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26 Behind the Scenes Stories from SNL

Updated July 22, 2020 394.7k views26 items

Even if you’re not exactly up on the latest season of Saturday Night Live, chances are you’ve heard at least a couple of SNL stories. You never know what you’re going to get when you mix comedians, drugs, egomania, alcohol, huge stars, and live TV. Sometimes Prince shows up at your after party, sometimes somebody gets stabbed, and sometimes Chevy Chase happens.  

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.
  • Seth Meyers Frowned Upon Norm MacDonald’s Eddie Murphy Story

    Photo: flickr / CC0
    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

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

    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

    Photo: flickr / CC0
    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

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
    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."