‘Saturday Night Live’ Cut Harvey Weinstein Jokes After They Fell Flat in Dress Rehearsal

'Saturday Night Live' Cut Harvey Weinstein Jokes After They Fell Flat in Dress Rehearsal

Jason Aldean SNL
Will Heath/NBC

Saturday Night Live” has come in for some criticism over the lack of material in its Oct. 7 episode on the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal that erupted two days before. In fact, Saturday’s episode had two references to the Weinstein controversy that were cut after they fell flat with the audience in dress rehearsal.

Critics including Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” have suggested that “SNL” boss Lorne Michaels sidestepped the issue in an effort to protect Weinstein. It’s understood that Michaels for years has been no fan of Weinstein and has no motivation to shield him from “SNL’s” lash. Moreover, Michaels is the exec producer of NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” both of which delivered Weinstein material on Monday night.

Speculation about Michaels’ motivation was also fueled by a comment that the producer gave to a Daily Mail reporter after leaving the “SNL” wrap party in the early hours of Sunday morning. He said the Weinstein jokes were cut because it was “a New York thing.” That was interpreted by some as a signal that Michaels was protecting a fellow New Yorker when in fact he meant that the jokes were cut because they did not resonate with the dress rehearsal audience.

“Lorne Michaels says this is a local story. That’s like saying the Catholic Church scandal was a central Rome story. People have to stop protecting Harvey Weinstein,” Scarborough said on Tuesday’s edition of “Morning Joe.” If we’re really going to move forward, they’re going to have to start saying things that are uncomfortable and I am not really sure why it took Harvey Weinstein losing his power to start doing that.”

One of the Weinstein jokes came as part of the “Weekend Update” segment. Another reference to Weinstein came in a sketch, the recurring “Film Panel” bit that spoofs talking-head movie roundtable programs, that was cut entirely because it didn’t play well. Weinstein was not the sole focus of that sketch but a reference was made to the growing scandal over allegations that the film mogul for decades has engaged in sexually aggressive behavior with young women.

Cutting material between dress rehearsal and the final live telecast is par for the course at “SNL.” The dress rehearsal runs two hours but the show airs in a 90-minute time slot. On average about 10 minutes of material is whacked from each “Weekend Update” segment. The reaction by the dress rehearsal audience is a huge factor in determining what stays and what gets cut.

Saturday’s episode opened on an emotional note, with country star Jason Aldean performing Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” The cold open amounted to a tribute to Petty, who died last week at age 66, and to the 58 victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting on Oct. 1 at a country music festival. Aldean was performing at the time the attack began.

A rep for “SNL” declined to comment on the Weinstein issue.