This process requires taking the temperature of contemporary pop culture while attempting to access some prescience for the months to come. My approach included labyrinthine equations, calculated after absorbing the following: all of the announced 2019-2020 movie and album releases; news of television premieres, recent Emmy nominations, the moving parts of many an actor’s IMDb page; September issue magazine covers and premature Oscars 2020 predictions; recent headliners at music festivals, Madison Square Garden and Webster Hall. I tried to narrow in on guests who 1) capture the zeitgeist, 2) have the clout to court high ratings, and 3) exhibit enough dynamism to keep up with the pace of the late night show and its ensemble cast.
It helped that I had a primer of the show’s methodologies after reading the 800-page history of Saturday Night Live this summer. As a general rule, the tapped hosts and musical guests almost always have a recent premiere or album release to promote. Formulaically, each season often includes a host who’s a former cast member, or an integral part of a NBC television show (sometimes they’re both: e.g., Seth Meyers). About once a season there’s an ambidextrous musical guest who can host too, like Donald Glover/Childish Gambino, Halsey, and Ariana Grande. The show also tends to enlist one athlete to keep the roster from getting stale: this seat has most recently been occupied by Charles Barkley, Ronda Rousey, and John Cena.
My predictions become increasingly less scientific and more spitball-y the further into the future this list extends: by Oscar season, my crystal ball contains only L.A. smog. This is why the season is determined on a rolling basis; still, I endeavored to plot out the roster through May, mostly for the satisfaction of reviewing the list at year’s end and seeing how wrong I was.
September, Ep. 1:
Timothée Chalamet: It would not please Louisa May Alcott to have Timothée Chalamet on SNL to promote the Little Women movie, but I imagine that whenever they secure him, he’ll be a ratings win. Consider it a promo for The King and watch the viewers pour in.
Lizzo: There’s no way Lizzo won’t book this season. Between her new album, her role in the new Hustlers movie based on the exceptional story by Jessica Pressler in New York Magazine, and her social media virality, Lizzo’s heat has reached its boiling point.
October, Ep. 2:
Phoebe Waller-Bridge: Fleabag collected Emmy nominations like a child in mid-century America collected stamps, and the internet is nutty for Phoebe Waller-Bridge, so I did the math. (The Hot Priest can, and should, come too.)
Lil Nas X w/ Billy Ray Cyrus: I also did the math here.
October, Ep. 3:
Tom Hanks: I’ve already cried watching the trailer for It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood when I saw it in theaters ahead of my feature presentation. Normally it’d be routine to host after the movie premieres (which will be November 22nd) but I wanted to leave an October buffer where I saw a David S. Pumpkins opportunity. Tom Hanks is practically a Featured Player—this would be his tenth time hosting.
Big Thief: They have a new album coming out (Two Hands) on October 11th, and they’re just the right amount of moody for a late October show.
November, Ep. 4:
Hasan Minhaj: Running with the momentum of his weekly Netflix show, Patriot Act.
Drake: This guess is riding on the success of Care Package, Drake’s recent compilation that dropped mid-August and debuted at the No.1 spot on the Billboard 200.
November, Ep. 5:
Gwyneth Paltrow: Gwyneth parodied her company last season by playing an employee of goop on Weekend Update. I have an inkling that she’ll feature as herself this season, given her clickability as head honcho of goop and a recent return to the screen for the Netflix series The Politician, premiering September 27th. It would be her fourth time hosting.
Billie Eilish: It’s only a matter of time until she’s SNL-anointed. I like the idea of Gwyneth x Billie pairing—so weird and so good.
November, Ep. 6:
Olivia Colman: Olivia Colman plays Queen E in season three of The Crown, premiering November 17th, and she’s an international treasure as proven by her Oscar acceptance speech last February. Opportune for royal spoofing.
Just got this text from Edith Young and couldn't press the 'react with heart' fast enough pic.twitter.com/PIKaWYBh5u
— Man Repeller (@ManRepeller) February 25, 2019
BROCKHAMPTON: Another impending album release!!! Their silver jumpsuits will look stupendous on live television.
November, Ep. 7:
Ansel Elgort: Ansel’s going to be hot off the screen’s adaptation of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, and he’s never hosted SNL, if you can believe it.
Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell’s gotta be played somewhere.
December, Ep. 8:
Keegan-Michael Key: Key, of Key & Peele, features prominently in the upcoming Eddie Murphy movie Dolemite Is My Name and I figure this is reason for a sketch comedy crossover.
Sofi Tukker: The duo has a new EP releasing in September called R.I.P. Shame, Pt. 1. They’ve already scored an Apple commercial, so SNL is a logical next step.
December, Ep. 9:
Kristen Wiig: All fans of the show would go hog-wild to see her deliver her third monologue, and it’d dovetail nicely with her involvement in Where’d You Go, Bernadette.
