Woody Harrelson Engages COVID-19 Mandates, Conspiracies in Opener  

Woody Harrelson used his historic, five-timer monologue while hosting Saturday Night Live to question COVID-19 mandates and joke about conspiracy theories.

While appearing as host of the Feb. 25 episode, the Champions star kicked off NBC variety show’s winter return with a winding joke that took on COVID-19 mandates and conspiracy theories. The joke began with Harrelson recounting how his last time hosting was right before the global pandemic kicked off a series of lockdown measures, along with corresponding vaccine and mask mandates to prevent the virus’ spread.

“The last time I did SNL was around Thanksgiving 2019 Three years ago, and you will not believe what happened after the show,” he recalled. “The next day was a Sunday as it always is the day after I do Saturday Night Live. It’s like a pattern I noticed. Anyways, I went walking in the greatest part of this city, Central Park — laid against the tree and started to read the craziest script.”

Harrelson then went on to wind in and out of a very long series of jokes about his past and present substance use, from weed to alcohol, adding at one point that he starts “smoking around noon and get[s] progressively dumber as the day unfolds.” That was alongside self-descriptions like “anarchist Marxist, ethical hedonist, non-discriminatory empath, epistemological deconstructionist Texan.”

It all seems to help set up the idea that the politically “purple” actor might be a little unconventional before the Hunger Games actor delivered the back half of the joke that seemingly mentioned those lockdown measures and mandates.

“So the movie goes like this,” he began. “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 home. 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?” he added. “Being forced to do drugs? I do that voluntarily all day.”

The monologue, which appeared to compare vaccine makers to drug cartels, resulted in the actor trending on social media as users questioned — and in other cases, like Elon Musk, supported — the joke’s anti-mandate implications.   has reached out to reps for Saturday Night Live for comment.

This is not Harrelson’s first brush with criticizing pandemic protocols and precautions. In a 2022 Vanity Fair interview, while promoting his movie Triangle of Sadness, the actor said on-set COVID-19 protocols like masks, goggles and face shields — and those hired to enforce them — were a “hassle,” “absurd,” and “made it difficult” for him to work, “as one who doesn’t believe in the germ theory.”

He went on to espouse that using masks would result in breathing in higher rates of carbon monoxide, that U.S. states “that didn’t do the protocols fared better by far than the states that did” economically and that he had not gotten COVID-19 — or sick in seven years — because he is “internally clean.” (Masks trapping dangerous levels of CO2 has been debunked, while a 2021 report from economists at UCLA found that states with more stringent restrictions “had better health and economic outcomes.”)

In a since-deleted April 2020 Instagram post in which he admits in the photo caption that he hasn’t “fully vetted” what he’s posting, Harrelson was among a few Hollywood names publicly sharing the COVID conspiracy theory that linked 5G to the virus.

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