Those are the Breaks: Top 12 SNL Bloopers (IMO)

(*UPDATED 7/6/2016: The CORRECT “Sam Walton” clip is up.)
(*UPDATED AGAIN 6/28/2017: I was sick of Squinting at the words)

As I said a few days ago when I started this feature, More often than not I’ll be looking at individual sketches. But since the Weekends are one of my few moments of spare time, I’d like to be able to leave you with some relatively light reading over the next 2 days while I go bowling or something. So, on Weekends, I’ll be putting up either full-length commentaries/editorials about certain cast members, or (in the case of this weekend) Top ## Lists of certain SNLements here in the Blog section. Quick ground rules when doing a list: This is STRICTLY My Opinion based on my own recollections Only, and you DO NOT Have to agree with it…in fact, I encourage you to chime in if I either left one out, or if one is ranked in a spot where it shouldn’t be—just keep the conversation civil, and we’ll all get out of this unscathed.



With that out of the way, let’s talk about moments on the show where things didn’t quite go right as I present… (*PUSHES RANDOM NUMBER GENERATOR*) …My top 12 Favorite SNL Bloopers (though not necessarily “Best” in some cases). For this list, a “Blooper” can be anything from a technical error to missing a place in the script, to an unfortunate slip of the tongue (or 3), to a cast member NOT Named Jimmy Fallon/Horatio Sanz laughing in a sketch (I could do a Top 30 list on THOSE in my sleep). I’m also going to count Sketches Only, so for those who are expecting Ashlee Simpson’s Lip sync snafu, Prince slipping out a swear word when he MG’d in 1981, Sinead O’Connor’s vendetta with the Pope or Elvis Costello switching songs to show up on the list, forget it! Let’s begin…




12 – “THOU SHALT NOT BARK IN THE MIDDLE OF A SKETCH”: “Animal Confessions” (11/18/1988) – WC Fields famously cautioned us to Never work with Children or Animals, because they will Steal the spotlight. SNL has had a number of Animal Driven sketches before and Since this one; but the ill-timed barking of a nervous dog that brings an otherwise “meh” sketch off the rails–along with John Lithgow making a few pointed AdLibs along the way—always stuck with me for some reason.




11 – “IT WAS A TOMB!”: “The Scorpion Prince” (4/13/2002) – Another long forgotten one that’s more of a slip in the script (Think: Louis CK’s flub at the end of THIS sketch). Dwayne Johnson (then known as just “the Rock”) plays the Scorpion King trying to re-bond with his son (Seth Meyers) who seems to be your average, moody, present day teenager—but in Egyptian times, obviously. Johnson is recalling a time where he took Meyers to see a Tomb of…somebody (I forget). But either because of mis-reading the cue cards or just being wrapped up in his character, Johnson pronounces it “Tome” instead. Thus leading to a quick back-pedaling, calling it a “Tomb”, Insisting it was a Tomb, and then having a good unplanned chuckle over it before moving on.





10 – “…AND I F***IN’ LOVE YOU FOR THAT!”: “Biker Chick Chat” (9/26/2009) – Poor Jenny Slate, she REALLY Is Funny (As her Pre & Post-SNL appearances have proven) and I thought she had what it took to put Kristen Wiig in her place at the time…at least that’s what I thought BEFORE she joined one of SNL’s most exclusive (and most notorious) clubs on her first night; the “F-Bomb Hall of Fame”. Let’s be honest, when a sketch has an ample amount of the word “Freakin’” in it, what—in all honesty–did you think was going to happen (see my #8 pick for further proof)? Slate lasted for the rest of the year before being let go…though it’s still debatable whether it was her F-Bomb or her subpar sketches that resulted in her inevitable demise…let’s just say the F-Bomb doesn’t help.





