Saturday Night Live begins its 38th season this weekend, with host Seth MacFarlane and musical guest Frank Ocean. (Consider this your reminder that we’ll have a recap up Sunday morning.) There’s been a large turnover since last season ended with the cast, Mick Jagger, Arcade Fire, and the Foo Fighters singing “She’s a Rainbow” to Kristen Wiig, who departed along with Abby Elliott and Andy Samberg. They’ve all had largely nice things to say about their time working on SNL since leaving, but that hasn’t always been the case. There’s been plenty of fussin’ and fightin’ amongst cast members, writers, guest stars, the network, and (especially) Lorne Michaels since the sketch series first aired in 1975. Here are 10 of the most bitter behind-the-scenes feuds.
Chris Kattan vs. Norm Macdonald
In November 1997, Mr. Macdonald talked about his feelings toward Mr. Kattan in an interview with Rolling Stone: “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.”
In the same article, Mr. Kattan responded: “Norm gives me a hard time…If Norm says I’m gay, then put in that I say he’s an asshole.”
While the in-print bickering made for good copy, people who were around Saturday Night Live when both Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Kattan were cast members said it carried over into the show. “They had a very acrimonious relationship,” said a source connected to SNL. “Norm would rip [Mr. Kattan] to his face. Norm’s a weird guy. If he doesn’t like someone, he’ll say it to his face.” (Via)
Winner: What, Chris Kattan seems gay? In that outfit? In one sense, Norm’s comments made perfect sense (again, see the Mango outfit), but in all other senses, the hell is he talking about? What does seeming gay have to do with being funny? Still, because he’s Norm Macdonald, who’s almost always hilarious, and not Chris Kattan, who’s rarely if ever funny, Norm wins. Then again, I haven’t seen Delgo in awhile…
Chevy Chase vs. Bill Murray
Chevy Chase had left the show to pursue a movie career, and when he returned to host an episode, his jilted castmates asked Murray to confront him backstage. As legend has it, insults were thrown (“Medium talent!” being Murray’s rumoured slight of choice) and so were fists.
“It was really a Hollywood fight, a ‘Don’t touch my face!’ kind of thing,” recalls Murray with a smile. “Chevy is a big man, I’m not a small guy, and we were separated by my brother Brian [Doyle-Murray], who comes up to my chest. So it was kind of a non-event. It was just the significance of it. It was an Oedipal thing, a rupture. Because we all felt mad he had left us, and somehow I was the anointed avenging angel, who had to speak for everyone. But Chevy and I are friends now. It’s all fine.” (Via)
Winner: They’re allegedly friends now (or at least friendly), but I’m not going to declare a winner until Murray makes a guest appearance on Community as Jeff’s dad. Is it weird that I want to see that more than Annie and Britta go full CJ and Abby? Didn’t think so.
Victoria Jackson vs. Everyone
In the 2002 book Live From New York, an oral history of the show, castmate Jan Hooks sniped: “I just have a particular repulsion to grown women who talk like little girls. It’s like: ‘You’re a grown woman! Use your lower register!'” (Victoria, by the way, claims her weird voice is the result of a medical defect: a “congenital palatal insufficiency.”)
“Look, I’m not qualified for this,” Victoria recalls thinking. “Maybe this is my mission field. I’m supposed to tell my cast members about Jesus!”
But Hartman didn’t want to talk about the Son of God. And Lovitz asked how Jesus, “a grown man,” could have fit in his mother’s womb to be born again. When Victoria left audiocassette box sets of the Bible in each castmate’s mail slot for Christmas, they were angrily returned.
Writer and performer Al Franken, now a Democratic U.S. senator for Minnesota, cornered her once, Victoria says. He said he was “offended” by her “ditzy” act. “Maybe I’m overcompensating,” she retorted, “because everybody here is dying and going to hell, and I’m supposed to tell them about Jesus.”
Franken went white, she says. “He never talked to me again.” (Via)
Winner: Everyone. She nearly ruins the otherwise-perfect UHF.
Al Franken vs. NBC
Another Franken sketch, “A Limo for the Lamo”, had a dramatic effect on SNL. Aired in 1980, it was a blistering on-air attack on NBC President Fred Silverman, with Franken calling Silverman “a total unequivocal failure” while holding up a graph showing the network’s prime time ratings plummeting. Silverman didn’t laugh at all, and reportedly started treating Michaels like crap, leading to Michaels’ departure from SNL at the season’s end — along with the entire cast. (Via)
Winner: While at NBC, Silverman had a hand in developing Hill Street Blues, The David Letterman Show, Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, Cheers, and later in life, through his own production company, Matlock, Jake and the Fatman, and Diagnosis: Murder. Franken became a United States senator. The winner, obviously, is Jake and the Fatman, I mean, Silverman.
Nora Dunn vs. Andrew Dice Clay
The Diceman (whose real name is Andrew Silverstein) is hardly surprised by such reactions anymore. His humor has drawn complaints from women, gays and other groups that have been its targets, and last year Clay was banned for life from MTV for ignoring a pledge to forgo profanity. Some of the offended have retaliated; a West Hollywood billboard with his picture was recently defaced by a group calling itself Activists Against Sexist Pigs. And two weeks ago both Saturday Night Live cast member Nora Dunn and Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor both refused to appear with him when he was SNL‘s guest host. The pair’s protest, however, stirred up so much publicity that SNL got a huge ratings boost, and the controversial comic wound up with his biggest audience yet. (Via)
Winner: No one? Dunn has appeared in a number of impressive movies and TV shows — Pineapple Express, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Zoolander, Futurama, Pushing Daisies — but usually in tiny roles, if not characters that go by “British Designer” instead of an actual name. The Diceman continues to be a farting nicotine stain on the art form known as stand-up comedy, though he will be in Woody Allen’s next movie, alongside Cate Blanchett, Louis C.K., and Alec Baldwin. But if I had to name a winner, I’d go with Dunn, simply because Andrew Dice Clay is awful, you bunch of f*cking smelly, d*ck-loving baboons. OH.