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Weirdest SNL Monologue Moments That Caught Us Totally Off Guard

"Saturday Night Live" has been serving up not-ready-for-primetime realness almost every Saturday since its debut in October 1975. The sketch comedy show is living history, and sometimes it's even funny! We kid, but only one thing is guaranteed when it comes to live late-night comedy television, and it isn't laughs — just that things are bound to get weird. Especially when it comes to the show's opening monologue.

Though "SNL" monologues are (usually) scripted, and (usually) performed by a celebrity who knows their way around a camera, they're also (usually) live performances. Hosting can be terrifying, and anything can go wrong. Plus, any number of unplanned moments can take a scripted speech or sketch into uncharted territory, be it emotional, awkward, or something that will forever haunt network television censors' dreams.

"SNL" monologues can be weirdly sweet, like when Oscar Isaac monologues about his childhood action movie and shows a clip where he played a ninja assassin and his own nemesis, complete with a shot of his 10-year-old self licking "blood" off of his sword. On the opposite end of the scale, monologues can also get weirdly ugly, like when Martin Lawrence got X-rated about personal hygiene, Louis C.K. got creepy about childhood, and Dave Chapelle got into it about Kanye. However, the Looper comedy club likes our "weird" more wacky than wack. With that being said, read on for the 16 weirdest and most surprising "SNL" monologue moments. 

1. Miskel Spillman, regular Grandma

One of the oldest hosts of "SNL" is also its least famous. Miskel Spillman, an 80-year-old grandmother from New Orleans, won a 1977 "Anyone Can Host" contest with an essay as short and sly as the lady herself, via People magazine: "I need one more cheap thrill, since my doctor told me I only have another 25 years left."

Buck Henry (of "The Graduate" and "Get Smart" fame) presents Spillman to her adoring live studio audience in Season 3, Episode 8. Spillman holds her own — and onto a bowl of grandma-approved plastic fruit. She nails her monologue, in which she references getting high with John Belushi. If that doesn't tell the audience this regular grandma ain't your regular grandma, we don't know what does. She also reads cue cards better than most celebrity hosts.

In addition to being the oldest host of SNL until unseated by Betty White, Spillman holds the distinction of being one of the only SNL hosts born in the 1800s and the only "SNL" host to witness Elvis Costello's controversial, unscripted switch to "Radio Radio" during the show's musical segment. We wonder if he was inspired to rebel by Spillman's own unorthodox spirit.

2. Austin Butler's emotional Gollum impression

It isn't every Saturday that an impression of Gollum from "Lord of the Rings" makes you get a little something in your eye — but when Austin Butler is hosting "Saturday Night Live?" It's a whole different story.

Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis" star kicks his monologue off by acknowledging his "Elvis-y" voice, then does a run of jokes and accents about roles he tried out in between scenes of his Disney Channel shows. It gets emotional when Butler recounts how he and his mom would watch "SNL" every week back when he was a painfully shy kid and acting wasn't even a glimmer in his eye (or curl of his lip.)

Butler describes how making faces, doing voices, and being silly with his mom to make her laugh are at the heart of both his overcoming his shyness and his discovering acting. Of course, his mom loves his spot-on Gollum impression. Butler's monologue takes on new meaning as a tribute to his late mother, and a sweet reminder of the everlasting power of being silly.

3. Kirstie Alley's Cheers serenade

"Cheers" is one of the best sitcoms of all time, and Kirstie Alley's "Saturday Night Live" monologue sees a "surprise" reunion with some of its cast in Studio 8H. Alley, famous for her role as the strong but neurotic Rebecca Howe, first hosted "SNL" in 1991. She admits to the audience that she misses her co-stars, and launches into a choked-up rendition of the show's earworm theme song, "Where Everybody Knows Your Name."

The sweet moment gets mind-bendy when some of the "audience" members sing along: Woody Harrelson, George Wendt, Kelsey Grammer, and Ted Danson. Alley does a great job of acting surprised and seems genuinely pleased to see her friends from Boston's favorite bar onstage and live from New York, even if they are crashing her monologue.

What comes next is a sort of mini-"Cheers" episode, full of goodwill and light teasing that quickly devolves into Alley "storming" offstage when the others steal her thunder. Grammer, doing a light "Frasier"-style bit, takes over hosting — and singing — duties, perhaps proving to Alley that everybody knowing your name isn't always all it's cracked up to be.

4. Christopher Walken's musical missing link

Whether you know Christopher Walken from his memorable roles dancing with death in "The Deer Hunter" or with a hotel luggage cart in the "Weapon of Choice" music video, we hope you know by now that Walken's a song and dance man. In fact, director Spike Jonze ("Her") told Nine Club Clips that Walken's dancing skills inspired him to call Walken up to ask him to dance in his Fatboy Slim video.