9 – ANY of Stefon’s Giggles (2009-2014) – We all know that constant Corpsing on stage is a true mark of unprofessionalism…so how come we always find it in our hearts to forgive the usually durable Bill Hader every time he cracks up as Stefon? Because the TRUE source of the blame for the giggles goes to the man who constantly changes the script on Hader just seconds before air time—John “I’m Not trying to be Seinfeld, Really!” Mulaney. But I guess that’s what makes these particular giggles funnier to watch; Hader doesn’t know what’s coming next, and neither do we–So, it’s forgivable. My personal favorite set of giggles comes from THIS particular installment.





8 – A GOOD “FLOGGING”: “The Minstrels of Newcastle” (3/15/1980) – “And Thank YOU for making Television History” Laraine Newman allegedly said to Paul Shaffer after he becomes the Charter Member of SNL’s “F-Bomb Hall of Fame”. I’m putting this one right in the middle of the list because—although it’s a VERY noticeable mistake on Shaffer’s end—it still happened at a time when the Original cast was on, there was enough clout to get away with it, and it actually felt like a Legitimate (and otherwise costly) “Mistake”…unlike some people later on in the list (Oh yes, we’ll get to THAT in a moment.). Similar to “Biker Chick Chat”, this too faced a series of OTHER F-Words chained in a row together so frequently it almost seemed inevitable that Someone was going to drop the bomb sooner or later…who would’ve guessed it would be David Letterman’s future Band Leader?





7 – “(*WAH-WAHHHHHH*)”: “Debbie Downer” (5/1/2004) – I know, I know, it’s probably one of the Biggest corpsing disasters EVER to have happened on the show, and by itself it IS actually very funny to watch…But that’s the key, “By Itself”. If they left things well-enough alone, it would’ve stood as a Great individual moment in the show’s history…But there’s a GOOD reason as to why this so-called “Classic” moment only ranks int he middle. Unfortunately, because of the audience reaction to it, this gave TPTB the rub to actually turn it into a recurring character…and MAN did it land with a Thud afterwards. People who were tuning in to see if lighting would strike twice were in for one letdown (or “Downer”) after another. Debbie Downer suddenly became “A Thing”, and it’s all this blooper’s fault. Seriously, it only really worked this one time–because of the blooper, no less–and they probably should’ve left good enough alone.





6 – TOUPEE ASKEW: “Fire Dance” (1/12/1985) – “SNL Transcripts” offers this play-by-play: “Because he was appearing as a wide variety of characters in multiple back-to-back sketches, Billy Crystal wore a bald cap throughout the show; in this sketch, he wears a wig similar to his own hair. When Martin Short’s character slaps Crystal in the back of the head, his wig becomes askew, causing the audience, and even Julia Louis-Dreyfus, upon re-entering the scene, to laugh. Crystal appears dumbfounded at the consistent laughter, until Short reaches over to re-adjust the wig, which causes Crystal to laugh as well.”





5 – “WE ALL CAN’T BE BRAINY LIKE FERN HERE!”: “Extreme Stupidity League” (12/11/1976) – One of the Very first Corpsings the show ever had, and they play it off beautifully (not unlike this day & age where it seems like they’re doing it on purpose). This was especially interesting because at that point, Candice Bergen was probably one of the most straight-laced actresses of the day, a good 10+ years before loosening up a little on “Murphy Brown”. So to see a performer of her caliber break down was rare enough, for her to not even try to make a recovery afterward made this blooper all the more memorable.





4 – “YOU LET ME WORRY ABOUT THAT, TOO”: “Sam Walton II” (10/27/1990) – In one of the RARE times a moment of AdLibing made it on the show, Phil Hartman shows just how strong “Glue” can be…though not strong enough to keep a rogue spotlight from crashing down off-screen in the middle of a sketch. It’s really too quick of a sketch to describe in full detail, so just take a look at it and marvel in Phil’s ability to turn Lemons into Lemonade.





