A Completely Fabricated History of ‘Saturday Night Live,’ According to ChatGPT
A funny thing happened to me while researching a story on Saturday Night Live mishaps. A Google search suggested I try Poe, a chat interface for alleged joke thief ChatGPT. What the heck, I thought — maybe ChatGPT knows more about SNL history than I do. And sure enough, artificial intelligence immediately started sharing stories that I’d never heard before.
For example, I had no idea that Jimmy Fallon got injured on the show: In 2002, during a sketch featuring guest star Horatio Sanz, Jimmy Fallon tripped and fell while portraying a Boston teen character named Sully. Fallon injured his hand, requiring medical attention and resulting in a temporary halt to the live broadcast. He returned to the show later that night with his hand bandaged.
Wow! Just what I was looking for! Except, of course, it never happened. Fallon hurting himself so badly that they actually halted the live broadcast? Um, no. There’s absolutely no record of this incident anywhere. But ChatGPT not only claimed Fallon fell, it completely made up a sketch in which the damage supposedly happened (all the more believable because Fallon and Rachel Dratch regularly played Boston teens Sully and Denise).
I called ChatGPT on its bullshit, asking for more details. Of course, it simply doubled down: During the sketch, Fallon, in character as Sully, was supposed to trip and fall while walking down a flight of stairs. However, the fall did not go as planned, and Fallon ended up injuring his hand in the process. He landed awkwardly and immediately knew something was wrong.
The live broadcast was temporarily halted as Fallon received medical attention backstage. The severity of the injury required him to be taken to a hospital for further evaluation and treatment. Fallon returned to the show later that night with his hand bandaged, but he continued to participate in the remaining sketches.
The incident gained significant attention and became a memorable moment in SNL history.
Then I asked for ChatGPT for its source. Gulp! The AI immediately backtracked.
I apologize for any confusion caused.
The more I asked about SNL, the more falsehoods ChatGPT fabricated out of thin air. I was curious about what other yarns it would spin about the show’s history. Here are a few more, along with reality checks.
Stephen Colbert hosted Saturday Night Live (SNL) on November 3, 2018. This episode marked his first time hosting the show. Colbert, known for his satirical humor and political commentary, brought his unique style to the SNL stage.
Throughout the episode, Colbert showcased his comedic talents through various sketches and segments. He delivered a monologue that touched on current events and shared humorous anecdotes from his own life. The monologue also included a surprise appearance by Jon Stewart, his former colleague from The Daily Show.
One memorable sketch from the episode was a parody of the hit Netflix series "Stranger Things" titled "The Upside Down in Trump's America." Colbert played the character of Steve Harrington, portrayed in the original series by Joe Keery. The sketch humorously blended the supernatural world of "Stranger Things" with the political climate of the time.
Reality Check: Colbert has never hosted the show, much less done a Stranger Things sketch or brought on surprise guest Jon Stewart. (Chat GPT also claimed that Mel Brooks and Bob Odenkirk had memorable hosting turns. Neither has hosted.)
Steve Martin was a member of the cast of Saturday Night Live (SNL) during its early years. He was not only a cast member but also one of the show's original writers.
Reality Check: Despite several hosting appearances, Steve Martin was neither a cast member nor a writer on Saturday Night Live.
One notable moment involving Lorne Michaels occurred during the seventh season finale of SNL in 1982. The episode was hosted by Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, and during the closing moments, Jagger, along with some cast members, pretended to fire Lorne Michaels and declare that SNL was being canceled. This memorable skit, known as "The Last Show," played on the rumors at the time that SNL might be ending. It showcased Michaels' ability to poke fun at himself and the show's history, providing a humorous and meta twist to the finale.
Reality Check: Lorne Michaels left the show after its fifth season and didn’t return until its eleventh — he was nowhere near the show in 1982. While Jagger hosted the show in 1978 and 2012, he didn’t appear on the show at all in the 1980s. “The Last Show” sketch is a complete fabrication.
The "Cheerleaders" sketch from Saturday Night Live (SNL) was turned into a movie titled "The Ladies Man."
Reality Check: Um…
There are more alternative comedy realities to be explored — just ask ChatGPT. What’s astounding isn’t that it gets the facts wrong. It’s that the AI completely invents stories when a simple “I don’t know” would suffice. It’s a pretty funny exercise when you’re goofing around about sketch comedy history, but maybe not so much if ChatGPT makes up stories around … the causes of climate change? The origins of COVID-19? Election results? Inventing stories about Jimmy Fallon may only be the beginning.