NEW YORK - It's starting to feel like Tina Fey is running for vice president.
Fey again returned to "Saturday Night Live" to play Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin as the sketch comedy show continued to pull out all the stops in its election year season. Queen Latifah dropped by to portray Thursday's debate moderator, PBS's Gwen Ifill, and cast member Jason Sudeikis stepped into the role of Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The "SNL" take on the week's political events has become a dependable part of the news cycle this fall, offering near-immediate parodies of the presidential candidates, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, and their running mates. The show - particularly the opening sketches - have resonated with higher ratings for the NBC program and increased traffic on its Web site where early-to-bed viewers catch the talked-about sketches in the days after.
Saturday night's opening sketch of the VP debate appeared likely to garner similar buzz thanks to Fey's popular Palin impression. Winking and giving answers not always directly related to Queen Latifah's questions, Fey's Palin said that if she was elected, her decisions would be guided by considering "what would a maverick do?"
At the end of the segment, she asked with flute in hand, "Are we not doing the talent portion?"
Palin was runnerup in the 1984 Miss Alaska contest.
Sudeikis, with hair slicked back and a tight-fitting suit, portrayed Biden as conflicted in his feelings for McCain, whom he called "a raging maniac and a dear, dear friend."
Saturday's "SNL" concluded the opening run of four straight shows - including three with guest appearances from Fey, a former cast member and head writer for "SNL" whose day job is starring in, producing and writing for NBC's "30 Rock." The network has said her appearances on "SNL" are being decided on a week-to-week basis.
The show has shown its willingness this fall to cast from beyond its current lineup. Last week, former cast member Chris Parnell returned to play Jim Lehrer, the moderator of the first presidential debate.
"SNL" - which was hosted Saturday by Anne Hathaway with the Killers performing - will get its first weekend off this week. But it will still capitalize on election campaign fodder with the first of three prime-time "Weekend Update" specials beginning Thursday.
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