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The Real Reason Steven Seagal Is Banned From SNL

There are plenty of ways to get yourself banned from late night institution Saturday Night Live. A raft of hosts and musical guests have found creative ways to do so over the years, from sparking up a joint onstage (like Cypress Hill) to getting a wee bit too political (like Sinead O'Connor and Rage Against the Machine) to playing the wrong song (like Elvis Costello, whose performance of "Radio, Radio" remains one of the most kickass moments to ever grace the airwaves).

In 1991, though, famous tough-guy actor Steven Seagal earned himself a ban for reasons that perhaps should've been foreseen. Seagal didn't light anything on fire, blurt out any curse words, or indeed, say anything any more offensive than what regular SNL viewers are accustomed to. No, he was slapped with a lifetime ban by the iconic television institution for the simplest of reasons: the fact that he must be, by any reasonable standard, the least funny human being to ever walk the Earth.

Sure, it didn't help that Seagal generally acted like a prima donna in the week leading up to air, alienating himself from the show's cast and just being an all-around jerk. But those transgressions may have been forgiven if the actor, who wrote the majority of his episode's skits, had delivered anything other than the biggest train wreck in SNL's storied history — an episode so terrible that NBC has done all it can legally do to ensure that nobody ever lays eyes on it again (no clips can be found on the network's website, for example, and the entire episode was omitted when the season was released to Netflix).

Here's the real reason why Steven Seagal got perma-banned from Saturday Night Live.

Steven Seagal's SNL appearance was a humor vacuum

As we implied, it's tough to find Seagal's episode anywhere today; fortunately, we have the riveting account of ManlyMovie.net to give us an idea of just how awful it was. In the cold open, Seagal dropped in on Hans and Franz, the thickly-accented bodybuilders portrayed by Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon. In what seemed to be a bizarre misunderstanding of the concept of parody, Seagal berated the pair for taking after Arnold Schwarzenegger (a man who, notably, has a great sense of humor), asserting that his movies were way better and cracking "jokes" calling Arnie's sexuality into question. Then, he clumsily kicked the two caricatures' asses. End of sketch.

Seagal's monologue consisted of a humorless observational lecture about how modern men are all a bunch of sissies, followed by his acoustic guitar-based rendition of "Kung Fu Fighting," accompanied by several bemused cast members (including Chris Rock) on backing vocals. Then, more hilarious sketches: remember Rob Schneider's "makin' copies" guy? Seagal told him to shut up, then put his head through the photocopier. Hey, remember Andrew Dice Clay? No? Well, Seagal certainly did; he appeared on a mock talk show dressed like Dice to "lampoon" the guy's failed film career.

The overarching joke throughout all the sketches seemed to be a simple one: Steven Seagal is awesome, and everything else is stupid. The game cast tried to make the best of it all, perhaps hoping that Seagal's skits would serve as a humorous meta-commentary on the man himself; it didn't work. The whole episode was just one long, strained, painfully unfunny illustration of Seagal's complete lack of self-awareness, unfailing tendency to massage his own ego, and total failure to grasp even the most basic tenets of televised sketch comedy. 

Creator Lorne Michaels and others consider Steven Seagal to be the worst SNL host ever

We have it on pretty good authority that Seagal is the very worst host to ever take the SNL stage. When Nicolas Cage turned in a less-than-stellar monologue during his appearance in 1992, he apologized profusely to the show's creator Lorne Michaels, saying that he must have been the worst host of all time. Without hesitation, Michaels replied, "No, no — that would be Steven Seagal."

This was one tidbit dropped by then-cast member David Spade during a chat with Rolling Stone, and he went on to say that Seagal pretty much hijacked the show, refusing to play nice with the cast (whom it should be noted were all experienced sketch comedians). "He was a little tough," Spade remembered. "He was actually tough and he was tough to work with. It was hard. He did not want to play along."

Spade's fellow cast member Tim Meadows went even further in the book Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. "The biggest problem with Steven Seagal," Meadows explained, "was that he would complain about jokes that he didn't get, so it was like — you can't explain something to somebody in German if they don't speak German. He just wasn't funny and he was very critical of the cast and writing staff. He didn't realize that you can't tell somebody they're stupid on Wednesday and expect them to continue writing for you on Saturday."

Seagal may have been a highly bankable action star in his heyday, but unlike some his peers (like Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone), he never tried his hand at a comedy feature — and now, we know why. It seems the guy is only good at one kind of humor: the unintentional kind.