Hosts SNL Didn't Like Working With

With its 50th anniversary taking place in 2024, there's no denying that "Saturday Night Live" has become nothing less than a television institution. Hundreds of episodes have aired since its debut in 1975, pretty much all of them live from New York! Each of those episodes has featured a celebrity host, typically an actor or comedian, but the show's eclectic roster has also included politicians, athletes, musicians, and, on one odd occasion, an elderly woman named Miskel Spillman who wound up hosting because she entered a contest. 

While some "SNL" hosts become legendary fan favorites who return multiple times (Tom Hanks, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin spring to mind), there have also been those who never quite jived with the show, for whatever reason. Sometimes, that reason was that they were simply unwilling to go with the flow and immerse themselves in the "SNL" experience; Instead plowing forward with the stubborn insistence that they knew comedy better than the show's actors, writers, and longtime executive producer Lorne Michaels — which, time and time again, has proved to be a recipe for TV disaster.

The people behind the scenes who've had to deal with these problem children have spilled the beans on various occasions and continue to do so as the show's fifth decade looms. Whether it's their giant ego or inextinguishable nerves, there have been plenty of hosts who left a bad taste in the mouths of the "SNL" cast, writers, and crew.

Chevy Chase's return to SNL nearly led to a fistfight

Chevy Chase became the breakout star of "Saturday Night Live" — likely due to his pioneering character as the host of Weekend Update — after he decided to leave the program after Season 1. When Chase returned to host in the series' second season, he faced lingering resentments from his former cast mates. Chief among them was a jealous John Belushi, who retaliated by griping about Chase to his replacement, Bill Murray. Belushi wound up Murray, who reportedly came to blows with Chase seconds before he was supposed to start his monologue.

"It was difficult the first year I went back to host," Chase recalled in an interview with Vanity Fair. "And I'm sure Billy wanted to take me down, you know. So Billy and I got into a kind of a preliminary fistfight that never really came to fruition, but came close. And it happened just before I went on the air." Murray's recollection of what took place corroborated what Chase described. "That was because I was the new guy, and it was sort of like my job to do that," Murray told the publication. "It's almost like I was goaded into that. You know, I think everybody was hoping for it. I think they resented Chevy for leaving."

Years later, Murray downplayed his fisticuffs with Chase. "It was really a Hollywood fight," he expressed to Empire. "A 'Don't touch my face!' kind of thing."

SNL alum Bill Murray 'hated' the cast when he hosted

After Bill Murray exited the cast of "Saturday Night Live" in 1980, he wound up returning to host a few times over the years. One of those hosting gigs proved to be wildly uncomfortable for the cast members, as "SNL" alum Rob Schneider recalled during a 2022 appearance on SiriusXM's "The Jim Norton & Sam Roberts Show."

"He wasn't very nice to us," Schneider said of Murray's treatment of the cast when he hosted the show in 1993. "He hated us on 'Saturday Night Live' when he hosted. Absolutely hated us, seething." Schneider remembered that Murray was especially irked by Chris Farley. While he wasn't quite sure why, Schneider theorized that Murray wasn't impressed by Farley emulating his former "SNL" cast member and friend, John Belushi's, live-fast, die-young lifestyle — which ultimately led both men to die from drug overdoses at the age of 33. "That's my interpretation, but I don't really know," Schneider noted.

While Farley may have borne the brunt of Murray's disdain, he had plenty to go around for the rest of the cast, including comedian Adam Sandler. "He just hated, like, all of us, pretty much," Schneider said, but jokingly added, "The least of the hate was to me [and] I took great pleasure in that he hated me less, because he's my hero."

Paris Hilton refused to speak with the SNL cast

Paris Hilton hosted "Saturday Night Live" in 2005, as her Fox reality show, "The Simple Life," was peaking in popularity. Not only was she declared to be one of the all-time worst hosts by Rolling Stone, but that opinion was also shared by members of the cast. During an appearance on "The Howard Stern Show" (via Far Out), Tina Fey shared her blunt assessment of Hilton. "She's a piece of s***," Fey declared. "She's so dumb, and she's so proud of how dumb she is." 

The former "SNL" head writer claimed that Hilton refused numerous sketches proposed by the writers. "She was like, 'Oh, I'm not doing it,' and wouldn't come out of her dressing room." Instead, according to Fey, Hilton offered her own ideas. "She would make fun of all the girls she hates," Fey explained. "She'd said, 'I wanna play Jessica Simpson because I hate her. You should write a sketch about Jessica Simpson; she's so fat.'"

