Woody Harrelson Delivers An Awkward SNL Monologue, Complete With Anti-Vax Conspiracy Joke

Woody Harrelson's return to "Saturday Night Live" this week should have been a celebratory occasion, as Harrelson joined the elite "SNL" Five-Timers Club — made up of celebrity guests who have hosted the show five times. It has become a tradition for other members of the Five-Timers Club to make surprise appearances during a newcomer's monologue and present them with an official club smoking jacket. For Harrelson, however, this didn't happen until the end of the show, when Scarlett Johansson dropped by to present him with his Five-Timers Club outfit. The host highlighted his jacketlessness twice during his opening monologue, holding out his arms expectantly only to comment, "No jacket?" Maybe Johansson got stuck in traffic.

That wasn't the only awkward moment in Harrelson's monologue, however. It largely took the form of rambling Grandpa Simpson-style stories that didn't seem to go anywhere, only with more anecdotes about doing drugs. Then, in keeping with the drugs theme, Harrelson wrapped things up with a thinly-veiled COVID-19 conspiracy joke about a movie script he'd supposedly turned down:

"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. 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 long."

That last punchline feels like it was tacked on by the "SNL" writers in the hopes of pretending this wasn't an anti-vax conspiracy joke. Based on the awkward silence, though, those in the room recognized it for what it was.

Watch Woody Harrelson's Saturday Night Live monologue

This isn't the first time that Harrelson has banged this particular drum. He previously shared a conspiracy theory on Instagram that linked COVID-19 to the installation of 5G networks, with the caption, "I haven't fully vetted it [but] I find it very interesting." Harrelson later deleted the post, but in a May 2022 interview with Vanity Fair he derided the use of masks on set during the pandemic, saying, "As one who doesn't believe in the germ theory, I find it rather absurd."

Outside of China, which notoriously had the strictest COVID-19 lockdown policies in the world, no one was actually forced to "stay locked in their homes" during the pandemic. Lockdown measures generally relied on voluntary compliance with stay-at-home orders, self-quarantining, and social distancing. In the United States vaccines are only federally mandated for healthcare workers (alongside vaccines for hepatitis B and other communicable diseases) and noncitizens traveling to the U.S. from elsewhere. 

Harrelson's monologue has, of course, already been widely and gleefully shared by anti-vaxxer influencers. But ironically, the hyperbole, misinformation, and extremism embedded in "Big Pharma" conspiracy theories only muddies the waters when it comes to legitimate criticism of pharmaceutical companies — something that Hollywood hasn't shied away from.