A 7-time host of "Saturday Night Live," Walken brings his ol' soft shoe to every monologue of his except one: His most "recent" hosting gig in Season 33, Episode 9, is the nonmusical anomaly. Instead, Walken has the audience ask him some questions. Normal, right? Not so much, because Walken has written the questions himself.

This does nothing to hold Walken back from chastising an audience member for her "stinky" question about his favorite color — burnt umber. When an audience member played by "30 Rock's" John Lutz asks which superpower is best, invisibility or flight, Walken ponders the question with dead seriousness. Finally, he chooses flight, and insists he would "get a ton of laughs if I was a gigantic invisible bird." We tend to agree.

5. Will Ferrell flips for Ryan Reynolds

Before they starred in "Spirited" together, comedy legend Will Ferrell and "Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place" star Ryan Reynolds shared the "Saturday Night Live" stage. In Season 45, Episode 7, Ferrell joins the ranks of the "Five-Timers Club" — and flips out when he discovers Reynolds is in the audience during his monologue.

Reynolds plays things straight (and slightly embarrassed) as Ferrell gets flustered, fascinated, then fixated on his presence. The more Ferrell can't keep his words straight or himself together, the more the studio audience cracks up and Reynolds looks ready to run. Just when things hit fanboy fever pitch, Ferrell busts out a very questionable impression of Tracy Morgan.

Reynolds panics until Morgan steps out and starts doing an impression of Ferrell doing an impression of him, then forbids Ferrell from ever talking like him again. The monologue ends in giggles as the weird and wacky sketch comes to a (dare we say?) spirited close.

6. Brendan Gleeson gets weird and wonderful

"Saturday Night Live" is usually about as subtle and gentle as some fingers stuck in a pair of shears. But when "The Banshees of Inisherin" star (and Irish acting legend) Brendan Gleeson hosts "SNL," all usual bets are off.

Gleeson, whom you may also recognize from his roles in "Mr. Mercedes" and the "Harry Potter" franchise, opens his monologue in a hushed tone. He tunes a mandolin, then launches into a traditional Irish tune and some low-key jokes with a vibe that feels more like a storytelling night in some back-room pub than the typical "SNL" opener.

Brendan Gleeson just may go on tuning and strumming forever, but Colin Farrell crashes the party wearing a mustache straight from, he admits, "the mustache shop." Seriously, this thing is bigger than his character's ego in "Horrible Bosses." While the Irish Times was not a fan of the monologue, we have to borrow Gleeson's own words to describe it as "weird and wonderful."

7. The real Anthony Perkins

When Anthony Perkins hosted Season 1, Episode 16 of "Saturday Night Live," he was most famous for his role as Norman Bates, the titular psycho from the original Alfred Hitchcock film "Psycho." While the film would later inspire "Psycho 2," "Psycho 3" and Rihanna to star in "Bates Motel," by 1976 it simply inspired Perkins' wonderfully weird "SNL" monologue.

The bit is this: Perkins is happy to finally have a chance to show his "real," not-scary self to audiences. But when a fly bothers him, he catches it and eats it. Oops! Later, he pulls off a bandage on his hand, very slowly, reveling in the sensation of feeling each hair being removed one by one. Hey, we all go a little mad sometimes.

Perkins performs the staged send-up of his onscreen persona with a devilish grin and no lack of delight. The monologue plays more like a tight sketch than a meandering mug to camera, and as a result feels even fresher, funnier, and freakier than many of the monologues some 40-ish seasons later.

8. Keke Palmer's special announcement

Some performers know how to work a room, but Keke Palmer knows how to work the studio audience and everyone watching at home when she hosts "Saturday Night Live." It's rare that a host takes the Studio 8H stage with such sunshine and style, but Palmer does all that and flashes the audience. Just not in the way you might think.

The charming star of "Nope," "Hustlers," and "Akeelah and the Bee" (Yes, that was her!) hosts Season 48, Episode 7. Palmer playfully sizes the "SNL" audience up during her monologue, informing them there are rumors going around about her. Palmer seemingly wants to dispel them.

She says people are saying she's pregnant, then confirms that she is by flashing the audience her happy baby bump. The crowd goes wild, and Palmer delights in the big reveal. Of course, it isn't just the bundle of joy that makes her monologue so vibrant. Palmer's jokes all hit their targets, especially when she proclaims she was nominated for an Academy Award for "Nope," then quickly backtracks, saying, "That part's not true. That's just one of the things you learn to do in this business. Manifest, honey!"

