Saturday Night Live (season 34)

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Saturday Night Live (season 34)
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes22
Original networkNBC
Original releaseSeptember 13, 2008 (2008-09-13) –
May 16, 2009 (2009-05-16)
Season chronology
← Previous
season 33
Next →
season 35
List of Saturday Night Live episodes

The thirty-fourth season of Saturday Night Live, an American sketch comedy series, originally aired in the United States on NBC between September 13, 2008, and May 16, 2009.

This season is notable for its take on the 2008 presidential election, which saw the show's ratings rapidly increase and a number of award nominations.


This season consisted of 22 episodes rather than the usual 20, in an attempt to compensate for episodes lost during the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike. This made it the longest season since the show's second season. The season premiere date of September 13 was earlier than the premiere date for previous seasons, which typically have started during the final weekend of September or in early October.

The show was nominated for many awards including Emmy Awards, a Peabody award and nomination for Comedy/Variety (Including Talk) Series at the Writers Guild of America Awards 2009.[1] After gaining so much media coverage and high seasonal ratings, rival sketch show Mad TV ended in 2009 after its fourteenth season due to low ratings and a dip in quality brought on by budget constraints and mediocre writing (though MADtv would later return in 2016, it would only be for a brief, eight-episode run and the ratings were not enough for the show to be completely brought back from cancellation).[2]


SNL received much media coverage for the show's take on the 2008 presidential election, causing ratings to increase rapidly. The season premiere opened with Tina Fey playing Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin (alongside a pregnant Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton) in a "non-partisan message on sexism".[3] The phrase "I can see Russia from my house!" was coined by Fey during this sketch.[4] The episode was the show's highest-rated season premiere since the 2001–02 season and is the second most-watched SNL episode ever.[citation needed] A month later, the show drew its highest ratings in over 14 years when the real Sarah Palin appeared. SNL had 17 million viewers during its first half-hour.[citation needed]


Before the start of the season, the cast remained mostly unchanged except for the addition of Bobby Moynihan. Moynihan (like Casey Wilson in the previous season) came to SNL as a performer with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater;[5] in season 33, Moynihan and Wilson were among the group of Upright Citizens Brigade performers SNL auditioned mid-season while the show was looking for a new cast member to join after the writers' strike in early 2008. Moynihan did not make the cut in his season 33 audition, but instead ended up being invited back for another audition shortly before this season started. Wilson remained a featured player.

Midway through the season, cast member Amy Poehler went on maternity leave after giving birth to her son hours before the October 25, 2008 episode, hosted by Jon Hamm. Poehler returned on December 6, 2008 in the John Malkovich hosted episode and made her final appearance as a cast member the following week on the Hugh Laurie hosted episode on December 13, 2008. She announced that it would be her final show at the end of Weekend Update, leaving Poehler to become the longest serving female cast member, as she surpassed Molly Shannon and Rachel Dratch's record after staying for eight seasons, so far eleven years later, Kate McKinnon would break Poehler's record later on, as McKinnon would remain on the show for nine seasons, as she joined the show during the final five episodes of season 37, which brings her to become the new longest serving female cast member in to the show's history.

Shortly after Poehler went on maternity leave, the show added two new female cast members to fill the void. Michaela Watkins (of The Groundlings in Los Angeles) and Abby Elliott (daughter of former SNL cast member Chris Elliott) joined the show as featured players on November 15, 2008.[6] Watkins, like Moynihan, had originally auditioned in season 33.[7]

This season would also be the last for longtime cast member Darrell Hammond, the last remaining cast member from the 1990s, who had been on the show for 14 seasons. He was the longest-running cast member until Kenan Thompson in 2017. Hammond would eventually return to SNL, making multiple cameo appearances in sketches, until he succeeded longtime announcer Don Pardo, after Pardo died a month before the 40th season began. Featured players Michaela Watkins and Casey Wilson were both let go after this season.

Cast roster[edit]

bold denotes Weekend Update anchor



No. in
HostMusical guest(s)Original air dateRatings/
6371Michael PhelpsLil WayneSeptember 13, 2008 (2008-09-13)7.4/18[10]

6382James FrancoKings of LeonSeptember 20, 2008 (2008-09-20)N/A

6393Anna FarisDuffySeptember 27, 2008 (2008-09-27)6.0/15[12]

6404Anne HathawayThe KillersOctober 4, 2008 (2008-10-04)7.4/18[14]

