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10 People Banned from SNL

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NBC

During its nearly four decades on the air, Saturday Night Live has showcased plenty of hilarity—and controversy. The show runs on a tight schedule and protocol led by longtime producer and creator Lorne Michaels, and on occasion, people have gone a bit too far. Here are a few who went so far that most of them never appeared in the hallowed halls of 8H again.

1. Sinéad O’Connor

Perhaps the most notorious—and most watched—banishment from the show belongs to Sinéad O’Connor. In an unrehearsed gesture on the October 3, 1992 broadcast that hadn’t been cleared by anyone on the SNL staff, O’Connor ripped a photo of Pope John Paul II in half while singing an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s “War.”

According to SNL’s music coordinator John Zonars, O’Connor pulled off the stunt by holding a photo of a starving child during dress rehearsal, explaining that the song is essentially about child abuse and that she wanted to make a statement. This explains why the camera zoomed in at the correct moment during her live performance. Michaels seemed more understanding when interviewed for the book, Live From New York. “I think it was the bravest possible thing she could do," he said. "She’d been a nun. To her the church symbolized everything that was bad about growing up in Ireland the way she grew up in Ireland, and so she was making a strong political statement.”

The incident was addressed in the next week’s monologue by host Joe Pesci, who taped the photo of the Pope back together. O’Connor was effectively banned and hasn’t appeared on SNL since. Reruns of the show include the dress rehearsal footage of her performance.

See Also: 10 Famous People Who Rejected Saturday Night Live

2. Steven Seagal

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Hosting duties at SNL are an intensely collaborative process for cast members and the hosts themselves. Some, like those in the prestigious “Five-Timers Club,” work well with the cast and writers and are invited back, while others can’t seem to hack it. Steven Seagal fell into the latter category. While he didn’t pull any on-air stunts like Sinéad O’Connor, Seagal was unable to play nice behind the scenes. “He just wasn’t funny and he was very critical of the cast and the writing staff," said Tim Meadows in Live From New York,. "He didn’t realize that you can’t tell somebody they’re stupid on Wednesday and expect them to continue writing for you on Saturday.” Michaels got in a jab at Seagal on a later show hosted by actor Nicolas Cage. When Cage lamented during his monologue that the audience might think he’s the biggest jerk who’s ever been on the show, Michaels responded, “No, no. That would be Steven Seagal.”

3. Andy Kaufman 

Kaufman’s appearances on SNL were unpredictable and ahead of their time, beginning with SNL’s very first episode in 1975. Whether he was nervously lip-synching to the Mighty Mouse theme or impersonating Elvis Presley, audiences had no idea what would come next. Eventually, Kaufman's stint wrestling women drew the ire of then-producer Dick Ebersol. In response, Kaufman proposed an audience vote to let him stay or force him off the show. The final tally of viewers calling in to “Keep Andy” came in at 169,186, while 195,544 voted to “Dump Andy.” Whether it was another one of his audacious stunts remains to be seen, but Kaufman never appeared on SNL again following that vote.

4. Martin Lawrence

Lawrence was a huge television star in the '90s—remember his sitcom, Martin?—but his monologue while hosting SNL wasn’t a hit with the staff or network censors. After voicing his appreciation for the show, Lawrence launched into a bit about the then-recent John and Lorena Bobbitt incident then spontaneously segued into a feminine hygiene rant. The comments were removed for syndication and replaced by facetious title cards that describe his opinions as “a frank and lively presentation” that “nearly cost us all our jobs.” Lawrence hasn’t hosted since.

5. Robert Blake

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Long before he was charged with (and acquitted of) murdering his second wife, Robert Blake wasn’t too nice when he hosted SNL. Like Steven Seagal, Blake didn’t  exactly work well with the cast or writers. According to SNL writer David Sheffield—who labels the In Cold Blood and Baretta star as the worst host ever—Blake was not a fan of what the writers came up with for him during a read-through of a sketch called “Breezy Philosopher,” about a rough and tumble biker-type who quoted Kierkegaard. Allegedly, Blake crumpled up his script, turned to writer-actor Gary Kroeger, and said, “I hope you got a tough a**hole pal, ‘cause you’re going to have to wipe you’re a** with that one.” Blake’s little outburst got him banned for life.

