Saturday Night Live will pay tribute to John McCain on the day of his funeral by re-airing the episode he hosted 16 years before his death.
McCain, then a Senator who two years before had lost a bid to be the Republican presidential nominee, had hosted the show in 2002. As Newsday noted, he even made some good-natured digs at then-President George W. Bush in the episode.
In his monologue, McCain said that he was the first sitting senator to host the show.
“They asked President [George W.] Bush but apparently he doesn’t like to work on weekends,” McCain said.
As the report noted, former Vice President Al Gore had hosted a few weeks later as the show took a political bend ahead of the 2002 midterm elections.
Though McCain was well-regarded in his Saturday Night Live debut, Newsday noted that some wondered why he missed a defense budget vote to host the late-night comedy show. McCain explained that it was all about reaching new audiences.
“I was able to communicate with young people who, with all due respect, would never have gotten up to see me on a Sunday-morning show,” he told the New York Times (via Newsday). “What I hope it does is arouse their interest in what guys like me do and what I’m up to and I’m a real human being, instead of some stiff, as they cycle with the channel changer through C-SPAN.”
— Saturday Night Live – SNL (@nbcsnl) September 1, 2018
This was not the only time that John McCain showed up at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. He also made a visit in the waning days of the 2008 presidential campaign, poking fun at his campaign. With just a few days until the election, Barack Obama was rising fast in the polls and had taken in a huge fundraising total, which he used to purchase 30 minutes of airtime on major networks.
As CNN noted, John McCain poked fun at his own campaign’s fundraising in his Saturday Night Live appearance, beside Tina Fey as his running mate, Sarah Palin.
“This past Wednesday, Barack Obama purchased airtime on three major networks,” McCain said. “We, however, can only afford QVC (the television home shopping network).”
“Look, would I rather be on three major networks? Of course,” McCain later added. “But I’m a true maverick — a Republican without money.”
The Saturday Night Live episode airs after a funeral that drew politicians from both sides of the aisle to pay respect to John McCain. Former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both delivered eulogies at his service.