Prince’s ‘SNL’ Appearance Is the Only Episode to Drop the F-Bomb Twice

Saturday Night Live is not exactly a tame program. It’s famous for pushing the political envelope and has more than its fair share of controversial moments. Sometimes the jokes don’t land well with people, and the show has definitely had some wild and shocking moments.

Still, it airs on network TV, and that means that everyone on the set — guests and regulars — must watch their language. 

This doesn’t mean that everyone has always followed the rules. Between intentional cursing and accidental slip-ups, plenty of people have flaunted the censorship on the live program, but it’s still surprising to learn that the episode with Prince as musical guest is the only one to drop the F-bomb twice in a single show. 

Prince appeared on ‘SNL’ multiple times

Prince performs onstage
Prince | Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NCLR

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Prince had a long and meaningful career, and that earned the immensely popular entertainer multiple invitations to SNL over the years.

He first appeared on the show during Season Six in 1981. In 1989, he was one of the many guests to help ring in the program’s 15th Anniversary Special. His final appearance was in February 2006, where he performed his songs “Fury” and “Beautiful, Loved and Blessed.” 

Prince also “appeared” on the show in many skits where the show’s cast members portrayed him. He has been impersonated by Billy Crystal, Chris Kattan, and Fred Armisen. When Prince tragically and unexpectedly died in 2016, SNL pulled their planned repeat episode and aired a retrospective dedicated to the artist instead. 

Prince sang an expletive during his set

In his 1981 SNL performance, Prince sang his song “Partyup.” When he got to the line “fightin’ war is a such a f*ing bore,” he was expected to censor the offending F-bomb, but he let it slip instead.

At the time, those on set didn’t seem to notice. However, at the end of the very same episode, there was another unfortunate slip-up. 

Cast member Charles Rocket, who would later meet a tragic and untimely end, had a sketch for the closing segment that spoofed the popular show Dallas. During it, he very clearly said “I’d like to know who the f* did it,” which means that the F-bomb was dropped not once but twice over this single episode.

Rocket was fired mid-season because of the slip-up, and it went on to define much of his career. For Prince, however, the story just became one more of many memorable moments about the artist’s time in the entertainment industry. 

‘SNL’ has a history with F-bombs

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When the Webby Awards presented Prince with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006, they stated that Prince had "forever altered the landscape of online musical distribution," and added that "Prince’s leadership online has transformed the entertainment industry and reshaped the relationship between artist and fan." . . . ✨ The Prince Estate is honored to carry forward Prince's legacy of groundbreaking work online with an evolving collection of websites and digital projects that celebrate his legacy. Two of those projects, the "Becoming" website and the podcast "Prince: The Story of 1999," have been nominated for Webby Awards this month. . . .✨ Explore the "Becoming" website, including an interactive map of early Prince landmarks and oral histories from his earliest collaborators, at becoming.prince.com . . .✨ Vote for "Becoming" in the Cultural Blog/Website category: https://vote.webbyawards.com/PublicVoting#/2020/websites/general-websites/cultural-blogwebsite . . .✨ "Prince : The Story of 1999" is a four-part documentary podcast created in partnership with The Current and Warner Records. Find the entire series here: https://lnk.to/TheStoryOf1999 . . .✨ And vote for "Prince: The Story of 1999" in the Music Podcast category: https://vote.webbyawards.com/PublicVoting#/2020/podcasts/general-series/music . . .✨ Photo of Prince in 1977 by Robert Whitman. Follow the link in bio to access these digital experiences and vote for both.

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While the show can face fines from the FCC for letting profanities slip through on their live programming, it has definitely happened quite a few times in the show’s long history.

Some of the more memorable times include Jon Lovitz botching his attempt to substitute the word “funking” for the F-word in 1989 and Norm Macdonald’s 1997 slip-up where he immediately joked that he might not be back next week after the mistake. 

Plenty of musical artists have also forgotten to censor their lyrics, and Prince has been joined in the misstep multiple times. Steven Tyler sang the word on stage in 1990, and the Beastie Boys let it slip in 1994. System of a Down added an ad-libbed “f**k yeah” to their set in 2005. 

More recently, Sam Rockwell dropped the F-word in his very first sketch of the night when he appeared as a guest in 2018. The mishap earned threats from the FCC and made headlines, which distracted from the rest of the show’s content. 

All told, Prince’s lyrical slip-up was much more subtle and less pronounced than many of the other F-bombs on the set, and it’s clear that he was welcomed back on the SNL stage after the incident.

Other potty-mouthed cast members and guests, however, were not so lucky. The profane expression has gotten cast members fired and guests banned, so those hoping to go on SNL better watch their mouths.