Live From New York, It's Sarah Palin!

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Forget the debates, this is the political moment millions have been waiting for.

Sarah Palin on "Saturday Night Live"? You betcha.

Welcome to the intersection of politics and pop culture in the Lower 48

The skits and jokes, as always, are still unknown, but one gag setup seems sure: Sarah, meet W.

The Alaska governor will be appearing with host Josh Brolin, the star of the caustic new movie comedy about President Bush.

In fact, barely two weeks before the election, suddenly everybody's a comedian - from Republican vice presidential candidate Palin to the guys at the top of the bill: John McCain and Barack Obama, laughing it up this week at a big political dinner in New York.

Palin already has been the hit of the "SNL" season, though she wasn't on the scene. She was the subject of a parody featuring lookalike actress Tina Fey. Whether Palin and Fey will appear together Saturday has not been announced.

Palin suggests her fate is in the hands of the show's writers. "I haven't seen a script, not at all. They haven't even hinted about what that script is going to say," she told radio talk-show host Neal Boortz on Friday.

"But you know, I just want to be there to show Americans that we will rise above the political shots that we take because we're in this serious business for serious challenges that are facing the good American people right now."

Hmm. Presumably the show's writers have some slightly punchier lines in mind.

Fey's appearances as Palin have drawn huge audiences to the longtime skit show and sealed its reputation as TV's hottest vehicle for political satire. Obama has appeared briefly on the show since becoming a candidate, and McCain once hosted a show. One episode during the primaries suggested the media were favoring Obama over Hillary Rodham Clinton - and a lot of people thought coverage for the next few weeks was affected.

As for the candidates, casual, funny settings help them appeal to with voters on a more personal level.

From daytime talk shows like ABC's "The View" to late-night entertainment programs like NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," they get a chance to appear as self-effacing, regular people, not so deadly serious.

There are perils, however. Three weeks ago McCain abruptly canceled an appearance on CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman," leading its star to target insults at the candidate for show after show. McCain had said he needed to return to Washington to deal with the financial crisis, but Letterman found him being interviewed by CBS News anchor Katie Couric.

"I screwed up," McCain said in an on-air mea culpa when he appeared on Letterman's show Thursday night.

Candidates with humor on their minds are finding other avenues to reach voters. Joke-filled speeches by McCain and Obama at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a charity event organized by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York for the benefit of needy children, were shown live on cable TV Thursday night and excerpted on news channels Friday.

Obama made fun of the backdrop he'd had for his stadium acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

"Could somebody tell me what happened to the Greek columns that I requested?" he asked.


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