Considering the famously small amount of time that goes into preparing each episode, it is always satisfying to see a Saturday Night Live broadcast go off without a hitch. However, sometimes, moments when the host can’t stop laughing are the most enduringly memorable and, additionally, there are some sketches that end up being both terrible and amazing at the same time because of a mistake. The following are some examples of sketches that did not go as planned and we love them all the more for it.
Inside The Beltway (Season 45)
The conceit of the "Inside the Beltway" sketch, framed as a political commentary program, was to have have the camera cut away as the cast members changed costumes for flashback sequences. However, when one of the wardrobe assistants walked on stage a moment too soon, host Woody Harrelson and his co-stars — especially Aidy Bryant — could not hold it together until the end.
Massive Head Wound Harry (Season 17)
At one point in the "Massive Head Wound Harry" sketch — which Timothée Chalamet’s mom is actually in — a dog begins licking at the cracked-open cranium of the title character, played by Dana Carvey. When the adorable pooch starts trying to bite at his prosthetic, Carvey is forced to break character and hold it down before he can snatch it right off of his head.
Chris Farley As Bennett Brauer (Season 19)
Easily the most memorable “Weekend Update” segment featuring Chris Farley as Bennett Brauer is the one that did not end quite the way it was supposed to. A rig that was meant to lift him out of his chair and see him flying off set got caught on one of the studio lights. Kevin Nealon stepped up to help break him loose so the late ’90s SNL icon could soar over the audience.
Extremely Stupid (Season 2)
Future Five-Timer’s Club member Candice Bergen was meant to play the smart one opposite Gilda Radner’s dim-witted Lisa in this faux PSA for the Right to Extreme Stupidity League. However, she turned the tables on herself when she accidentally called Radner by own character’s name, Fern.
Debbie Downer: Disney World (Season 29)
The very first edition of "Debbie Downer" — set during a pancake breakfast at Disney World — is remembered as the funniest because of how quickly and hilariously things got out of hand. After Rachel Dratch (as the aggressively negative title character) spontaneously broke into laughter, the rest of the cast couldn’t help but follow suit. First-time host Lindsay Lohan even walked off set fearing she would get in trouble.
Black History Moment (Season 10)
When Academy Award-nominated SNL star Eddie Murphy returned for his second hosting gig (and first since leaving the show), he proved he still had authority over the set even in the face of a mistake with this famous moment. Both times that he flubs a line during his speech about George Washington Carver, the Beverly Hills Cop: Axel Foley cast member puts the audience in its place for snickering at him.
Girlfriends Game Night (Season 43)
In his second return as host, Bill Hader played an elderly man tagging along with Cecily Strong as his much younger wife to a friendly get-together interrupted when his Cialis starts to kick in. When Hader’s character begins parading around the room in his scooter with Strong still on his lap, indiscriminately bumping into furniture, he and everyone else can’t help but breaking into laughter.
Samurai Stockbroker (Season 2)
While the late John Belushi was usually careful with the very real sword he used when playing his Samurai character, this infamous edition of the recurring sketch is the one exception. While using the weapon to bust a hole through a wall, he accidentally struck host Buck Henry in the forehead. As Far Out recalls, the cast spent the rest of the episode wearing bandages on their faces so he would not be the only one.
The Minstrels Of Newcastle (Season 5)
The F-bomb has been dropped on Studio 8H more times than you might realize and the very first person to make that mistake was David Letterman’s future bandleader and then-member of The Blues Brothers band, Paul Shaffer, when playing a medieval bandleader. For most of the sketch, from SNL’s 100th episode, he successfully manages to use the more innocent word, “flogging,” when scolding Bill Murray’s character about his out-of-sync drumming pattern… until he doesn’t.
