But wait, there's more on 'SNL'

Gold is a Times staff writer.

Sen. John McCain leavened his final campaign blitz this weekend with a lighthearted appearance on "Saturday Night Live," hoping to get a boost from the late-night variety show that has proved red-hot this political season.

The Republican presidential hopeful opened the show with Tina Fey, who reprised her popular impression of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. In the sketch, the cash-strapped running mates pitched their ticket and hawked items on the QVC cable shopping channel.

"This past Wednesday, Barack Obama purchased air time on three major networks," McCain said, referring to his Democratic rival's 30-minute infomercial. "We, however, can only afford QVC."

"These campaigns sure are expensive," Fey said, fingering her sleek black suit in a sly reference to the $150,000 the Republican Party spent outfitting Palin and her family.

A smiling McCain good-naturedly tried to sell a variety of products, including a set of "pork" knives and "McCain Fine Gold" jewelry, shown by his wife, Cindy, who smilingly gestured to the necklaces on display.

"It commemorates the McCain-Feingold Act and also looks good with evening wear," he said.

Then Fey darted to the side and, in a stage whisper, told the audience she was "going rogue." She held up a "Palin in 2012" T-shirt.

"Just try and wait until after Tuesday to wear 'em, OK?" she said. "Because I am not going anywhere, and I'm certainly not going back to Alaska. If I'm not going to the White House, I'm either running in four years, or I'm going to be a white Oprah."

Saturday marked McCain's third time on "SNL." He hosted the show in October 2002 and most recently was featured on the program in May, when he joked that voters should elect as their next president "someone who is very, very, very old."

His election eve appearance came after Palin's turn on the show last month attracted 15 million viewers, "SNL's" best ratings in 14 years.

On Saturday, McCain spoofed criticisms that his campaign hasn't stuck with a consistent strategy, telling Seth Meyers on "Weekend Update" that he was "considering a few radical last-minute strategies."

One possibility, McCain said, was the "Double Maverick," in which "I go totally berserk and just freak everybody out." If that doesn't work, he said he might try "the Sad Grandpa."

"That's where I get on TV and go, 'C'mon, Obama is going to have plenty of chances to be president,' " he said. "It's my turn! Vote for me!"

Executive producer Lorne Michaels had hoped to also get Obama on the show this weekend, nearly a year after he made a cameo on the program. The Democratic candidate was to return for this season's premiere but canceled out of deference to the victims of Hurricane Ike. He had apparently indicated he would do last week's show, then he had to back out because he was returning from visiting his ailing grandmother in Hawaii, Michaels told the New York Post last week.

"Saturday Night Live" has seen its viewership soar this season on its political humor, but it has also drawn complaints from Republicans, who have accused the program of uneven satire.

Last week, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Fox News that some of Fey's impressions of Palin amounted to "slander and were worthy of a lawsuit."

Michaels has dismissed charges that the program has a bias, or a significant influence on the race. "We're just a counterbalance; I don't think we change anything," the producer told TV Guide this week.



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