Saturday Night Live: 30 scandals and secrets you didn’t know

Saturday Night Live (Photo by NBC Television/Getty Images)
Saturday Night Live (Photo by NBC Television/Getty Images) /
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17. Too many penises for broadcast television

Swear words of all varieties are commonplace on television these days. With the exception of the F-bomb, you’ll pretty much hear anything while you’re channel surfing. But it wasn’t always this way. In 1988, just saying the word “penis” on the air would ruffle feathers of those watching at home. SNL took this and really ran with it.

In an episode written by Conan O’Brien, host Matthew Broderick and a group of young men visit a nude beach. In the buff, it seems all they can talk about is each other’s penises. Practically every spoken line in the sketch contains the word. The focus is clearly on making the audience uncomfortable more than it is a funny conversation between the characters.

All in all, the word “penis” is said plainly 17 times. It is sung 26 times. That means that the skit used the word 43 total times on the live broadcast. Consider that the skit is less than four minutes long in total, that’s quite impressive.

As you can expect, not everyone found the bit funny. Thousands of people were offended and wrote in to NBC to complain. In total, 46,000 letters of complaint were mailed in based on this one sketch. What was a controversy back then may be considered tame today, showing just how long SNL has been around.