Meanwhile, Fey's former "SNL" co-stars, Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph, appeared together on "Late Night with Seth Meyers," where they revealed Meyers had made a Hilton-related wager. "So, no one could really get Paris Hilton, our host, to engage in any personal conversation," Rudolph recalled. "We realized she hadn't asked any of us a personal question and [Meyers] said, 'The first person she asks a personal question, I'll give a hundred bucks.' Didn't ask one person."

Justin Bieber was dubbed the 'worst-behaved' host

Justin Bieber hosted "Saturday Night Live" back in February 2013, and members of the cast were not left with warm memories of their week spent with the Canadian pop star. That came straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak, when cast members Bill Hader and Jay Pharoah — both survivors of Bieber's hosting stint — appeared together on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen." 

When a caller asked them to identify the "worst-behaved" host, there was no hesitation. "I mean, we both know, dog," Pharoah told Hader. "Yeah," Hader agreed, "it was Bieber." According to Hader, Bieber seemed to be not in a good headspace at the time he hosted. "Maybe he's in a better place, but back then he was in a very ... it was rough." In fact, Hader pointed out that most celebrities have a tendency to exhibit their best behavior during an "SNL" hosting week — which definitely wasn't the case with Bieber. "Bieber is the only one in my experience ... he just seemed like exhausted or just at the end of a rope."

Hader doubled down on his assessment in the book, "Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live" (via the New York Post). "I really didn't enjoy having Justin Bieber around," Hader said. "He's the only one who lived up to the reputation. I think that's the only time I felt that way in eight years."

Louise Lasser's personal struggles influenced her SNL performance

Louise Lasser was reportedly the first host to be banned from "Saturday Night Live." Hosting in the series' first season, Lasser was at the apex of fame thanks to her role in "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," producer Norman Lear's five-nights-a-week satire spoofing soap operas. As it happened, Lasser was charged with cocaine possession mere weeks before her "SNL" obligation.

Her monologue, even by "SNL" standards, was very weird, with Lasser rambling about her fear of being on live television, pretending to forget her lines, and then fleeing the stage and locking herself in her dressing room. Later in the show, she sat on the stage, and addressed the elephant in the room by discussing her arrest. So, was her monologue meltdown the real deal, or a brilliantly executed piece of performance art? There are differing accounts about that. According to Far Out, Lasser reportedly refused to appear in sketches alongside anyone but Chevy Chase, but Lasser herself offered a somewhat different account in a 2013 interview with The Toast.

"They wrote sketches for me and I didn't want to do them, because they were salacious," Lasser said, explaining that while the monologue was staged, it reflected the actual struggles she was experiencing. She also confirmed that Lorne Michaels was not pleased. "He didn't like the whole episode," Lasser admitted. "He didn't like me sitting there talking about it, cross-legged, on the floor, talking about getting arrested."

Adrien Brody went embarrassingly off-script

Adrien Brody hosted "Saturday Night Live" in 2003, hot off winning his first Oscar for "The Pianist." Brody was clearly eager to show off his comedic side, something that went horribly wrong when he apparently went off-script to announce his episode's musical guest, Sean Paul. Wearing a dreadlock wig and mimicking Jamaican Patois, Brody launched into a 40-second bit, babbling about Jamaica, respect, and repeatedly saying, "Yeah mon!"

Rumors later emerged claiming that the stunt had earned Brody a lifetime ban from "SNL," something he couldn't confirm while interviewed by HuffPost. "I've heard that, but I don't know," Brody said, insisting there was no truth to reports that "SNL" creator Lorne Michaels furiously chewed him out backstage after his stunt. "No, nothing like that," Brody said, declaring he'd love to host again. "I had a great time."

Meanwhile, the That Week In SNL account claimed on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Brody hadn't gone rogue and had done the exact some bit during the dress rehearsal. A follow-up tweet from the same account offered more details about what had allegedly gone down. "I'm fairly sure it was Tina Fey that said [Brody] came in with a BUNCH of awful sketch ideas and this was the only thing they allowed him to do."

Milton Berle refused to take acting notes from the SNL crew

Milton Berle pretty much invented television comedy back in the 1950s, taking comedy routines he honed in Vaudeville to this new medium, and ultimately becoming one of its biggest stars. When Berle was invited to host "Saturday Night Live" back in 1979, executive producer Lorne Michaels immediately realized it was a mistake. 

