“Saturday Night Live” Casts Last Pre-Election Broadcast

The final show before Tuesday's Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton face-off arrives with the biggest "SNL" buzz since 2008.

The last time "Saturday Night Live" rolled out just days before an historic presidential election, surprise guest John McCain opened the show with a QVC spoof.

"Are you someone who likes fine jewelry and also respects a politician who can reach across the aisle?" the Arizona Republican asked during the Nov. 1, 2008 sketch, just three days before Democrat Barack Obama beat him for the country's highest office.

No one could have guessed then that eight years later a self-styled salesman whose branded wares (Trump steak-burgers, anyone?) were hawked on the shopping channel would be the GOP presidential candidate.

Few more might have predicted then that "SNL" would ever match the pre-election buzz generated by Tina Fey's return to play McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin.

But here we are, with "SNL" set to air this weekend, three days before the strangest presidential contest in modern history, with Alec Baldwin expected to reprise his withering Donald Trump impression one last time before the polls open.

"SNL" casts its final comedy ballot amid a nation divided over former "Apprentice" star Trump and former First Lady Hillary Clinton, who is vying to become the country's first woman president.

Both candidates can recount long histories with the show. Clinton's been an “SNL” target since her husband's 1992 run for president. Trump has hosted the program twice, most recently last year when his GOP run wasn't being taken seriously by many – including him, judging from some self-deprecating skits.

Trump turned on "SNL" last month, tweeting his displeasure with his recent depiction: "Time to retire the boring and unfunny show. Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks. Media rigging election!"

Clinton, meanwhile, overcame years of wariness to do a guest shot last season opposite her imitator, Kate McKinnon.

The Democratic candidate appears to be the better bet for a last-minute walk-on this weekend, though as with all things Trump, conventional wisdom doesn't apply.

That also holds true for judging the impact of comedy on politics. The Peabody Award citation honoring "SNL" for its 2008 election-season programming suggested the show “may have swung” the election.

That was impossible to know then, of course. But the prospect of meaningful impact of political satire seems even harder to gauge now during a more divisive campaign where most minds appear to be made up. 

The job of "SNL" this weekend is to tweak the pols and make us laugh amid the anxiety that grows as Tuesday approaches. We'll get an extra helping of humor, via an "SNL" 2016 election sketch compilation special airing Monday.

Whether or not this weekend brings any candidate cameos to "SNL," Trump and Clinton will be the stars of the show, likely putting far more eyes on NBC than QVC.

Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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