase has usually played charmingly smug and slightly aloof guys. Off-screen, he's earned a reputation as someone who's mean and nasty. When he returned to Saturday Night Live to host in 1985, he pitched an appalling idea to cast member Terry Sweeney, the show's first openly gay performer. According to Sweeney, Chase said, "I've got an idea for a sketch for you. How about we say you have AIDS, and we weigh you every week?" Chase was forced to apologize, and was invited back to host again in 1995, whom longtime cast member Will Ferrell called "the worst host" he ever worked with due to his "snobbish" attitude, tendency to scream at everyone he encountered, and how he sexually harassed a female writer.

Chase joined the cast of Community in 2009. Showrunner/creator Dan Harmon and Chase often clashed over the direction of Chase's character (a rich old guy named Pierce Hawthorne) and that Chase would frequently leave the set before episodes were finished taping. Harmon told The Hollywood Reporter that Chase was especially worried about being portrayed as a "befuddled old man" who wasn't "sexy" and that Harmon was "writing me as if I'm gay." At one point, Chase left a series of furious, profanity-laden messages on Harmon's voicemail, which Harmon played out loud during his live show, Harmontown. The ongoing feud, and those incidents in particular, led to Chase permanently leaving Community in 2012, in the middle of the show's fourth season.