"I knew we were heading for disaster from minute one," Michaels said in the book, "Live From New York." Berle essentially took over the show, ignoring direction and hamming it up. Writer Rosie Shuster kept telling him to tone down his performance so it wasn't so broad or upstaging his fellow actors. "Of course he went even broader, if that was possible," she said. "It was sort of like watching a comedy train accident in slow motion on a loop."

The coup de grace, however, was Berle's insistence to Michaels on ending the show with a musical rendition of "September Song," for which he was greeted with a standing ovation — from the 10 people he'd invited to the show, who rose to their feet, just as he'd instructed them to. This episode has never been rerun or rebroadcast, by the edict of Michaels, who was furious with Berle hijacking his show. In fact, the first time the episode was able to be seen at all was when it was included when the first five seasons were released on DVD.

Robert Blake was rude to the writing staff

Robert Blake had experienced a long Hollywood career by the time he hosted "Saturday Night Live" in 1982, having been a child star in the "Our Gang" movies before graduating to adult roles in the film, "In Cold Blood," and the hit TV cop show, "Baretta." The tough-guy shtick viewers saw on television was something that Blake brought to "SNL," which did not endear him to the show's writers. Interviewed for the book "Live From New York," former "SNL" writer David Sheffield recalled being in the room when Blake was handed a sketch called "Breezy Philosopher," written by cast member and writer Gary Kroeger. 

In the sketch, Blake was to have played a tough biker teaching philosophy to a group of students. "Blake sat there and read that, with his glasses down his nose," Sheffield recalled. "Then wadded it up, turned to Kroeger, and said, 'I hope you got a tough a***ole, pal, 'cause you're going to have to wipe your a** with that one.' And he threw it and bounced it off Gary's face." Blake was subsequently never invited back to the show, with his little stunt reportedly earning him an unofficial "SNL" ban.

Donald Trump had no sense of humor, according to the cast

Donald Trump has hosted "Saturday Night Live" twice, first in 2004 and again in 2015. His first time as host was no doubt the result of NBC corporate synergy, given that "The Apprentice" had become a TV hit for the network. Working with Trump, however, was hardly a joy for the cast. "I remember when Trump hosted for the first time for 'The Apprentice,' and we, as a cast, were like, 'F***. This sucks. I don't want to be here for this,'" Maya Rudolph told Vanity Fair.

Seth Meyers also recalled Trump's first time as host. "It was fascinating to be around him," Meyers said during an appearance on "The Howard Stern Show." "He was everything you would think. He didn't have any sense of humor, but if things worked, he liked them." 

Trump's second hosting stint proved to be far more controversial, given that he was in the midst of what would ultimately become a successful run for the presidency. In fact, Trump was met with protests outside the "SNL" offices at 30 Rock, which then-cast member Taran Killam remembered well. "We could hear the protests during our table read," Killam told NPR. "As we're reading 40 mediocre sketches, we just hear, 'No Trump! Donald Trump!' ... I am embarrassed, upon reflection, just because of how everyone was right. Every person outside of that building protesting was absolutely right."

Walter Matthau didn't take the SNL time crunch seriously

Walter Matthau was of an older generation than the young cast of "Saturday Night Live" when the star of classic films such as "The Odd Couple" and "Hello Dolly!" hosted in 1978. During an appearance on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen," original "SNL" cast member Jane Curtin was asked to single out the worst "SNL" host during her five seasons with the show. 

"God, there were so many," Curtin said, before finally zeroing in on Matthau. "I had a hard time with Walter Matthau," Curtin recalled. "He came in thinking that it was, 'Hey, come on, let's play, let's do all ...' Not knowing that this show was down to the minute. Down to the second. Everything had to be concise." Curtin took Matthau's nonchalant attitude as an insult to herself and the other actors on the show. "It was disrespecting our space," she expressed. "It really pissed me off."

Frank Zappa treated his hosting duties with disdain

If there was ever a host that — on paper, at least — seemed to be a perfect fit for "Saturday Night Live," it was Frank Zappa. The guitarist and composer had long been a rock music iconoclast, whose scathingly satirical songs often skewered corporate media of the era in much the same way that "SNL" did.

So why did Zappa — who hosted in 1978 – wind up as one of the show's worst-ever hosts? "When he arrived he immediately started giving orders," Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad wrote in their 2014 book "Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live" (via Ultimate Classic Rock). "Al Franken remembers Zappa saying things like: 'Here's some ideas. I want to have pumpkins hanging on a Christmas tree, pumpkins that eat people's faces. Pull that together by Saturday.'"