See Also: 9 Saturday Night Live Movies That Were Never Made

6. Milton Berle

Uncle Miltie didn’t seem to get the memo that Saturday Night Live includes cast members as well as a host. According to people who worked on the show, Berle took over the production of his episode of SNL in 1979, inserting sketches of his own and intentionally upstaging cast members like Gilda Radner for cheap laughs. Berle never hosted again, and in Live From New York, Lorne Michaels characterized the difference between Berle’s old-school brand of comedy and the new, edgy comedy of his “Not Ready For Primetime Players” when he said, “I have great affection for old-time show business. But it had become corrupt. It wasn’t what it had been. The show was trying to get away from that.”

7. Adrien Brody

One would think that a little improvisation could work on a sketch comedy show, but that's not the case for SNL. When host Adrien Brody came out to introduce reggae performer Sean Paul in a 2003 episode, the actor was wearing fake dreadlocks and speaking in a stereotypical Jamaican patois. Lorne Michaels was not pleased, and Brody has yet to host a second show.

8. Charles Grodin

Charles Grodin earned banishment from SNL for his October 29, 1977 appearance as host. Grodin reportedly missed rehearsals and, when the show went live, he came across as unprepared and clumsy while stepping over the cast members' lines and ad-libbing much of his dialogue.

See Also: 32 Famous People Rejected by Saturday Night Live

9. Frank Zappa

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The godfather of weirdo rock was banned for his performance as host in 1978. Instead of just going along with the lines written for him, Zappa lazily read from the cue cards and reminded viewers that he wasn’t really trying. Instead of an A for effort, he got a B for “banned” and never showed up on SNL again. Writer Don Novello—better known on SNL as Father Guido Sarducci—called Zappa, “One of the worst ever.”

10. Elvis Costello

During their second segment on the December 17, 1977 show, Elvis Costello and the Attractions began playing the hit song “Less Than Zero” from Costello’s debut album, My Aim Is True. Soon Costello waved at his band and shouted, “Stop! I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen, there’s no reason to do this song here.” The band then tore through the song “Radio Radio” in an unplanned performance that got them banned. Apparently, the dispute came from Costello’s record company instead of anything anyone at SNL did. Costello originally wanted to perform “Radio Radio”—a single that hadn’t been released yet—but Columbia Records forced them to play the better-known single. In this case, the hard feelings didn't linger; in 1989, Costello was invited back again. He even parodied his own stunt on the 25th anniversary show by interrupting the Beastie Boys' performance of "Sabotage," which quickly morphed into a joint performance of "Radio Radio."

Additional Source: Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, as Told By Its Stars, Writers and Guests.

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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Health
One Bite From This Tick Can Make You Allergic to Meat
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We like to believe that there’s no such thing as a bad organism, that every creature must have its place in the world. But ticks are really making that difficult. As if Lyme disease wasn't bad enough, scientists say some ticks carry a pathogen that causes a sudden and dangerous allergy to meat. Yes, meat.

The Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum) mostly looks like your average tick, with a tiny head and a big fat behind, except the adult female has a Texas-shaped spot on its back—thus the name.

Unlike other American ticks, the Lone Star feeds on humans at every stage of its life cycle. Even the larvae want our blood. You can’t get Lyme disease from the Lone Star tick, but you can get something even more mysterious: the inability to safely consume a bacon cheeseburger.

"The weird thing about [this reaction] is it can occur within three to 10 or 12 hours, so patients have no idea what prompted their allergic reactions," allergist Ronald Saff, of the Florida State University College of Medicine, told Business Insider.

What prompted them was STARI, or southern tick-associated rash illness. People with STARI may develop a circular rash like the one commonly seen in Lyme disease. They may feel achy, fatigued, and fevered. And their next meal could make them very, very sick.

Saff now sees at least one patient per week with STARI and a sensitivity to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose—more commonly known as alpha-gal—a sugar molecule found in mammal tissue like pork, beef, and lamb. Several hours after eating, patients’ immune systems overreact to alpha-gal, with symptoms ranging from an itchy rash to throat swelling.

Even worse, the more times a person is bitten, the more likely it becomes that they will develop this dangerous allergy.

The tick’s range currently covers the southern, eastern, and south-central U.S., but even that is changing. "We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northward and westward and cause more problems than they're already causing," Saff said. We've already seen that occur with the deer ticks that cause Lyme disease, and 2017 is projected to be an especially bad year.

There’s so much we don’t understand about alpha-gal sensitivity. Scientists don’t know why it happens, how to treat it, or if it's permanent. All they can do is advise us to be vigilant and follow basic tick-avoidance practices.

[h/t Business Insider]

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