Woody Harrelson’s ‘SNL’ monologue sparks backlash online: ‘Antivax nonsense’

A bald man wearing a blue suit and gesturing with his hands on a stage in front of a band
Woody Harrelson hosts a 2023 episode of “Saturday Night Live.”
(Will Heath / NBC)

Woody Harrelson, who has a history of spreading COVID-19 conspiracy theories, has drawn criticism for appearing to denounce pandemic safety measures and vaccines during his “Saturday Night Live” monologue this weekend.

At the top of Saturday’s show, the self-identified “redneck hippie” delivered a rambling stand-up routine that touched on politics, exalted cannabis, promoted his new movie “Champions” — and seemingly likened pharmaceutical companies manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines to “drug cartels” forcing people “to do drugs.”

While hosting the latest episode of “SNL” with musical guest Jack White, Harrelson launched into a long-winded story about a film “script” he received in 2019.


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“The movie goes like this,” Harrelson said. “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.”

“I threw the script away,” he continued. “I mean, who was gonna believe that crazy idea? Being forced to do drugs? I do that voluntarily.”

For the record: Public health officials have encouraged people to remain cautious about COVID-19 and stay up to date with vaccinations, even as safety precautions such as mask and vaccine mandates are loosening around the country.

According to a January report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, unvaccinated individuals were more than seven times as likely to die from COVID-19 in L.A. County as those who received an updated booster during the latest coronavirus spike.

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When this week’s installment of “SNL” aired on NBC, Harrelson sparked a Twitter backlash with his opening remarks. One person dismissed the monologue as “antivax nonsense,” while another questioned who at NBC “approved this.”

“There are so many horrible things about big pharma like insulin prices and the opioid epidemic, but people instead focus on vaccines when there’s no evidence against them,” tweeted @ryancbeard. “I don’t get it.”


“F— you for giving this dude a platform to spread this anti-vax [BS],” tweeted @drosslmyers. “call me a bad sport or whatever but i don’t think it’s funny when we’re still in the midst of an illness that’s still spreading thanks to losers like this.”

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Harrelson’s routine was lauded online by controversial Twitter owner Elon Musk and others who called the Oscar nominee’s comments “spot on” and commended him for “speaking truth to power.”

It’s worth noting that the “Hunger Games” and “True Detective” star has spread misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic in the past. In a May interview with Vanity Fair, Harrelson inaccurately stated that face masks don’t limit COVID-19 infections, claimed he hasn’t contracted the virus because his “immune system’s strong,” said he “doesn’t believe in the germ theory” and deemed protective equipment on set — such as masks and face shields — “rather absurd.”

Representatives for Harrelson and “SNL” did not immediately respond Sunday to The Times’ requests for comment.

Times staff writers Marissa Evans, Luke Money and Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this report.