25 Behind the Scenes Stories from SNL


There are two types of backstage SNL stories: the ones everyone knows and the ones we’re just hearing about because everyone is either dead, over it, or the statutes of limitations have run out. Unless your Internet was down in early 2016, you couldn’t miss Kanye’s epic backstage rant where he compared himself to Stanley Kubrick, Picasso, and the Apostle Paul. But there are some hidden Saturday Night Live stories you must learn about because they are juicy, strange, and in some cases disturbing.

Let’s delve into the secrets, scandals, feuds, and tea spilling of the SNL cast old and new and see what’s rattling around in the closet over at Studio 8H.


Kanye West’s Epic Backstage Meltdown
Kanye doesn’t disappoint when it comes to full on crazy churlish rants. Just before air on SNL in February of 2016, West lost it because the stage was moved. As the musical guest, he had a right to be concerned, but claiming that he’s more popular, by 50% and dead or alive, than Picasso, Stanley Kubrick, Escobar, and the Apostle Paul while slamming Taylor Swift is just, well, so Kanye.
Tina Fey’s Horrible Discovery: Male Writers Peed in Cups and Jars
In a New Yorker piece, Fey revealed this horror in her usual style. “The bathroom, I should point out, was about as far away as you are from this magazine. I started to feel as if I were from space.” Once she knew this was a thing at SNL, she began to see a pattern: there were cups everywhere.

Next, she made an even more horrifying discovery. “In the Weekend Update offices—which were like the smarter but meaner older brother of the regular writers’ offices—there weren’t any cups. There was a jar. It was a jar of p*ss with a lid on it, and, judging by its consistency, I suspect that the writers sometimes spat into it. Or that one of them was terribly ill. You could see it when you came in the door, backlit by the afternoon sun, and at first I thought it was a test. If you saw the p*ss jar and dared to ignore it and continue into the room, you were welcomed. ‘Welcomed’ is too strong a word. You were… one of the guys? Nope, you know what? I’m just projecting. It couldn’t have been a test, because they really didn’t give a f*ck whether you came into the room or not.”

Seth Meyers Frowned Upon Norm MacDonald’s Eddie Murphy Story
SNL alum MacDonald took to Twitter to reveal why Eddie Murphy (who was going to play Bill Cosby) wasn’t in the Jeopardy sketch as part of 2015’s SNL 40 special. Murphy apparently backed out at the last minute, not wanting to take on the whole Cosby thing. Meyers didn’t think MacDonald should have talked about it.

“I wouldn’t have told it. I feel the same way. I think when you’re at SNL, you’re seeing so many different things behind the scenes. I get that the world wants to hear everything going on back there… People have for years been making choices when they get interviewed about SNL about how much to give away. There are often things to give away that are yours to give away. Norm played it in a way that is very Norm MacDonald, and I couldn’t be a bigger Norm MacDonald fan. I think those who loved Norm were probably very happy.”

Tina Fey Refused to Do a Two-Shot with Sarah Palin

Fey hated “sneaker uppers,” bits where the person the cast member is impersonating joins them onstage. She was also quite clearly not a fan of Palin. So when she was asked to do a sneaker upper with Palin on SNL, Fey refused to be in the two-shot. They worked around this by having Palin talking to Lorne backstage, watching Fey as Palin on a monitor. The audience got their jollies from Alec Baldwin walking up to Palin and cracking a joke instead of tearing her to pieces and devouring her.

The show was one of the highest rated SNL episodes to date.

Paul McCartney Did a Stefon Impression in Front of Bill Hader
At a party, McCartney told Hader that his daughter Stella had an assistant just like Stefon. “He put his hands over his mouth like Stefon, and my wife… went ‘Oh my God! Paul McCartney is doing your character to you,’” Hader recalls. “Robin Williams did the same thing… I was like, ‘Thank you very much. That’s bonkers.’”
President Obama Got to Shoot Down a TV Funhouse Episode
Lorne Michaels is probably one of only a few people who can ask the president for an opinion on a comedy sketch. The “TV Funhouse” sketch involved racial profiling, and Michaels needed a second opinion. “I showed it to Obama, because if he had any discomfort with it, I didn’t want it to appear,” Michaels says. “We went to one of the back dressing rooms and watched it. He said, ‘It’s funny, but no, I don’t think so,’ and I went, ‘Okay.’ So we took it off.”
Jimmy Fallon Dishes on the SNL 40 After Party

On an episode of his Tonight Show, a seemingly hungover Fallon talked about the crazy star-studded SNL 40 special and meeting Eddie Murphy, Jack Nicholson, Sir Paul McCartney, Chris Rock, and Jerry Seinfeld, to name a few. That’s cool enough, but things got epic at the after party at The Plaza when Fallon encountered and sand with legends from McCartney to Prince. The clip is long, but well worth it as Fallon still cannot believe what happened that night.

