David Spade took some time to explain why action star Steven Seagal was the worst-ever host of Saturday Night Live. The action star hosted the iconic sketch comedy show in 1991 and things did not go so well. Seagal was at the height of his popularity at the time and he took himself and his career very seriously. Out For Justice had been out for a week after debuting at number one at the domestic box office, despite getting trashed by critics, so there was a lot to be excited about for Seagal.
For many, getting to host SNL is a dream come true. For Steven Seagal, it seems that he didn’t really understand the mechanics of the show, or even comedy, as David Spade points out. “I have to defend him a little bit,” Spade told Rob Lowe in a new interview. “I think maybe his one-inch ponytail was a little too tight that night,” Spade joked. “He was friendly to me. The only thing he did, is that he tightened up that night, which is what a lot of hosts do.” Spade went on and had this to say.
“You have to sort of trust these 30 people you don’t know. A lot of people think we’re there to make fun of them. But if we’re getting you on the show to host, we all want it to work. And if you make fun of yourself – this is where it gets tricky – it will benefit you. And we promise you. And if you don’t, and if you fight it too much – that was [Seagal]. He was too cool and he had his image [to maintain]. He couldn’t be relatable. He wouldn’t do kung-fu fighting as a cold open, or a monologue.”
Steven Seagal’s behavior was allegedly so bad that he was reportedly banned from SNL for life. The 1991 episode is not available to officially stream anywhere and the NBC YouTube channel does not have any clips from the show available to watch. When it comes down to it, Seagal wanted to do things his way and would not budge, according to David Spade. He explains.
“We had something [in the monologue] where he throws in kicks or something, and it would have been amazing. And I think we walked up and get kicked and fall down. He said he would do it, but he just ‘talked it.’ He wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t play at all, and then in the other sketches, he was fighting us. A lot of [hosts], you have to go through their people when you just want to grab someone and say, ‘Hey, what about this idea?’ And some people [like Seagal] still make you go through their people.”
SNL creator Lorne Michaels has stated more than once that Steven Seagal was the worst host in history. In the book Live From New York:& The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, former cast member Tim Meadows shed a bit more light on why Seagal was so bad. He was a bit more direct than David Spade. You can read what Meadows had to say below.
“The biggest problem with Steven Seagal 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.”
The SNL cast and writers do the best with what they have and hosts have to be able to put some trust in the process, especially if they don’t have a comedic background. Steven Seagal did not intentionally have comedic experience at the time and the episode proves it. Milton Berle, Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton, Chevy Chase, and Donald Trump are some of the other hosts who were reportedly difficult to work with over the years. You can listen to the interview with David Spade on Rob Lowe’s Literally! Podcast over at Stitcher.