Fernando's Hideaway: Mr. T And Hulk Hogan (Season 10)
In this edition of “Fernando’s Hideaway,” starring Billy Crystal as the real-life Fernando Lamas, his guests — wrestling superstars Mr. T and Hulk Hogan, hosting together — begin to laugh at his ad-lib. The Hulkster’s laughter apparently created a bouncing effect on his pectorals, inspiring Crystal to add another a hilarious, unscripted comment without breaking character.
Super Showcase Spokesmodels (Season 37)
While playing models showing Vanessa Bayer’s game show contestant the prizes she lost, Bridesmaids cast members Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph already ensure the sketch’s derailment by laughing through most of their dialogue. Yet, Bill Hader, as the host, appears to break character to point out that Wiig -- crashing a golf cart through a set decoration -- was not in the script either.
Uncle Ben (Season 46)
You can always expect Dave Chappelle to go off-script at some point when he hosts SNL and this 2020 sketch is the most essential example. The comedian causes Pete Davidson, playing Count Chocula, to spit out his vampire fangs after breaking the fourth wall with an eye-opening comment that mentions the Bupkis cast member by name.
Weekend Update: Stefon on Autumn's Hottest Tips (Season 40)
Bill Hader has never been able to make it through a “Stefon” segment without breaking, thanks to John Mulaney’s last-minute cue card additions -- as he revealed to Howard Stern. One of the funniest examples is this edition in which Hader is overcome with uncontrollable laughter over how many times former MTV host Dan Cortese is included in his lines.
H&L Brock 3 (Season 1)
It is unclear exactly why John Belushi starts to snicker during this edition of his recurring parody of tax preparation company, H&R Block. However, the moment he ultimately gives in to the sketch’s derailment is clear from when he pauses to manipulate his face into a childish expression.
Biker Chick Chat (Season 35)
On her very first night as a cast member, Jenny Slate accidentally triggered the censors when she was supposed to say the word “freakin’” but used the NSFW version of the phrase instead. The recurring Parks and Rec cast member later assured that the incident had nothing to do with why she only lasted one season on SNL.
Gift Wrap (Season 43)
Host James Franco plays a gift wrapper with a paper cut so severe, he puts his finger in his mouth to stop the bleeding. When Leslie Jones and Kenan Thompson’s characters show up, Franco spits out the red goo — some of which ended up in Jones’ mouth. She later told Seth Meyers that this almost caused her to vomit on the spot.
The Manuel Ortiz Show: Reunion (Season 35)
If Ana Gasteyer’s entrance in this Spanish talk show parody appears a little awkward, it’s because she had experienced a major wardrobe malfunction just seconds earlier. In fact — according to Playbill — the outfit she ended up wearing for this bit (from the night Betty White hosted) was actually the inner lining of the dress she was supposed to wear before it was ruined during the commercial break.
Court Show (Season 45)
I am convinced that SNL incorporates real animals into their sketches anticipating something will go wrong, just like what happens in the bit about a court show for dogs. The pooches quickly become increasingly difficult for the cast members to control, with the honorable Cecily Strong having an especially hard time holding an unruly bulldog.
Weekend Update: Smokery Farms (Season 44)
We hope that SNL has since chosen to not use actual raw meat in their show for the reason why this “Weekend Update” bit went off the rails. Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant play meat manufacturers presenting a basket of choice cuts that you can tell smelled unbearably bad by their immediate reactions to it.
The Californians: Stuart Has Cancer (Season 37)
One of the funniest instances of SNL stars breaking is shared by Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, and Fred Armisen in the first edition of "The Californians." Hader later shared with Seth Meyers on Late Night that he and Wiig had no idea Armisen would use such a ridiculous accent as Stuart during the live broadcast, explaining their visible inability to hold it together.
Corksoakers (Season 29)
Host and musical guest Janet Jackson luckily catches herself before accidentally uttering the lewd phrase that “cork soaking” is meant to allude to in this 2004 sketch set at an Italian winery. Hats off to Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz for being the ones who manage to keep it together throughout, despite their famous habit of breaking pretty much all the time.