Bon Iver: Consider it a public service announcement via NBC to start your winter off with a (presumably) sad new album by Bon Iver (it’s called i,i).
December, Ep. 10:
Daniel Kaluuya: Never before a host, Kaluuya will be in the public eye once again when Queen & Slim releases on November 27th.
A$AP Ferg: He just released a new project Floor Seats and will be on his Yedi tour for the rest of the year.
January, Ep. 11:
Taylor Swift (both): She hasn’t hosted since 2009, and this year will be a double Taylor whammy: the instantly-viral Twitter darling Cats hits theaters on December 20th, and Swift’s new album Lover will have picked up a lot of steam by January.
February, Ep. 12:
Florence Pugh: I’m not terribly familiar with her yet, but I imagine we all will be after Midsommar, Little Women and Black Widow.
ROSALÍA: A Fader cover must mean that a SNL appearance isn’t far behind.
February, Ep. 13:
Andy Samberg: Now that his show “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is in NBC territory, this seems like an obvious choice. The King of the Digital Shorts would be warmly welcomed back.
King Princess: Give the youths what they want.
March, Ep. 14:
Serena Williams: After reigning supreme on magazine covers for the last few years, Williams is my prediction for athlete-of-the-season on SNL. Other chief contenders would be LeBron (who hosted in 2007 but has since been Hollywood certified by Judd Apatow) or Odell Beckham Jr. maybe, despite his departure from the New York sports arena.
Chance the Rapper: The Big Day will likely end up on the show, it’s just a matter of when.
March, Ep. 15:
Natasha Lyonne: Russian Doll has been renewed for a second season, and I have a feeling this would make for a wonderfully bizarre episode of SNL.
P!nk: She’s been all over MSG this summer.
March, Ep. 16:
Tracee Ellis Ross: While I doubt NBC is going to go to great lengths to promote her ABC sitcoms “black-ish” and “mixed-ish,” she’ll have a new movie out called Covers in 2020. Also keeping an eye out for her Daria spinoff, Jodie via MTV—release date unknown.
Vampire Weekend: They’re making the rounds for their 2019 album Father of the Bride, and I peg it at a decent likelihood that the band ends up on SNL for a fourth time.
April, Ep. 17:
Damian Lewis: A hedge fund antagonist in Showtime’s Billions and a brief but effective Steve McQueen in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, Lewis is a wildcard but it could happen. He’s so versatile with accents! And he looked so funny in that Steve McQueen wig! Bring Paul Giamatti with you!
Iggy Azalea: She’s on her comeback tour.
April, Ep. 18:
Jeff Goldblum: For the sake of capturing our peculiar zeitgeist, I can see there being a real hunger for Internet darling Jeff “Zaddy” Goldblum this season. He could also play with his band, Mildred Snitzer’s Orchestra, though I’m not sure that that’s in the cards. At this point, he’ll likely have his Disney docu-series, “The World According to Jeff Goldblum,” to promote.
Sleater-Kinney: Carrie Brownstein’s band has a new album, The Center Won’t Hold.
May, Ep. 19:
John Mulaney: With last year’s ratings to speak for themselves, Mulaney is a crowd favorite and should be a threepeat occurrence. I love when they resuscitate sketches that were nixed the first time the writer pitched it on the show.
SiR: His forthcoming sophomore album Chasing Summer includes a track with Kendrick Lamar.
May, Ep. 20:
Beanie Feldstein: Monica Lewinsky’s been on the show before, so I see no reason why her American Crime Story counterpart wouldn’t be. I hope Beanie does a mean “Benihana baby.”
Tierra Whack: The costume design possibilities here are endless.
May, Ep. 21:
Jim Carrey: Sonic the Hedgehog comes to the silver screen in 2020, and Jim Carrey has been unveiled as a leading maniacal role. After auditioning for the show to no avail, Carrey has hosted three previous times.
Migos: A new album is en route, along with an opportunity for a “Friendos” reprise.
For the record, the above is not a reflection of my personal dream season: I don’t think Devendra Banhart will play on the show though I’m looking forward to his new album, and I’d love to see Lucas Hedges host alongside the premiere of Honey Boy, or Tim Robinson return to 30 Rock on the heels of his sketch comedy Netflix series I Think You Should Leave, or Kieran Culkin throw Studio 8H for a loop mid-Succession season. Unexpectedly, this exercise shaped up to be a salve for seasonal blues: researching what was new and promising on the horizon for fall, and anticipating new episodes of SNL, combated my mixed feelings re: summer’s wind-down.
Playing SNL fantasy draft also gave me newfound respect for executive producer Lorne Michaels’ magic touch. Name the reward—whatever you think is fair—that I should win if I get any of these right. And please hit me with your best guesses, counterpoints, and revisions below.
Graphic by Edith Young.