Don’t Make Lorne Mad: Musical Guests Who Were Banned From ‘SNL’

2014 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - Weekend 2 - Day 1
Getty Image / Karl Walter

Fans of The Replacements were disappointed last weekend, when the band’s reunion tour abruptly ended. It was a refreshing reminder of their unpredictability and volatility, which got us thinking about one of the band’s seminal moments: their 1986 appearance on Saturday Night Live. Always known for being loud, sloppy, and not particularly sober, they lived up to that reputation on the SNL stage. They were drunk, forgot the verses to their songs, and guitarist Bob Stinson dropped an f-bomb. They were then promptly banned from the show — although Paul Westerberg did return as a solo artist in 1993. Of course, the Replacements were not the only musical guest to be kicked off the SNL stage. With that in mind, let’s look at six other artists who were banned from Saturday Night Live.

Cypress Hill

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When you book a rap group with a single called “Hits From The Bong,” it can’t be too surprising when one of their members decides to smoke a joint in the middle of a performance. Nonetheless, Lorne Michaels was none too pleased when DJ Muggs decided to light up a joint during the band’s performance of “Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That.” Muggs was angered after SNL specifically told him not to light his joint, and that’s what inspired him to do it. He also trashed a set of conga drums at the end of the performance, but realistically, the weed was probably the big reason for the ban.

Rage Against The Machine

When you book Rage Against the machine as the SNL musical guest, it would seem like a strange idea to pair them with Steve Forbes, who, as a Republican billionaire, is about as close to a human embodiment of The Machine as one can get. The band decided to hang American flags over their amplifiers as a means of protesting Forbes. The flags were removed shortly before the band took the stage to play “Bulls On Parade,” and they were forced to leave the building after their lone performance.

Sinead O’Connor

Probably the most famous example on this. In 1992, after a performance of the song “War,” O’Connor ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II while shouting “fight the real enemy!” The backlash against O’Connor was furious, as she was booed three weeks later at a Bob Dylan tribute concert. Interestingly, O’Connor’s stunt might have distracted people from shots Tim Robbins took at General Electric, owners of NBC, in his monologue. This was certainly one of the most rebellious shows SNL ever did.

Elvis Costello

Lorne is not a big fan of improvisation on his show, and that’s why what Costello did put him through the roof. Costello and the Attractions began playing “Less Than Zero,” then abruptly stopped, saying “there’s no reason to play this song here,” likely because the song’s references to British politics would be lost on American audiences. The band launched into “Radio Radio” instead. Not pleased, Lorne banned them from the show, but it would prove to not be permanent, as Costello would return to SNL in 1989, when “Veronica” gave him the biggest hit of his career. The infamous incident would be referenced at SNL’s 25th anniversary, when Costello interrupted a Beastie Boys performance of “Sabotage,” and played “Radio Radio” with the band.


The legendary punks were booked after John Belushi convinced producer Dick Ebersol to let them on. Things…. did not go well. The band started their second performance by saying “it’s great to be here in Jersey,” which earned them boos from the crowd. They destroyed equipment, bussed in “dancers” for the performance, and played songs with offensive lyrics. As the band was about to play “Let’s Have A War,” their fourth straight song, the song faded into commercial. The band had done $20,000 worth of damage, although singer Lee Ving would tell the New York Post that it was $500,000. Fear may not have been the best choice for SNL, but it’s hard to deny that what they did was pretty punk rock.

Frank Zappa

While undeniably a brilliant musician, Zappa was not particularly popular as the host of SNL in 1978. He made his cue-card-reading gratuitously obvious, and generally hammed things up in a not-particularly likeable way. During the goodnights, the cast made a point of standing as far away from his possible.