One of the most well-known Saturday Night Live alumni, Adam Sandler, was also famously let go from the late-night sketch show in 1995, along with the late Chris Farley. Having gone on to amass over $3 billion at the box office, many have been left wondering why someone as successful as Adam Sandler really got fired from SNL. While on a podcast recently, the comedian opened up about what really happened behind the scenes. To see why Sandler got sacked, read on. And to find out which host was the most infamous, check out The Worst "SNL" Host of All Time, Cast Says.
Sandler openly joked about his firing during his monologue when he hosted SNL in 2019, explaining to the crowd that he often tells his children that his stint on the show was the best time of his life. He said his daughter usually then asks him why he left if it was so great, sending Sandler into song. "I was fired," he sings. He jokes about the network being "sick of" various repeating characters of his, but there is actually some truth to those lyrics.
On Oct. 12, while on the new podcast SmartLess hosted by Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes, Sandler discussed getting axed from SNL. "Is it true that they fired you and Farley in '95?" asked Bateman.
Related: Adam Sandler returns for hosting debut, pays tribute to Chris Farley
"What happened was it was kind of the end of it. We were repeating ourselves, I'm sure," Sandler began. "There was a new guy running NBC [Don Ohlmeyer]. He didn't like the young guys that much. He didn't like us… and he kept saying, 'We've got to get rid of them,' that 'nobody likes them.'" However, Sandler said SNL creator and producer Lorne Michaels stood up for the cast members at risk of getting cut and was able to keep them on for a while.
Then, Sandler said he got a call from his manager who insisted that it was time for him to move on, to which the comedian responded, "I don't know, maybe I'll do another year." Sandler's agents continued to tell him that it was time for him to leave SNL. "No, maybe I'll stay. I want to stay," countered Sandler. But, after a bit of back and forth, he finally got the hint. "Do I have to move on?" Sandler asked. "It's good if you move on," they replied. It finally clicked, and Sandler went on his way. "So it was kind of a fake quit, trying to beat them to firing me," said Sandler.
During an interview with Howard Stern in Dec. 2019, Sandler admitted that being fired from SNL "put a lump" in his throat. "I was probably sad, covering up the sadness up with being mad," he confessed. Sandler said that when Farley told him he was also being pushed out, the two "got mad together, pretended [they] weren't sad, pretended this was for the best."
"Maybe I would've never left because I'm not good at saying goodbye. They had to get rid of me somehow," said Sandler.
SNL still can't seem to get rid of the comedian entirely, though. After hosting in 2019, Sandler created a music video for SNL with current cast member Pete Davidson as a part of one of the at-home shows during lockdown.
However, Sandler and Farley were hardly the first stars to be dismissed from the famous late-night sketch show—and they weren't the last, either. Here are 10 other actors who were fired from SNL. And for more Hollywood gossip, check out who Oprah Says This Was the Worst Guest She Ever Had.
Chris Rock was on SNL from 1990 to 1993, the same era as Farley and Sandler. He reportedly clashed with the writers and producers about the skits he wanted to do, specifically over the representation of Black characters. So, word got around that Rock wanted to leave the series for In Living Color. "SNL was still a pretty white show. When I got hired, I was the first Black guy in like eight years—and In Living Color was just hip," he said in a 2011 interview on WTF With Marc Maron (via Uproxx). "I wanted to be in an environment where I didn't have to translate the comedy I wanted to do." Shortly after Rock joined SNL's more inclusive competition on Fox, In Living Color was canceled. And if you could use a good laugh, check out The Best Stand-Up Comedy Specials on Netflix.
Before she earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in 1988's Working Girl, Joan Cusack spent one season on SNL from 1985 to 1986. She was part of Lorne Michaels' return to the show after a short hiatus, and he wanted an entirely new cast for the 11th season. Cusack was a part of it, but the season's low ratings didn't bode well for her or her co-stars. She was fired along with some other eventual superstars, according to US Weekly. And for more interesting information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. also only lasted that single ill-fated 11th season of SNL in the mid-1980s. According to Rolling Stone, "Downey Jr. was one of many members of the cast not invited back for Season 12."