  • The Killers performed "Human" and "Spaceman".
  • Queen Latifah appeared as Gwen Ifill and Tina Fey returned as Sarah Palin in a parody of the Vice Presidential Debate, with Jason Sudeikis as Joe Biden in the cold open.
  • An edited version of the sketch parodying the economic bailout was posted on, removing references to Herbert and Marion Sandler's (played by Darrell Hammond and Casey Wilson, respectively) corrupt activities and removing the graphic labeling the couple as "people who should be shot." Lorne Michaels admitted he did not know the Sandlers were a real couple; he believed they were simply characters written for the sketch.[13] The Netflix version (and versions of this sketch shown on Hulu and Saturday Night Live's mobile app) of this episode includes the scene with the Sandlers, but edited it to remove the "People Who Should Be Shot" lower-third and cut the part where Herbert Sandler thanks Barney Frank for letting them get away with what they did to Wachovia Bank.
  • Andy Samberg plays Mark Wahlberg in a sketch where Wahlberg talks to animals, which is referenced by Wahlberg in the following episode.
6415Josh BrolinAdeleOctober 18, 2008 (2008-10-18)10.7/24[15]

6426Jon HammColdplayOctober 25, 2008 (2008-10-25)7.1/18[16]

  • Coldplay performs "Viva La Vida", "Lost!", "Yellow", and "Lovers in Japan", which was cut off.
  • Co-stars Elisabeth Moss and John Slattery appeared in the "Ad Agency" sketch as their Mad Men characters Peggy Olson and Roger Sterling, respectively.
  • Amy Poehler did not appear, having given birth hours before this episode aired; Seth Meyers anchored Update by himself, announcing at the beginning of the segment "Amy Poehler is not here tonight, because she's having a baby" to tremendous applause, then continuing with "tonight's other top stories."
  • Maya Rudolph appears as Michelle Obama in the Obama Variety Hour sketch, and performs a brief cover of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", replacing "I love you, baby" with "we love you, Amy", with Kenan Thompson at the end of Update, wishing Poehler the best during her maternity leave.
6437Ben AffleckDavid CookNovember 1, 2008 (2008-11-01)9.0/20[17]

6448Paul RuddBeyoncéNovember 15, 2008 (2008-11-15)N/A

6459Tim McGrawLudacris & T-PainNovember 22, 2008 (2008-11-22)N/A

  • Ludacris and T-Pain perform "One More Drink" and "Chopped & Skrewed". Both Ludacris and T-Pain appear in the "Blizzard Man Replaces T-Pain" sketch.
  • Justin Timberlake was originally scheduled to be the host and musical guest for this episode, but he had to cancel at the last minute, as he explained in the previous episode.
64610John MalkovichT.I.December 6, 2008 (2008-12-06)N/A

64711Hugh LaurieKanye WestDecember 13, 2008 (2008-12-13)N/A

  • Kanye West performed "Love Lockdown" and a medley including "Heartless" and "Pinocchio Story".
  • Maya Rudolph performs in a "Bronx Beat" sketch with Amy Poehler.
  • Amy Poehler's final episode as a cast member; she announces her departure at the end of Weekend Update, being interrupted at one point by Fred Armisen as New York governor David Paterson walking in front of the camera, having left shortly before; as Meyers and Poehler sign off Update, they share a long hug as the segment ends.
  • Shortly after this broadcast, Paterson himself openly complained about Armisen's portrayal of him, saying the impression was insensitive to the blind and visually impaired (Paterson would later appear with Armisen on the premiere episode of season 36)[18]
64812Neil Patrick HarrisTaylor SwiftJanuary 10, 2009 (2009-01-10)N/A

  • Taylor Swift appears in the "Save Broadway" sketch as Annie, and performs "Love Story" and "Forever & Always".
  • Liza Minnelli appears in the "Group Therapy" sketch.
  • Neil Patrick Harris appears in the "Save Broadway" sketch as Mark Cohen from RENT. Harris played the same character in the Los Angeles production of RENT in 1997. In the same sketch Fred Armisen, a former drummer for the Blue Man Group, plays the center blue man.
64913Rosario DawsonFleet FoxesJanuary 17, 2009 (2009-01-17)N/A

  • Fleet Foxes performs "Mykonos" and "Blue Ridge Mountains".
65014Steve MartinJason MrazJanuary 31, 2009 (2009-01-31)N/A

