When Saturday Night Live Predicted the Future

May 27, 2019

Usually, Saturday Night Live produces sketches that comment on current events — you know, stuff that’s already happened. But over its more than 40 seasons, its writers and performers have proved to be such savvy cultural critics that a few times they’ve managed to predict events before they happened. Here are the times when SNL inadvertently showed off its psychic abilities.

The sketch: The very first episode of Saturday Night Live, which aired in October 1975, featured a fake commercial for a product called the “Triple-Trap.” It was a simple safety razor…except that it had three blades, an absurdly large and unnecessary number of blades. The bit mocked the mid-‘70s introduction of two-bladed razors, which were initially viewed as a dumb marketing gimmick.

The reality: In 1998, Gillette unveiled the MACH3 — a three-bladed razor.

The sketch: A fake commercial from a 1977 episode made fun of commercials for food that promised to turn consumers into athletes, i.e. Wheaties. This one starred John Belushi as a world-class decathlon athlete in training. What’s his secret? “I logged a lot of miles training for that day. And I downed a lot of donuts.” He then pours himself a bowl of Little Chocolate Donuts, not quite a cereal but actual small donuts.

The reality: In 2018, Kellogg’s began selling Donut Shop cereal. It’s chocolate flavored, donut-shaped pieces look (and reportedly taste) just like donuts.

The sketch: Frequent SNL guest (and current part-time cast member) Alec Baldwin hosted the 1998 Christmas episode of the show. It included a send-up of The Christmas Carol, including a bit where Baldwin is visited by “The Ghost of Hosts Future.” That ghost was played by then-cast member Jimmy Fallon, who said that he would host SNL on December 12, 2011.

The reality: By the time 2011 rolled around, Fallon was the host of The Tonight Show, a gig high-profile enough to earn him a shot at hosting SNL. He hosted on December 17, 2011. The only reason why he didn’t host on the 12th: because that day was a Monday.

The sketch: A 2013 episode began the way SNL episodes often do: with a “cold open” featuring a cast member playing a political figure, directly addressing viewers. Here, Kate McKinnon portrayed Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services. The sketch poked fun at the problems people were having when trying to sign up for healthcare on the then new “Obamacare” website. The website frequently crashed under heavy traffic for a few days. “Millions of Americans are visiting” the site, “Sebelius” said. “Unfortunately the site was only designed to handle six users at a time.”

The reality: A few days later, news organizations received notes from the meeting of a government panel tasked with improving the website. SNL’s stats were somehow dead-on: 4.7 million people tried to enroll in those first few days, but only six people had been successful.