Woody Harrelson’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ COVID-19 joke draws mixed reaction: ‘Conspiracy’ or ‘red pilled’






Woody Harrelson drew praise and scorn for his opening monologue appearing to joke about coronavirus vaccines during the latest episode of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

Harrelson, who hosted the program for the fifth time Saturday, ended his opening monologue by joking about a movie pitch he allegedly read in 2019 that he called the “craziest” he’s ever heard. 

“So the movie goes like this: 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,” Harrelson said. “I 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.”

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — Woody Harrelson, Jack White Episode 1839 — Pictured: (l-r) Musical Guest Jack White, Host Woody Harrelson, and Chloe Fineman during Promos in Studio 8H on Thursday, February 23, 2023  (Rosalind OConnor/NBC via Getty Images)

While some Twitter users praised the Harrelson’s apparent jab at the COVID-19 vaccine, many mainstream media outlets criticized the actor for promoting “conspiracies.”

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The Hollywood Reporter featured the headline, “Woody Harrelson Takes on COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates and Conspiracies in ‘SNL’ Monologue.” Fellow Hollywood Reporter critic Daniel Fienberg added, “Well, if nothing else, the monologue seems to have made the anti-vaccine crowd in the comments very happy.”

Rolling Stone writer Marlow Stern also reported “Woody Harrelson Spreads Anti-Vax Conspiracies During ‘SNL’ Monologue” while remarking that Harrelson “has a history of strange anti-science remarks during the Covid pandemic.”

The Daily Beast’s Matt Wilstein wrote, “It was Woody Harrelson’s fifth time hosting Saturday Night Live this week, a distinction that often comes with a star-studded induction into the coveted Five-Timers Club. Instead, the actor used his time on stage to ramble incoherently for several minutes until ultimately delivering a not-so-coded anti-COVID vaccine message to the millions of viewers at home.”

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Woody Harrelson, Jack White Episode 1839 -- Pictured: Host Woody Harrelson during Promos in Studio 8H on Tuesday, February 21, 2023 

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — Woody Harrelson, Jack White Episode 1839 — Pictured: Host Woody Harrelson during Promos in Studio 8H on Tuesday, February 21, 2023  (Rosalind OConnor/NBC via Getty Images)

Several other outlets including Variety, Forbes and the Washington Post recapped the monologue as a “Covid conspiracy” with Washington Post editor Olivia McCormack, in particular, referring to it as a “pervasive” conspiracy and a “pandemic plot favored by vaccination opponents.”

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However, several right-leaning viewers praised the joke and remarked on their surprise that NBC allowed the comment to be made.

The Spectator contributing editor Stephen Miller wrote, “What exactly did they think they were getting with him hosting?”

“People don’t seem to understand, Woody Harrelson is what liberals used to be,” comedian Bridget Phetsay remarked.

“#WoodyHarrelson with some two-year-old obvious truth on SNL,” Washington Examiner columnist Ian Haworth tweeted.

RedState columnist Buzz Patterson commented, “Who thought that @WoodyHarrelson would ever be red pilled? Love it.”

“Shame Woody Harrelson will never be in a movie again, he’s very funny,” Washington Free Beacon executive editor Brent Scher wrote.

In 2020, during the onset of the pandemic, Harrelson previously shared a report “about the negative effects of 5G” regarding the coronavirus.

“I haven’t fully vetted it I find it very interesting,” he wrote at the time.

Actor Woody Harrelson attends the game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena on January 28, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Actor Woody Harrelson attends the game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena on January 28, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

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Harrelson’s joke followed mainstream media outlets reporting more critical opinions on pandemic policies. On Tuesday, the New York Times published an opinion piece reading, “The Mask Mandates Did Nothing. Will Any Lessons Be Learned?” On Thursday, NBC News published a study revealing that natural immunity from a previous COVID-19 infection could provide as strong protection as two doses of the mRNA vaccine.








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