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Martin Lawrence's SNL Appearance Got Him Banned From NBC (For A Good Reason)

Back in the early-to-mid-'90s, one could argue that Martin Lawrence had as bright a future in entertainment as his "Bad Boys" co-star Will Smith. But while Smith kept going from strength to strength as a family-friendly icon in both movies and rap, Lawrence's momentum was derailed as he found himself embroiled in multiple controversies during the decade. Before all those accusations and arrests, though, the actor-comedian made a disastrous appearance on "Saturday Night Live" that saw him completely banned from NBC programming — at least for some time.

The incident took place during the February 19, 1994, episode of "SNL," where Lawrence was the night's guest host. As seen in this YouTube clip, the "Martin" star warns the audience early on that he could potentially get censored for what he's about to say. After some references to the case of Lorena Bobbitt, a Virginia woman who cut off her husband John's penis as revenge for his allegedly abusive behavior, Lawrence then segues into a number of jokes about poor feminine hygiene. He doesn't use any strong language, but the off-color wisecracks definitely push the boundaries of good taste and continue until the end of the monologue.

Not surprisingly, Lawrence's performance was apparently unscripted, and while it initially aired without a hitch in the Eastern part of the U.S., the monologue generated hundreds of complaints from shocked viewers. As such, it was significantly censored by the time West Coast audiences got to watch it, and when the dust settled, Lawrence joined the growing list of celebrities banned from "SNL." Worse yet, the Los Angeles Times noted in March 1994 that the comic was prohibited from appearing on other NBC shows as well "for the time being."

Lawrence says NBC eventually apologized for banning him

Reactions to Martin Lawrence's bawdy "Saturday Night Live" monologue came quickly, as the show's creator and executive producer, Lorne Michaels, issued a statement that acknowledged how sometimes, "live television is full of surprises." The actor was also pulled from the following Wednesday's edition of "The Tonight Show" despite then-host Jay Leno's unabashed support for Lawrence, while "Politically Incorrect" host Bill Maher, himself a comedian with a penchant for going too far, cautioned of the chilling effect that could follow in the wake of the "SNL" brouhaha. "Things are a little tense right now, and it's better to go for the subtle joke rather than the graphic one," Maher told the Los Angeles Times.

Well over two decades later, Lawrence looked back on the controversy when he and Will Smith guested on a 2020 episode of "The Breakfast Club" to promote "Bad Boys for Life." Responding to a question from host Charlamagne tha God, Lawrence confirmed that NBC did ban him from its programming before acknowledging it might have overreacted. "They banned me from NBC at the time for a minute," he explained. "Then they realized the way it went down wasn't what they thought." Lawrence added that then-NBC Entertainment head Warren Litchfield actually sent him an apology letter that also welcomed him back to the network.

Sure enough, Lawrence was back on NBC in April 1995 when he guested on "The Tonight Show," but he has yet to return to "Saturday Night Live" in any capacity. Time will tell, though, if the positive reception to "Bad Boys: Ride or Die" convinces Michaels and other "SNL" movers and shakers to bring Lawrence back for the first time in three decades.