9. Drew Barrymore vs. anthrax

Drew Barrymore is known for looking on the bright side of life. Her talk show, "The Drew Barrymore Show," is self-proclaimed "optimism TV." She helped make the sunniest zombie sitcom ever in "The Santa Clarita Diet." The woman helped "E.T." phone home, for Pete's sake! So do we really think a possible terrorist attack could stop her from hosting "Saturday Night Live?" Well...almost.

Barrymore, who first hosted "SNL" when she was 7 years old and who is a seasoned vet of the "Five-Timers Club," encountered a major first when she hosted Season 27, Episode 3 of the show in October of 2001. Already nervous about hosting "SNL" in the aftermath of 9/11, Barrymore flew out to NYC for the taping, only for 30 Rock to be hit with an anthrax threat.

The show must go on, and Barrymore delivers a sweet, sunny speech about how New York City was being brave, she was being brave, and the audience was being brave. It's a weirdly sweet and vulnerable moment for a show that isn't exactly known for its softer side.

10. Chance the Rapper's Second City rap

Chance the Rapper, the "3"-crowned prince of Chicago, philanthropy, and mixtapes, takes the "Saturday Night Live" stage in Season 45, Episode 4. Chance hosts like a pro, whether he's introducing himself as a musical guest on "SNL" or presiding over the reboot of "Punk'd" or Season 23 of "The Voice." Chance's comfort onstage makes his goofy "SNL" monologue possible and positively odd in the most delightful way.

Chicago is famously known as the "Second City" (and is even home to what is essentially an "SNL" farm team, "The Second City" comedy club), so Chance uses his monologue as an opportunity to rap about all of his favorite "second best" things, including the search engine Bing (not just for TV show characters anymore), Luigi from Mario and Luigi, and DMC from Run DMC.

The list is long, visually represented on cards flipped through by snazzy backup dancers, and ultimately enhanced by Kyle Mooney — who, we gotta say, is definitely the second-best rapper in this duo. The goofy rap is made twice as nice when you remember that it marks Chance's second time on "SNL."

11. The Omicron Christmas special

You know that feeling when you go somewhere you know is supposed to be bustling and happy, and instead it's eerily empty and something's off? Just kidding, of course you do — you're living through a global pandemic. That dreadful, empty quality can't even be kept at bay within the walls of 30 Rock.

The Christmas episode of "SNL" during Season 47, Episode 9 shows the Studio 8H set to be a ghost town. Well, unless you count Paul Rudd and a small handful of other famous people. Meant to be Rudd's induction to the "Five-Timers Club," the episode is interrupted by a spike in the Omicron variant.

There is no live studio audience, and the episode is jointly hosted by Rudd, Tina Fey, and Tom Hanks, introducing clips from Christmas shows past. There's a sweet "show must go on" element to the monologue, but it's just as weird as the "at-home" episode where Hanks does his monologue from his kitchen.

12. Kim Kardashian's killer comedy

Kim Kardashian is funny, and not just when she's being parodied by the hilarious Yuri Lamasbella on TikTok. Whether Kim is tweeting about her love of apple strudel, selling phone cases of her crying face, or having a whirlwind romance with "Saturday Night Live's" own Pete Davidson, she definitely has a sense of humor. She sets that humor heat to roast in Season 47, Episode 2 of "SNL."

Kim is the first to admit she isn't sure why she's been asked to host "SNL," and kicks things off with some cheeky jokes about how long ago her last "movie premiere" was. Kim's roasting is more focused on the rest of the Kardashian family than herself, and she implies that she serves as her sisters' "plastic surgery reference photo."

The studio audience can't stop cracking up at Kim's pitch-perfect delivery. According to People.com, Kim ran a draft of the monologue by comedian Amy Schumer. On an episode of their podcast "Fly on the Wall," "SNL" alums David Spade and Dana Carvey both expressed how impressed they were with Kim's "out of nowhere" hit monologue. While we'll never know how impressed the other Kardashian sisters were, we can imagine there was some very awkward post-show salad talk.

13. Francis Ford Coppola's Saturday Night Live

Francis Ford Coppola is synonymous with award-winning films, fine wines, and an absolutely bizarre episode of "Saturday Night Live." The famous "Godfather" and"Apocalypse Now" director put his signature spin on Season 11, Episode 13 of "SNL," billed as (and we're serious) "Francis Ford Coppola Presents Francis Ford Coppola's Saturday Night Live."

The entire episode is a departure from the show's usual style, the bit being that Coppola is doing a "high-art" iteration of the show. The games begin with the monologue, which stars George Wendt from "Cheers" as the host. Wendt does a simple opening joke but is interrupted by Coppola from on high in his director's chair. Coppola has Wendt deconstruct the joke for him and the live studio audience. 

