Why Milton Berle Got Banned From ‘SNL’

By Francis Tunwase

Milton Berle was a comedian and actor that caught the fancy of everyone in the early days of television. He was so popular that businesses and restaurants would close up just to allow their customers to watch the latest episode of his weekly show. But later on, beloved Milton was banned from hosting the nascent comedy program tagged ‘Saturday Night Live.’

Image credit: www.listal.com


Well, the show’s producer had some reservations. According to him, ‘old-time show business had become corrupt. It wasn’t looking like what it used to be in the past’. And yeah, Milton’s hosting gig seemed more like a disaster.

Now, that feels weird. But it isn’t. Milton Berle had issues keeping up with the director’s instructions. If he wasn’t mugging for the camera, he’d be caught doing broad spit-takes or ad-lib jokes straight into the camera.

Image credit: Gaston Longet, 1938

 Besides that, Milton’s comedic ideas were not totally consistent with the content of the show. How exactly were they to embrace his dated vaudeville-jokes idea as good for opening monologues? Or who inserts dialogues into skits that were not even expected in any way? As if these weren’t enough reasons to get him banned from the show, Milton’s excesses didn’t stop here.

The height of it all was when the vaudevillian made provision for an ‘arranged standing ovation’ of family and friends without informing the producers. And in the end, there was this ‘bizarre’ effect that nearly ruined the entire show.

Anyone who’s not familiar with these stories would think Milton was ‘cheated’, but No, he wasn’t.