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SNL to finish a record-shattering season by doing something it’s never done before

From press secretary Sean Spicer's comments about the show to the president angrily tweeting about Alec Baldwin, here is Donald Trump's history with SNL. (Video: Nicki DeMarco/The Washington Post)

“Saturday Night Live” is enjoying its highest-rated season in two decades, and it’s going to finish it out by doing something the series has never done before: go live, coast to coast.

Usually, SNL airs live on the East Coast at 11:30 p.m. and then broadcasts a taped delay for Mountain and Pacific time zones. But the final four episodes of this season will air simultaneously — meaning Californians get to watch SNL at 8:30 p.m.

Oh, and Melissa McCarthy, whose White House press secretary Sean Spicer impersonation has been a surprise breakout moment this year, will host on May 13.

SNL’s take on President Trump and his administration has coincided with a boost in headlines and viewers. NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt’s assertion that SNL “is part of the national conversation” is sorta difficult to refute, given the president himself has taken time to tweet about how much he dislikes Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of him.

“We thought it would be a great idea to broadcast to the west and mountain time zones live at the same time it’s being seen in the east and central time zones,” Greenblatt said in a statement. “That way, everyone is in on the joke at the same time.”

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Coast-to-coast live broadcasts begin April 15 with host Jimmy Fallon. Chris Pine will host May 6, and Dwayne Johnson hosts May 20.

This current political environment has been good for late-night comedy, and SNL is hoping to continue capitalizing on the momentum. The regular show will go on its typical summer break, but four stand-alone episodes of “Weekend Update” — which directly comments on the political news of the week — will come to prime time starting Aug. 10.

“ ‘SNL’ is having its best season in a quarter of a century — how many shows can say that?! — so we didn’t want them to take the summer off,” Greenblatt said in a release.

An average of 11 million viewers have been watching weekly.

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Other late-night shows are also riding the wave. Seth Meyers carved out his place in the pack early through incisive political takes and criticism of Trump.

Fallon’s “Tonight Show” has long beat “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” in the ratings battle. But Fallon continues to catch flak for his 2016 interview with Trump when he famously tousled the then-candidate’s hair and avoided hard-hitting questions, and he’s since been perceived as being soft on Trump and offering escapist humor.

But then Trump took office, and Colbert’s politically charged approach gave him the advantage. Colbert has now been beating Fallon for five weeks straight and counting.

This post has been corrected to note that SNL has traditionally broadcast a taped delay for Mountain and Pacific time zones.

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Amy Poehler hosted the premiere on Saturday with musical guest Katy Perry. Four new members joined the cast, while Will Forte and Jenny Slate did not return. <br><br> The sketch comedy show debuted on Oct. 11, 1975. Pictured clockwise: the original cast, also known as "The Not Ready for Prime-Time Players": Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Garrett Morris, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman. (Courtesy of NBC)

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