Woody Harrelson, an actor who has shared eyebrow-raising opinions about COVID-19 before, began his fifth Saturday Night Live hosting gig with what sounded to many like an anti-vaccine conspiracy theory.
In his opening monologue on the NBC show’s February 25 episode, Harrelson told the audience he read “the craziest script” the day after his last SNL hosting gig.
“So the movie goes like this,” the actor said, after a lengthy narrative detour about his marijuana use. “The biggest drug cartels in the world get together and buy up all the media and all the politicians and force all the people in the world to stay locked in their homes. And people can only come out if they take the cartel’s drugs and keep taking them over and over.”
But the former Cheers star said he threw the script away. “I mean, who was going to believe that crazy idea? Being forced to do drugs? I do that voluntarily all day long.”
Many Twitter users, however, didn’t think Harrelson’s story was a laughing matter. “So SNL is just cool with Woody Harrelson doing an anti-vax opening monologue?” one wrote.
“The silence in the audience speaks for itself,” another person tweeted.
A third Twitter user wrote, “I just read Woody Harrelson’s monologue. I guess I’m not a good sport anymore because I don’t find anti-vax jokes funny while we lost a good chunk of America due to stupid people spreading it to others.”
Others, however, commended Harrelson for is comments. “At least Woody Harrelson is bold enough to call out Big Pharma,” one person tweeted.
Harrelson’s COVID-19 comments have come under scrutiny before. In April 2020, the True Detective alum shared an Instagram post with a screenshot of an article linking 5G technology to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, telling followers that a lot of his friends “have bene talking about the negative effects of 5G.” He later deleted his 5G posts, according to The New York Times.
And in a Vanity Fair interview published in May 2022, the actor complained about mask use on Hollywood sets. “I think it’s not very conducive to good work,” he said. “As one who doesn’t believe in the germ theory, I find it rather absurd.”
As for his SNL monologue, there appears to be some debate among viewers about whether Harrelson’s movie-script story was scripted or ad-libbed. “Why does everyone think Lorne Michaels and [NBC] didn’t know what Woody Harrelson would say in his SNL monologue?” one viewer tweeted after the show. “They rehearse it for time and he used cue cards. So his monologue was approved in advance. Nothing was sprung on the network!”
So far, Michaels has not publicly commented on Harrelson’s monologue.
Saturday Night Live, Saturdays, 11:30/10:30c, NBC