3 – “FIRE BAD!”: “Succinctly Speaking” (12/19/1987) – Speaking of Phil, sometimes “Glue” can wear off a little; Nowhere is this more evident than this Ever Rarer break of character from Hartman’s Frankenstein—in fact, according to the new book “You May Remember Me: The Life & Times of Phil Hartman”, the author mentions how this was the ONLY time Phil broke down Live (though, we’ve all seen his “Fuck it, it’s Dress” bloopers, I hope). The strangest part about this blooper is not the fact that Hartman shows a crack in the armor, but rather that it literally comes out of nowhere. The sketch itself was supposed to be a typical, run-of-the-mill talk show sketch (that for some reason people [even in the SNL cast & crew] always thought was a “Pat Stevens” instalment…was Nora Dunn Really that interchangeable?), and if things were left alone it would probably remain as exciting as it sounded on paper—not very. But once again, regardless of intentions, Phil took an otherwise dry sketch and brought a little life to it completely by accident by realizing just how absurd the premise was.





2 – “I’D LIKE TO KNOW WHO THE F*** DID IT…”: Goodnights (2/21/1981) – It almost feels like a Mandatory Requirement to talk about this one, but I’ll tell the story anyway. Throughout the episode, a story arc spoofing “Dallas” and their “Who Shot JR” episode was unfolding (as one of the few who actually had this episode via DVD trades, I can agree that it and the rest of the episode—save for the first “Mr. Robinson”–was largely underwhelming…but then again, so was 90% of season 6). At the end of the show at the goodnights, Charles Rocket becomes the 2nd member of the “F-Bomb Hall of Fame” with a slip of the tongue that catapults him into infamy (and VERY arguably, his showbiz martyrdom & personal demise decades later). Little else needs to be said about this one…except MAYBE for the fact that if this F-Bomb wasn’t uttered, there wouldn’t be a need for the Sweeping changes that would ultimately save the show, and SNL would’ve been canceled outright just for how bad it became that year. Gilbert Gottfried said in the “SNL in the 80s” show that this incident was an excuse to make the 1980-81 cast a Sacrificial Lamb…and in a way, he was right (Imagine, Gilbert Gottfried is RIGHT about something). He also made an interesting point about how the F-word was made on the show before [see #8]; but because the show was still good back then, people tend to ignore that incident. This was a Watershed moment in the show’s history, one that—again– COULD’VE ultimately ended it right then and there. But in times of desperation, certain things MUST be done in order for the wrongs to be right. In this case, NBC had to push the Reset button…again. And thankfully, they Reset for the better this time.





1 – “I’VE GOT A WEIGHT PROBLEM, CAN’T THEY LIFT ME?”: “Weekend Update” (3/19/1994) – The only reason why this is #1 is because I like to end things on a happy note (also once again, it’s my opinion—you don’t have to agree.). This is Probably one of my all-time favorite “Fun” bloopers, and one of those great technical moments of blunder that can make an episode memorable, even if the rest of the content isn’t–Save for “Total Bastard Airlines” during that same show. Chris Farley returns as commentator Bennett Brauer giving more of the “reasons” why people won’t give him the “time of day” via “Air Quotes”. The Harness wires pulling Farley get stuck between some lights, Kevin Nealon & Crew Members untangles them, a few AdLibs are thrown to make fun of the situation, Farley flies, and a good time is had by all. This is by far, the one of the Best examples of making the best of a Bad situation on Live Television.



More than likely, I left a couple of other moments out, but again, this list was based on my own recollections only. If you have any favorite bloopers (Sketches Only, and try to go light on Jimmy/Horatio moments), chime in and perhaps I’ll revisit this list in the future in some sort of a “Viewer’s Choice” revision before the summer’s over—Provided enough “Viewers” are actually reading, that is. A “Regular” post in S.O.S.N.L. Sunday, but until then…THAT’S WHEN YOU BREAK!!!


3 thoughts on “Those are the Breaks: Top 12 SNL Bloopers (IMO)

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