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50,000 people sent complaints about SNL beach sketch which was 'most controversial of all time'

50,000 people sent complaints about SNL beach sketch which was 'most controversial of all time'

The sketch caused a huge backlash when it first aired on TV

When you've been on the air as long as Saturday Night Live has been, you're bound to offend viewers once or twice.

Since coming on the air in 1975, SNL has pushed the boundaries of comedy - and what people might consider appropriate TV material.

Case in point, their most controversial sketch from 1988 attracted more than 50,000 complaints.

What's the premise?

Guest co-host Matthew Broderick plays a man making a visit to a nude beach, where he's understandably feeling apprehensive about baring all.

Much to his dismay, the rest of the beach's visitors can't stop making reference to his small manhood, whilst complimenting each other's.

The sketch even ends with the characters singing a 'Penis song', which makes references to the male anatomy in every single line.

With the sketch including more than 40 mentions of the word 'penis', it's no surprise that some viewers called in to lodge a complaint.

The sketch starred Matthew Broderick as a reluctant nudist.

Most of the complaints came in after the American Family Assocation, a Christian nonprofit organisation began a campaign.

Robert Smigel wrote the sketch and SNL censor William Clotworthy expressed no regrets about the sketch going on the air.

Clotworthy wrote: "In any event, our friends at 'Saturday Night Live,' always proud to be on the cutting edge of progressive humor, were once again a step ahead of popular opinion.

"And, while we had some monumental disagreements, I've always been comfortable with having approved 'Nude Beach.'"

Conan O'Brien reflected on the sketch during an episode of his podcast.
Team Coco

Conan O'Brien, who wrote the song included in the sketch, reflected on it during an episode of his podcast Conan O'Brien Needs A Friend.

He recalled: "Standards came in, they said, 'There's no way you can do this'.

"And we were arguing, 'It's part of the anatomy. You should be able to say penis'.

"Of course, now, it's like the most tame thing in the world."

Ain't that the truth.

In the years since the sketch aired, SNL has continued to push the boundaries and attract controversy.

Back in 2000, Jimmy Fallon appeared on the show in blackface to impersonate Chris Rock.


When the clip resurfaced in 2020, the late night host issued an apology: "In 2000, while on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface.

"There is no excuse for this. I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision, and thank all of you for holding me accountable."

There was also the time Chevy Chase used the N word against Richard Pryor during a 1975 sketch.

But yeah, a song with the word penis in is where we start a letter writing campaign apparently.

Featured Image Credit: NBC

Topics: Saturday Night Live, Film and TV