Cast member Don Novello — best known for playing Father Guido Sarducci on the show — recalled how it all went so wrong. "The Frank Zappa show was like one of the worst ever," Novello said in the book, "Live From New York," recalling that the dress rehearsal had gone disastrously. As a result, Zappa decided to break the fourth wall, informing viewers he was reading from cue cards and delivering deadpan line readings that made a mockery of the whole show. "The approach he took was, he read the cards like he was reading the cards — he made a point of it," Novello said. "Lorne [Michaels] was really upset."

Andrew Dice Clay faced opposition from a cast member and musical guest

Believe it or not, Andrew Dice Clay was one of the world's hottest comedians when he hosted "Saturday Night Live" back in 1990. He was also wildly controversial, thanks to his shock humor act, which had been criticized as misogynistic and homophobic. Not surprisingly, "SNL" was engulfed in controversy due to Clay hosting; Cast member Nora Dunn made a public declaration that she was refusing to appear on the show that week, while musical guest Sinead O'Connor likewise backed out.

”I don't want to be associated with him, and I oppose his work,” Dunn told the New York Times. Dunn's former castmate, Jon Lovitz, however, was adamant that Dunn's refusal to appear on the show was a publicity stunt. In his limited podcast series "The ABCs of SNL" (via Uproxx), Lovitz characterized Dunn as being difficult to work with and claimed that she was about to be fired — and knew it — when she took her protest to a gullible media.

Dunn defended her decision in a 2021 interview with Salon. "Lorne said, 'Andrew Dice Clay was a phenomenon worth examining,'" the actor recalled. "Yeah, he was a phenomenon, but if you're going to examine him, he shouldn't be the host, you should write an article. We didn't examine the hosts of 'SNL.' We supported them, we wrote for them, and we made them look good. Otherwise you'd never get a host."

Cast members protested Elon Musk's hosting invitation

Before his takeover of Twitter — which recast him in the eyes of the public as a billionaire comic-book supervillain – Elon Musk was mainly perceived as an overly opinionated, obnoxious rich guy when he was tapped to host "Saturday Night Live" in 2021. While many viewers of the show weren't happy about Musk being invited to host, that also extended to some of the show's cast. Whether that was due to Musk's controversial comments about the COVID-19 vaccine or his ridiculous wealth, several "SNL" stars fomented something of an open rebellion via social media. 

In an Instagram story post (via CNN), cast member Bowen Yang responded to a tweet that Musk had issued about being "SNL" host. "Let's find out just how live Saturday Night Live really is," the SpaceX founder wrote, adding a devil emoji. Yang responded with an emoji of a frowning face, and then reposted Musk's tweet, accompanied by a message of his own: "What the f*** does this even mean?"

Yang's co-star, Aidy Bryant, made her opinion known by retweeting a post from Senator Bernie Sanders, informing that the 50 richest Americans have accumulated more wealth than 165 million Americans combined. "That is a moral obscenity," Sanders wrote. In addition, Andrew Dismukes posted an Instagram story (via CNN) of "SNL" alum Cheri Oteri, along with the caption, "Only CEO I wanna do a sketch with is Cher-E Oteri."

Everybody on SNL couldn't stand Steven Seagal

According to Rolling Stone, Steven Seagal is the No. 1 worst host in "Saturday Night Live" history. That's certainly an opinion shared by members of the cast who worked on his episode, which aired in April 1991, offering their recollections for the book "Live From New York." According to Tim Meadows, Seagal's utter lack of a sense of humor led most of the jokes to go over his head, and he would then complain that he didn't get them. "He just wasn't funny and he was very critical of the cast and the writing staff," Meadows said. 

Cast member Julia Sweeney recalled Seagal pitching his own ideas for sketches, which were decidedly not good. "Some of his sketch ideas were so heinous, but so hilariously awful, it was like we were on 'Candid Camera,'" she recalled. In fact, David Spade claimed that things went so far off the rails that there were legitimate discussions of ditching Seagal and going host-free that week. The late Norm Macdonald summed up his impression of Seagal when he told the New York Daily News, "He didn't want to be on sketches ... Just not a nice guy."

Seagal's "SNL" reputation was sealed in a subsequent episode, hosted by Nicolas Cage. In his monologue, Cage worries that he's coming across as "the biggest jerk who's ever been on the show." Series creator Lorne Michaels, however, steps in to clarify, "No, no. That would be Steven Seagal."