There also tons of pics and tweets from that night, which you can see here.

Belushi Broke Up a Near Fist Fight Between Chase and Murray

Chevy Chase notoriously and abruptly left the show only six episodes into the second season. Bill Murray was called up to replace him. When Chase returned to host (the first cast member to do so), he was a nightmare according to a few of his former cast members, refusing to work with Jane Curtin on “Weekend Update,” shooting down script ideas, and other general jerk behavior.

Bill Murray had had enough of Chase’s antics and confronted him about an hour before the live show. Chase later stormed into Belushi’s dressing room, where Murray had gone, to challenge him to a fist fight. Belushi had to get between them and break it up.

Victoria Jackson Gave the Cast Bible Audio Cassettes, They Were Returned

Jackson, a right wing conservative Christian, saw it as her duty to “save” her fellow SNL cast members. Once, she put Bible audio cassettes sets in her fellow cast members’ mail slots at Studio 8H. It did not go over well and all of the box sets were “angrily” returned. Jackson’s response was, “Maybe I’m overcompensating, because everybody here is dying and going to hell, and I’m supposed to tell them about Jesus.”

Staff writer, and later Democratic senator, Al Franken never spoke to her again.

Larry David Was Not Very Well-Liked
David was a staff writer for one season and didn’t seem to get along with anyone. He even heckled Michael McKean from backstage during air. David did get one thing out of it, though. He connected with cast member Julia Louis-Dreyfus, whom he later cast as Elaine on Seinfeld.
  1. 13

    John Belushi Didn’t Think Women Were Funny

    Belushi’s widow said he changed his mind later, but during his run on SNL, he refused to do any of the sketches written by the women writers. He was equally unimpressed with the other women cast members. Interesting, as Gilda Radner lobbied hard to get him on SNL.
  2. 14

    Norm MacDonald Didn’t Think Chris Kattan Was Funny

    MacDonald seemed to have it in for Kattan in general and told Rolling Stone in 1997, “I don’t know, but to me he seems gay… He claims he’s not, but I’ve never seen, like, a guy who’s not gay seem so gay. I don’t find him funny. What can I say? Never made me laugh.”

    Kattan countered with, ‘Norm gives me a hard time… If Norm says I’m gay, then put in that I say he’s an assh*le.” They often clashed during rehearsals and Kattan was not on the show during MacDonald’s return to host.

  3. 15

    Sarah Silverman Stabbed Al Franken in the Temple

    During a rewrite session, Silverman thought it would be funny to stab Franken’s hair with a sharp pencil. “I was just kind of like a million miles away looking at his hair. The whole table has really sharpened pencils, like super sharp… and in my mind, I just thought, I’m gonna like stab this [pencil] through his hair. But what everyone saw, because this is what happened, was that I just stabbed him really hard. Because I was going to go through his hair in my mind but it just went in his temple. He screamed something like, ‘WHY?’… I somehow wasn’t asked back for the next season.”
  4. 16

    Molly Shannon Would Get Pretty Beat Up During the Show

    Shannon thinks Mary Katherine Gallagher is still a solid antithesis for the struggle for perfection. “I don’t like perfect girls,” Shannon told me. “I have a daughter, and I don’t like her watching perfect girls on TV. It’s not real. Mary Katherine was a real little girl who made mistakes and was awkward and fell down and hurt herself. And, yes, I would hurt myself, by the way. I’d get bruised and cut up, but because of the adrenaline, I never felt it until Sunday.”
  5. 17

    Steven Seagal Was Disliked by EVERYONE

    The writers had to deal with him pitching a sketch about him being a rape counselor who’s trying to sleep with his patients. His episode bombed all around with the audience, the cast, and viewers. Robert Blake was also considered to be a trying experience.
    The Infamous Chevy Chase Gay Bashing of Terry Sweeney

    Sweeney was openly gay and a target for Chase. Chase thought it would be funny at the height of the AIDS epidemic to make this joke, “He should be weighed every week to see if he has AIDS.”

