While the Tina Fey-as-Sarah Palin cold opening attracted some of Saturday Night Live's best notices in years (and best ratings, too — it was the highest-rated season premiere since the 2001 opener following the 9/11 attacks), nothing else that followed had quite the same water cooler buzz. However, if the show had been able to stick to its original plan, there would have been at least one other moment that would have had people talking: a Barack Obama cameo. Though the presidential candidate was forced to cancel due to Hurricane Ike, Michaels reveals to the Washington Post exactly how he would have been used (and what other surprise celebrities got involved as a result):
The monologue, by guest host and Olympic swimming champ Michael Phelps, was to have been built around Obama and would have included an additional cameo by action star Chuck Norris. But Norris, too, canceled because of the hurricane, and William Shatner was enlisted as his replacement. Shatner was already en route from Los Angeles via chartered airplane when Obama dropped out; the monologue was reworked so that it would still include a Shatner cameo. "It was great of him to do it," Michaels said of Shatner. Michaels said Obama was to have returned briefly for a second appearance, during the "Weekend Update" segment, but that was obviously scuttled, too. ..."His people called and said they felt they had to shut it down because of the storm," meaning Hurricane Ike, Michaels said yesterday by phone from New York. "I pleaded with them to wait and make the decision on Saturday morning, but they felt they had to do it then. There was a sensitivity to how it would be perceived — whether he would be criticized for doing it while disaster struck." Did he make the right decision? "It was certainly the wrong decision for me," Michaels said. "Do I think there's an oversensitivity in this area? Yes." But Michaels said he would be happy to have Obama appear on a future show, provided a good sketch can be devised. "It was an enormous disappointment," Michaels said, "but they were very pleasant about it — 'Please have us back again' and all that."
Michaels went on to reply, "Oh, we will — and can you bring your wife? We kind of need her!" No word yet on whether Obama will reschedule or whether Fey will be lured back for repeat performances, but at least one thing is known: Palin herself watched the skit while on her campaign plane. Her spokesperson Tracey Schmidt said she found the sketch "quite funny" (though McCain surrogate Carly Fiorina begged to differ), adding that Palin once dressed up as Fey for Halloween. Meta madness!