What you didn't see on TV during the SNL premiere

The late-night comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live is a television institution at this point. Especially when it comes to skewering American politics — and the 44th season premiere of SNL was no exception. It opened with a bang. And that bang was Matt Damon screaming as he parodied the much-maligned Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. While that cold open became the talk of the internet, Kanye West had something to say about that and did his best to make sure he also got top billing. Oh, Kanye. Some things never change.

But what happened behind the scenes during the premiere? From a last minute cancellation due to emotional reasons, an odd casting choice in light of the #MeToo movement, a Donald Trump tweet, and a MAGA-laced tirade that left the audience and cast members in stunned silence, here's what you didn't see on TV during the SNL premiere.

Ariana Grande canceled

Ariana Grande was all lined up to be the musical guest on the season 44 premiere of NBC's Saturday Night Live, but according to the creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels, the "No Tears Left To Cry" singer dropped out for "emotional reasons." Michaels didn't provide specifics for the abrupt cancellation, but earlier in the week, fans became concerned after Grande posted several distressing and emotional tweets. 

"Can i pls have one okay day. just one. pls," she tweeted the Thursday before the premiere. "I'm so tired pls," she continued. Shortly afterward, she responded to one of her older tweets that read, "everything will be okay," with, "j f***ing k." When her fans took to Twitter to show her love and support, Grande responded, "ur angels in my life. it's just been a tough month. i'm trying to get my work done and get back to normal and it's hard and i'm human and tired. sorry i let u in or worried u. i shouldn't have tweeted. i kno [sic] better."

Though she didn't elaborate, many speculated the "tough month" had to do with her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller, who died of an accidental drug overdose on September 7, 2018 at the age of 26.

However, even though she didn't perform, she showed up backstage during final rehearsals to support her fiancé, SNL cast member Pete Davidson.

Kanye Trump went full MAGA

"The entire studio fell dead silent," an eyewitness told Variety. What would make an entire audience at a comedy-sketch show fall dead silent? We're talking about Kanye West here. According to clips shared on social media, the rapper, wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat, remained on stage after the broadcast ended and went on a confrontational pro-Trump rant.

"So many times I talk to a white person and [they] say, 'How could you like Trump, he's racist?' Well, if I was concerned about racism I would've moved out of America a long time ago," he said. To those who couldn't believe what he was saying, Kanye replied,  "You wanna see the sunken place? Okay, Im'a listen to y'all now. I'ma put my superman cape on, because this means you can't tell me what to do… You want the world to move forward? Try love."

The eyewitness also reported that while standing awkwardly and bewildered behind West, "cast members appeared embarrassed" and "two performers gently shook their heads in unison as he spoke."

Donald Trump was a fan

Of course, Kanye West's pro-MAGA diatribe caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who took to one of his favorite pastimes — tweeting — to show his support for Kanye and take a shot at his political opponents. "Like many, I don't watch Saturday Night Live (even though I past hosted it) – no longer funny, no talent or charm. It is just a political ad for the Dems," Trump tweeted. "Word is that Kanye West, who put on a MAGA hat after the show (despite being told 'no'), was great. He's leading the charge!"

Was that all? That was a rhetorical question. "So if African-American unemployment is now at the lowest number in history, median income the highest, and you then add all of the other things I have done, how do Democrats, who have done NOTHING for African-Americans but TALK, win the Black Vote? And it will only get better!" he continued

Sweet Yeezus, he's still going?

The day after his controversial remarks during the SNL premiere, Kanye West doubled down on social media, this time with a dangerous proposition — abolishing the amendment that freed the slaves. "This represents good and America becoming whole again," West stated in a since-deleted Instagram post, referencing his MAGA hat. "We will no longer outsource to other countries. We build factories here in America and create jobs. We will provide jobs for all who are free from prisons as we abolish the 13th amendment. Message sent with love." Kanye West later clarified his statements about the 13th amendment on Twitter, but not before a few celebs responded. 

"Trump becoming our president was a loss for the country but your support of him is a loss for the culture," Lana Dey Rey commented on his post (via Rolling Stone). "I can only assume you relate to his personality on some level. Delusions of grandeur, extreme issues with narcissism."

"There's nothing more maddening than debating someone who doesn't know history, doesn't read books, and frames their myopia as virtue," the Captain America actor tweeted. "The level of unapologetic conjecture I've encountered lately isn't just frustrating, it's retrogressive, unprecedented and absolutely terrifying."

Matt Damon was last minute

Matt Damon looks like a Brett Kavanaugh-type from central casting, but according to Vulture, the choice to cast the Oscar-winner in the role of the hot-headed and controversial Supreme Court pick was the farthest thing from planned — it came down to the last minute. According to sources, "it was reportedly co-head writer Colin Jost's idea to have Damon play Kavanaugh," and the actor agreed "sometime after midnight on Friday night." From there, Damon took a flight from California to New York City where he arrived at SNL's 30 Rock studio to begin rehearsals at 4 pm, leaving him "less than eight hours before it aired on live television."

Throw in former cast member Rachel Dratch as the mild-mannered Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Kate McKinnon as the fiery Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Cecily Strong as the 14-term Sen. Dianne Feinstein from California, and you had the makings of a hilarious and legendary Saturday Night Live cold open.

But Matt Damon?

Matt Damon playing Brett Kavanaugh in SNL's cold open was a viral sensation, but we have to wonder if he was the right choice considering the allegations against the Supreme Court nominee. Two months after The New York Times and The New Yorker both published bombshell reports of Harvey Weinstein sexually harassing and assaulting more than a dozen women, Damon appeared on ABC's Popcorn, a podcast hosted by film critic Peter Travers. 

Per ABC News, Damon referenced "a spectrum of behavior" regarding sexual misconduct that should be taken into account when evaluating men who are facing allegations. "There's a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?" the actor whose career has been largely credited to Harvey Weinstein said. "Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn't be conflated, right?" He continued, "We live in this culture of outrage and injury, and, you know, that we're going to have to correct enough to kind of go, 'Wait a minute. None of us came here perfect.'"

His comments on the burgeoning #MeToo movement received quick backlash. His Good Will Hunting co-star Minnie Driver tweeted, "God God, SERIOUSLY?" In an interview with The Guardian that same week, Driver elaborated that men "simply cannot understand what abuse is like on a daily level," and called it "galling when a powerful man steps up and starts dictating the terms, whether he intends it or not."

Did Alyssa Milano have a change of heart?

After Matt Damon's appearance on ABC's Popcorn, #MeToo activist Alyssa Milano addressed him directly on Twitter. "Dear Matt Damon, It's the micro that makes the macro. (Thread)," she tweeted. "We are in a 'culture of outrage' because the magnitude of rage is, in fact, overtly outrageous. And it is righteous," she continued. "I have been a victim of each component of the sexual assault spectrum of which you speak. They all hurt. And they are all connected to a patriarchy intertwined with normalized, accepted–even welcomed– misogyny," she revealed

"We are not outraged because someone grabbed our asses in a picture. We are outraged because we were made to feel this was normal," Milano explained. "We are outraged because we have been gaslighted. We are outraged because we were silenced for so long." She continued, "There are different stages of cancer. Some more treatable than others. But it's still cancer." 

In closing, she said, "Sexual harassment, misconduct, assault and violence is a systemic disease. The tumor is being cut out right now with no anesthesia. Please send flowers. However, during the premiere Milano simply tweeted, '#SNL," along with the above screenshot, seemingly indicating that she enjoyed her shout out during the Damon sketch.