    Outraged, Lorne Michaels made Chase apologize to Sweeney. “He was really furious that he had to apologize to me,” Sweeney has said.

    Fey’s “B*tches Get Stuff Done” Comment Was a Hit with Hillary and Bill

    In a now legendary “Weekend Update” from 2008, Fey and Poehler let it be known that “b*tch is the new black.” The duo were a force at SNL and didn’t shy away from such messages as “b*tches get stuff done,” in defense of Hillary Clinton.

    Clinton and the former president called Fey to thank her for the shoutout.

    That Time Eddie Murphy Irritated the Entire Cast

    Nick Nolte drank too much the night before he was supposed to host and had to back out. Murphy, Nolte’s 48 Hours co-star hosted for him, marking the only time a cast member had hosted while on the show. In his opening monologue, Murphy explained that Nolte was “sick” and couldn’t host, closing with, “Live from New York, it’s the Eddie Murphy Show.”

    The rest of the cast was not happy at all.

    Pharoah’s Slip to the Press About a Black Female Cast Member Was an Accident

    Pharoah opened up a debate about the lack of black women on SNL when he said, “They need to pay attention,” Pharoah told theGrio back in 2013. “Her name is Darmirra Brunson… Why do I think she should be on the show? Because she’s black first of all, and she’s really talented. She’s amazing. She needs to be on SNL. I said it. And I believe they need to follow up with it like they said they were going to do last year.”

    Lorne Michaels came to Pharoah’s defense. “Literally, Jay didn’t know it was a reporter,” Michaels said.

    After a Record Number of Seasons, Darrell Hammond’s Run Ended with a Whimper

    Hammond put in 14 seasons on SNL by 2009. On his last show, he got bupkiss as far as a proper send off. “When I did my last show, it wasn’t even acknowledged,” he said. “No one ever really consulted me, partially because I don’t know anything about how to put a show like that together.”

    Of the The Best of Darrell Hammond DVD, the man who made us rethink Sean Connery said, “It really was the worst of Darrell Hammond.”

    Bill Hader Did Not Enjoy Working with Justin Bieber
    When Bill Hader doesn’t like you, you should probably have a talk with your god about what’s up. “I really didn’t enjoy having Justin Bieber around,” Hader said of Bieber’s 2013 hosting gig. “He’s the only one who lived up to his reputation. I think that’s the only time I felt that way in eight years here.”
    The Clueless Host Who Left a Sketch Early
    Nasim Pedrad tells a story about the host who left a sketch too soon and had no idea. “I had a host accidentally leave our sketch before it was over. The host left early by a minute and a half without even realizing it! The sketch awkwardly faded to black in the middle of one of our lines, and the whole thing was a mess. My favorite part was the host sweetly came up to me during the goodbyes and was like, ‘Hey, we did it!’ And I did not have the heart to tell him that we certainly did not.” She didn’t reveal who the host was.
    When Chevy Chase Returned to Host, He Was Awful, Got Banned

    Chase had a reputation from day one on SNL as being egomaniacal and vicious. There’s even a comprehensive list of the people Chevy Chase has p*ssed off and the circumstances surrounding the ire. Among the irritated are several SNL cast members, who offered their quick takes on Chase when he returned to host during 1985-1986 season.

    After watching Chase’s behavior, (including screaming at people, slapping Cheri Oteri, and telling a female writer, “maybe you could give me a hand job later”), Will Ferrell said, “I don’t know if he was on something or what. If he took too many back pills that day or something.” Tim Meadows recounted that it was “like watching a car accident over and over again just watching him deal with people.” After slapping Oteri “out of fun,” Chase was banned from hosting, but did make some cameos afterwards.

    Jason Sudeikis Didn’t Even Say Goodbye
    When Sudeikis left SNL in 2013, he faded into the night like a weary ghost. Sukeikis didn’t make it a secret that he wanted to leave, but the cast and crew were truly shocked when he simply faded into the background and didn’t have a goodbye sketch.