While the conceit of the show is fun and strange, it can be a bit much. Beyond a bit much is the show's weirdest monologue, "Suitcase Boy." A 20-year-old Robert Downey, Jr. spews total word salad from his perch inside a giant suitcase, interrupted only when Joan Cusack arrives (in her own suitcase) to give him absolute guff. This episode is too bizarre to be believed and we hope you watch it in its entirety.

14. Louise Lasser's breakdown

Louise Lasser was the star of the 1970s sitcom "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," a satirical soap opera about a woman almost always on the verge of a breakdown. While you may recognize her more for her guest role on Lena Dunham's "Girls," Lasser was incredibly famous at the time, and infamous for the "Saturday Night Live" monologue she did. 

According to "SNL" lore, Lasser was "banned" from "SNL" after she had a breakdown in Season 1, Episode 23's opening monologue, refused to do certain sketches, and talked about a recent arrest she had experienced. In reality, Lasser tells The Toast, she was never banned from the show, and the "breakdown' in her monologue was a scripted bit.

Watching the episode, it's clear Lasser is doing a version of her "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" character in the monologue, acting believably overwhelmed by the show and being coaxed out of her dressing room by Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, and, finally, Chevy Chase dressed up as the shark from "Jaws."

15. Aubrey Plaza's power-walk down memory lane

Aubrey Plaza wields great, weird powers, even though she's so much more than the real-life version of her "Parks and Recreation" character, April Ludgate. Or her children's book character, the "Christmas Witch." Or a woman asking Drew Barrymore to be her mommy. The "White Lotus Season 2" and "Emily the Criminal" star owns her weirdness even when she hosts Season 48, Episode 10 of "Saturday Night Live."

Plaza's monologue is extra special and strange because Plaza was an NBC Page working in the set department of "SNL" in her college days. When she returns to host, she dons her old page jacket and leads the camera on a tour of her past, complete with special "guests" like President Biden, Amy Poehler, and a bunch of Plaza-described "perverts" in the set department that she commands to "bow to your Queen!" Plaza is living proof that the more you know how to work your weirdness, the more wonderful that weirdness will be.

16. Paul Simon's big turkey

Paul Simon is famous for his partnership with Art Garfunkel and his own solo career. He helped contribute the iconic soundtrack to "The Graduate," provided the soundtrack for a key moment between Tenenbaums in "The Royal Tenenbaums," and made "The Only Living Boy in New York" synonymous with Zach Braff in "Garden State." In addition to his iconic musical contributions to movies, Simon is also linked to the small screen and "Saturday Night Live."

Simon has hosted and performed many times on "SNL" over the years, and even borrowed comedian Chevy Chase for his "You Can Cal Me Al" music video. A longtime friend of Lorne Michaels, Simon notes in Robert Hilburn's "Paul Simon: The Life" that Michaels "allowed me to be comedic." Michaels would visit Simon while he recorded albums, and Simon would visit Michaels on the set of "SNL" both as a friend and part of the show. We all know how this all ends up, of course: with Paul Simon in a turkey suit.

In the Season 2, Episode 8 Thanksgiving special, Simon steps out on stage dressed as a giant turkey. Naturally, he sings a moving version of "Still Crazy After All These Years" until he can't take it any longer. In what feels strongly like Paul Simon doing a Charlie Brown monologue of despair, Simon admits he looks foolish and storms offstage to his dressing room. Michaels doesn't seem to see the problem Simon has with the giant suit, and to that we say don't deny the obvious, child.

17. Woody Harrelson's smoke bomb

Woody Harrelson might have a bit of a reputation as a fan of the wacky weed, but he inhales all the way into it during his monologue on Season 48, Episode 13 of "Saturday Night Live."

Harrelson's lengthy, meandering monologue manages to gently mock Nic Pizzolatto (creator of "True Detective") for not being vegan, softly incriminate Harrelson's manager for moving drugs across state lines, and spotlight Harrelson's own divisive politics. The self-proclaimed "purple" stoner boy lets the audience know he's both a redneck and a hippie, and dances around what might be support for squirt gun control. No wonder they didn't give him his "Five-Timers Club" jacket in the monologue — he was busy.

At first, the monologue playfully flirts with pushing the envelope, at least for modern "SNL." But Harrelson finally rolls the figurative envelope up and smokes it when he does a run on a wild script he recently read about drug cartels and Big Pharma locking the populace up and only letting them out if they take their drugs repeatedly. This joke, like many before it, falls flatter than a half-asleep stoner stumbling over the roots of a palm tree in Central Park.