Mr. Monopoly (Season 11)
Before joining the In Living Color cast, Damon Wayans had a brief tenure on SNL that ended when he was fired. He later shared with Comedy Hype that he got the boot after intentionally sabotaging this sketch by going against the script and portraying his character, a police officer, as overly flamboyant.
Whiskers R We With Tiffany Haddish (Season 43)
After her SNL bid was rejected, Tiffany Haddish won an Emmy for hosting a Season 43 episode featuring this edition of a recurring sketch that pairs Kate McKinnon with live cats. After the first of two times that a feline attempts to make an escape, the Haunted Mansion cast member makes an NSFW ad-lib that breaks McKinnon.
Sally (Season 25)
One reason why Ana Gasteyer is an underrated SNL star: her ability to keep this talk show parody sketch going after host Christina Ricci accidentally punched her in the nose for real. The Happiest Season cast member explained on Jenny McCarthy’s Sirius XM show (via SoundCloud) that the accident was the result of the Addams Family star having a calming beverage to help with her nerves.
Fire Dance (Season 10)
As a protective father hypnotizing his daughter’s date (Billy Crystal) with his mesmerizing fireplace, Martin Short accidentally slaps Crystal's wig into a lopsided position. Neither of the comedy legends notice until future Seinfeld star Julia Louis-Dreyfus' giggles clue them in, leading the Only Murders in the Building cast member to briefly break character and fix the issue.
Animal Confession (Season 14)
Emmy winner John Lithgow shows he is a consummate professional — but is not above witty ad-libs — when playing a priest holding a confessional for animals. After one dog barks multiple times as an actor behind the scenes is supposed to be speaking for it, Lithgow gets meta and punishes the canine for not staying quiet during the sketch.
What Up With That?: Samuel L. Jackson & Carrie Brownstein (Season 38)
In retrospect, it’s not too surprising to learn that Samuel L. Jackson is one of the few who dropped the F-bomb on SNL at the end of this edition of “What Up With That?” Kenan Thompson later admitted he was supposed to cut off his Snakes on a Plane co-star before he completed the curse word, but misread the cue card's direction.
Sam Walton II (Season 16)
One of the best arguments for why Phil Hartman could be the all-time greatest SNL actor appears in this two-parter. He plays Walmart founder Sam Walton, who assures that the American people should “just let [him] worry about” how he could rescind a sizable monetary prize to help prevent a tax increase for the wealthy and offer a nice hat instead. When a sudden, loud crash is heard backstage, the late NewsRadio star saves the day with the clever ad-lib, “You just let me worry about that, too.”
Barnes and Noble Firing (Season 38)
In this Barnes and Noble-set edition of a recurring sketch in which Cecily Strong and Bobby Moynihan’s characters, under the impression they are getting fired, voice grievances about their coworkers, the real highlight comes near the end. Host Kevin Hart cannot contain his laughter at future I Think You Should Leave star Tim Robinson and his performance as the “old, useless” Carl.
The Scorpion Prince (Season 27)
Even the impenetrable Dwayne Johnson is not immune to SNL flubs, such as this sketch from his second hosting gig that pokes fun as his first leading role in The Scorpion King. The professional wrestler-turned-actor — still billed as The Rock here — reminisces about a time he took his teenage son (Seth Myers) to a special tomb, but takes a moment to improvise a correction when he accidentally says “tome” instead.
Space, The Infinite Frontier: Dr. Kent Wahler (Season 24)
Legend has it that Will Ferrell — hilariously impersonating sportscaster Harry Caray as the host of an astronomical education program — started improvising much of his increasingly ridiculous dialogue throughout the rest of the sketch. That would explain why host Jeff Goldblum, as Dr. Kent Wahler, bears a bewildered expression throughout and openly declares that he is “confused” at one point.
Sometimes little mistakes like these can really pay off, especially on SNL.