After all, it’s not like SNL is above hosting powerful people. Beyond the previously noted Donald Trump appearance, SNL also hosted Steve Forbes a quarter-century ago
at a time when Forbes was getting a lot of attention for pitching the concept of a “flat tax” during the 1996 presidential campaign. (He lost. SNL was his consolation prize.)
But that appearance bit the show the because they also booked Rage Against the Machine the same night, and the show decided that RATM’s upside-down flags just couldn’t appear on air
, leading to an apparent incident where bassist Tim Commerford went into Forbes’ dressing room and threw ripped-up pieces of the flag at Forbes’ entourage. You know, stuff that’s more entertaining than the show itself probably was.
But I think the incident that really sticks with me around SNL and banned performers is The Replacements. They were arguably as unpolished as Musk was—but that was literally their thing, a style they were famous for long before they signed to a major label—and when they appeared on stage for their two songs, they really pissed off Lorne Michaels.
As the solo break approached, Westerberg shouted toward Bob, just off mic: “Come on, fucker.” The epithet, delivered as he turned his head, slipped past the censors. “It wasn’t really something I planned,” he said. “It was more me saying to Bob, ‘Let’s give it to ’em with everything we got.‘”
Quickly, however, the show’s producers realized that an obscenity had gone out live on the air. Producer Al Franken, standing in front of the band and gripping a clipboard, began to frown. Westerberg gave him an exaggerated vaudeville wink.
After Mars bashed out the climactic machine-gun coda, “Bastards” careened to a halt. Tommy and Paul bowed comically. Bob followed with a backward somersault, revealing a tear in the seat of his outfit — his bare ass flashed briefly on-screen. The crowd, packed with ‘Mats partisans, cheered wildly. Most people in the studio audience had missed Westerberg’s obscenity. But Lorne Michaels hadn’t.