65115Bradley CooperTV on the RadioFebruary 7, 2009 (2009-02-07)N/A

65216Alec BaldwinJonas BrothersFebruary 14, 2009 (2009-02-14)N/A

  • The Jonas Brothers perform "Tonight" and "Video Girl". They also appear in a sketch and an SNL Digital Short.[19]
  • Former castmember Dan Aykroyd appears as John Boehner in the cold opening.[20]
  • Baldwin’s 30 Rock co-star Jack McBrayer makes a guest appearance in the opening monologue.
  • Cameron Diaz once again reprises her role as Kiki Deamore in the recurring sketch "The Cougar Den".
  • Alec Baldwin's nieces make a cameo introducing the Jonas Brothers' second song.[21]
65317Dwayne JohnsonRay LaMontagneMarch 7, 2009 (2009-03-07)N/A

65418Tracy MorganKelly ClarksonMarch 14, 2009 (2009-03-14)N/A

65519Seth RogenPhoenixApril 4, 2009 (2009-04-04)N/A

65620Zac EfronYeah Yeah YeahsApril 11, 2009 (2009-04-11)5.1[22]

  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform "Zero" and "Maps".
65721Justin TimberlakeCiaraMay 9, 2009 (2009-05-09)N/A

65822Will FerrellGreen DayMay 16, 2009 (2009-05-16)N/A


TitleOriginal air dateUS viewers
"Saturday Night Live Presidential Bash 2008"November 3, 2008 (2008-11-03)N/A
A selection of sketches relating to the 2008 election.


  1. ^ "2010 Writers Guild Awards Television, Radio, News, Promotional Writing, and Graphic Animation Nominees Announced" (Press release). Writers Guild of America West. December 14, 2009. Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved March 28, 2011.
  2. ^ Rice, Lynette. "'MADtv' to end its 14-year run at season's end". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 18, 2015.
  3. ^ Spillius, Alex (September 14, 2008). "Tina Fey lands the first punch at Sarah Palin in Saturday Night Live sketch". The Telegraph. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  4. ^ Orloff, Brian (September 14, 2008). "Tina Fey Parodies Sarah Palin on SNL Premiere". People. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  5. ^ Waldo, Patrick (August 20, 2008). "Bobby Moynihan Named New SNL Cast Member". Huffington Post. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  6. ^ Carter, Bill; Itzkoff, Dave (November 13, 2008). "Two Women Join SNL". The New York Times. p. C4.
  7. ^ Huang, Keith (2009-01-30). "Look Who Stopped by: It's Michaela Watkins!". The Apiary. Retrieved 2016-01-14.
  8. ^ "Live, From New York: Barack Obama!". People. September 11, 2008. Archived from the original on June 22, 2013. Retrieved April 19, 2015.
  9. ^ "Rain Check? Obama Nixes SNL Visit Due to Hurricane". TV Guide. September 13, 2008. Retrieved April 19, 2015.
  10. ^ Stelter, Brian (September 14, 2008). "'SNL' Sees Its Ratings Soar". The New York Times. Retrieved June 2, 2016.
  11. ^ "Diaz plays 'cougar' on TV show". Daily Express. Northern & Shell. September 21, 2008. Retrieved August 29, 2014.
  12. ^ Gough, Paul J. (September 28, 2008). "'SNL' continues ratings run". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on October 1, 2008. Retrieved June 2, 2016.
  13. ^ Gold, Matea (October 7, 2008). "'Saturday Night Live' yanks, then reposts, controversial bailout sketch". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  14. ^ "Fey as Palin continues to boost 'SNL' ratings". MSNBC. October 7, 2008. Retrieved June 2, 2016.
  15. ^ Gough, Paul J. (October 19, 2008). "Palin helps 'SNL' to best ratings in 14 years". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on October 20, 2008. Retrieved June 2, 2016.
  16. ^ Gough, Paul J. (October 26, 2008). "'Saturday Night Live' still solid". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on October 29, 2008. Retrieved June 2, 2016.
  17. ^ Seidman, Robert (January 14, 2010). "Charles Barkley Leads Saturday Night Live To 10.4 Million & Best Performance In 14 Months". TV By The Numbers.
  18. ^ "Saturday Night Live: Hugh Laurie/Kanye West Trivia and Quotes on". 2011-03-12. Retrieved 2011-03-28.
  19. ^ "SNL Archives | Episodes | Details". 2009-02-14. Retrieved 2011-04-02.
  20. ^ "SNL Archives | Episodes | Details". 2009-02-14. Retrieved 2011-04-02.
  21. ^ "Season 34: Episode 16". Saturday Night Live Transcripts. February 14, 2009.
  22. ^ "Zac Efron, "Saturday Night Live" score higher ratings than prime-time fare Saturday; "Ten Commandments" gives ABC a win". Orlando Sentinel. April 12, 2009. Retrieved June 2, 2016.
  23. ^ "Saturday Night Live - News - Yahoo! TV". Retrieved 2011-03-28.