"I learned so much in that year about what I wasn't," Downey Jr. told Off Camera With Sam Jones in 2019 of his brief time on the series. "I was not somebody who was going to come up with a catchphrase. I was not somebody who was going to do impressions. I was somebody who was very ill-suited for rapid-fire sketch comedy. I was like, 'This seems really hard.'" Want to see how Downey's Marvel movies stack up instead? Here's The Definitive Ranking of Every Marvel Movie, From Worst Reviewed to Best.
Another Season 11 casualty? Damon Wayans. Except he didn't even last the whole season. According to Vulture, in the 7th episode of Season 11, Wayans had a minor role in a sketch as a cop. Though he was only to supposed to have one line as the character, he decided to improvise, ad-libbing and making the cop "a flamboyantly gay character instead of the straight character he was supposed to play." Rumor has it Michaels fired him immediately after the show. But Wayans rebounded quickly, helping to kickstart his own hit sketch comedy show with his siblings: In Living Color, which debuted in 1990.
Sarah Silverman also survived just one season of SNL in 1993. She later told Believer magazine that she was fired via fax. "It wasn't like I did something wrong," Silverman told HuffPost Live in 2013. "I was that last year of the old guard, and they started anew. And by the way, I wrote not a single funny sketch, so that might have something to do with it, too." And for more fun facts about Silverman, find her among the 15 Celebrities Who Say They're Never Getting Married.
After six seasons on Saturday Night Live, from 2010 to 2016, Taran Killam was unceremoniously let go. "I don't know that the end of something that you've committed that much time and energy to is ever going to feel great," he told Uproxx shortly after he was fired in 2016. "You sign for seven years, so I had one more year. I had sort of had it in my head I would make this upcoming year my last year, but then heard they weren't going to pick up my contract. I was never given a reason why, really. I can assume until the cows come home."
Killam wasn't the only shocking casualty that season: Jay Pharoah got the boot at the same time, also after six seasons from 2010 to 2016. And similarly, Pharoah had some feelings about it. "You go where you're appreciated," Pharaoh said in a radio interview with Hot97 in 2017. "If you have multiple people on the cast saying things like, 'You're so talented and you're able and they don't use you, it's unfair and it's making us feel bad because they don't use you and you're a talent…'" He added, "They put people into boxes and whatever they want you to do, they expect you to do. And I'm fiery." And for more behind-the-scenes drama on another beloved NBC show, check out The Worst Guest "Today" Has Ever Had, Host Says.
Parks and Recreation star Jenny Slate barely survived one season of SNL. Why? Well, you may recall she managed to accidentally curse in the middle of her very first sketch. She did stay on for the remainder of the 2009-2010 season, but was not asked back for the following year. "It took me a few years to get back to myself; I developed stage fright, so I went to a hypnotist," she told ABC News. "I thought I didn't have the right to be creative anymore, but my husband told me, 'You were creative before, and you'll be creative after—it's in your nature.' He was right."
Former U.S. marine Rob Riggle joined the cast of SNL in 2004, but he was another case of one-and-done with the sketch comedy show. "This is the first showbiz gig I ever got so it's overwhelming to begin with," Riggle told The Daily Beast in 2019. "It's an unbelievable pace and pressure, and I got to a point where I didn't even know what was funny anymore by the end of the season."
You likely recognize Michaela Watkins from comedy series like The New Adventures of Old Christine, New Girl, Transparent, The Goldbergs, and Casual, but you may not recall her brief time on SNL. She joined the cast in 2008, but only lasted one season before she was let go. "The only explanation I got from [Lorne Michaels]—and he's not known to say things just to make people feel better—was that he felt deep down that I should have my own show," Watkins told Entertainment Weekly at the time. "And I agreed. SNL was a dream come true for me. It was a fantastic year. I don't have any regrets." And for another recent scandal with this series, read "SNL" Cancels Country Star's Debut for Breaking COVID Rules.