The 42nd season of “Saturday Night Live” was unlike any other.
Its political impersonations earned the public ire of President Trump himself. Its take on White House press secretary Sean Spicer reportedly brought into question the spokesman’s longevity in the job. And the show enjoyed its highest viewership in two decades.
Now add in the 22 Emmy nominations SNL just earned. The NBC show, along with HBO’s “Westworld,” leads the Emmy pack — and just broke its own show record for the most nominations in a single year. SNL has long led all shows at the Emmys, earning a total of 45 wins and more than 200 nominations since its 1975 debut.
SNL’s record-shattering season coincided with — and was fueled by — an unprecedented presidential campaign and deepening political divides.
Political satire has always been the sketch show’s bread and butter, and election years tend to boost ratings for SNL. But the unconventional candidacy and surprise win of a flashy businessman-turned-reality-TV-host meant politics dominated SNL well beyond Election Day.
SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels has insisted the show doesn’t take political sides, and it’s lampooned every commander in chief. Sometimes SNL’s take can be brutal, and other times, not as much; for instance, it struggled to land on a biting President Obama caricature.
But never before has a president-elect or major presidential candidate so publicly bash the show’s depiction — and Trump’s comments, both in tweets and interviews, only brought more attention to the show.
Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of Donald Trump earned him a nomination for best supporting actor in a comedy series. No official male cast member on the show was nominated in that category; Baldwin played Trump more than a dozen times last season.
The show’s female cast members, however, shined extra brightly this year. Three of them — Vanessa Bayer, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon — earned best supporting actress nominations.
Five SNL hosts were also nominated in the outstanding guest actor/actress categories: Dave Chappelle, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tom Hanks, Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig.
Overall, SNL earned nine nominations in four acting categories, in addition to nominations in the best writing and overall best variety sketch series.
An SNL sweep in those acting categories would also mark a new record. According to Hollywood awards site Gold Derby, no comedy show has ever won four acting Emmys in a single year. In 2008, three acting Emmy wins went to “30 Rock” — including ones for Baldwin and SNL alum Tina Fey.