Lorne Michaels

Comedy Impact Report '08: Tube Titans

Nobody wanted to see the presidential campaign continue beyond Nov. 4 more than Lorne Michaels.

As the grand poobah of “Saturday Night Live,” Michaels saw the show earn some of its biggest numbers ever, reaching all the way back to the Not Ready for Primetime Players days. The campaign gave “SNL” — now in its 34th season — a renewed mojo.

When vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin appeared on Oct. 18, the episode was watched by 15 million viewers, the most of any “SNL” since 2001.

As the campaign became more intense, the ratings only grew higher. Darrell Hammond impersonated John McCain, Fred Armisen did Barack Obama and the coup de grace was Tina Fey’s dead-on impression of Palin.

The anticipation of every new episode — be it on the weekend or the special Thursday night “Weekend Update” edition — was mandatory viewing. And the shorter prep time between shows, which helped deliver more timely skits but also frazzled backstage nerves, made it all the more watchable.

“It has to be live,” Michaels said on “Charlie Rose.” “If it wasn’t live, we’d be discussing it for months. We don’t go on because it’s ready, we go on because it’s 11:30.”

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