7 ways 'Saturday Night Live' is staying buzzy before election year

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'SNL,' Once Again, Set to Be a Power Player During Election Season

Last season, "SNL" celebrated 40 incredible years of existence. Next year, it will have the giant advantage of a presidential election, an event that always draws attention to the show. Seemingly in no-man's land, the show is staying as hot as ever.

Here are seven ways "Saturday Night Live" is maintaining buzz as it bridges the gap between two landmark seasons:

1. Primarily focusing on the primaries
OK, so it's not 2016, but politics are pretty much all the rage right now — and "SNL" has hosted some of the game's biggest players. This weekend, the largest and loudest of them all, Donald Trump, is hosting. On the other side of the coin — and aisle — Hillary Clinton stopped by the season premiere to loosen up her stiff image. Ben Carson even made news simply saying he wouldn't host "SNL." Yes, it's been that kind of year.

Then there are the actual players playing politicians: Taran Killam has handled both the regular Trump duties and the show's less demanding Martin O'Malley and Rick Santorum needs; Kate McKinnon has been brilliant as Clinton; Kyle Mooney did his best Lincoln Chafee; and Bobby Moynihan played Mike Huckabee in a pre-taped segment, to name a few.

And we've still got a year to go, folks.

2. Doth protest too much?
More Trump, because that's exactly what the nation needs! Trump's hosting — which he revealed Wednesday was originally only supposed to be a one-skit guest spot — is under protest. Hispanic activists picketed outside the "SNL" studio on Wednesday evening, midway through the GOP candidate's week-long tenure at 30 Rock. Plus politicians outside of the show's writers room's radar are even on the bandwagon: Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez delivered an impassioned speech last month on the floor of Congress demanding that NBC reconsider.

"To put Donald Trump on the air in American living rooms on the signature comedy show of one of the most important national networks – after saying that Mexicans are rapists, drug-dealers and criminals – that is a corporate blunder too big to be ignored," he said.

Margaret Cho publicly agreed with the call to recall Trump as host, though Latina actress and activist Eva Longoria told TheWrap that she supports the network's right to free speech.

3. Hosts with the mosts
Obviously, Trump is the trump card at this point in "Saturday Night Live's" 41st season, but the NBC sketch comedy staple was already drawing huge names. That started with Cyrus — the buzziest pop star this side of Justin Bieber — pulling double duty for the season opener.

A week later, newly ascendant queen of comedy Amy Schumer headlined the show. The "Trainwreck" star's first go as "SNL" host came just a couple of weeks after her Comedy Central show topped the NBC staple for the variety sketch series Emmy, though we're betting Michaels saw that as more fortuitous than awkward.

Meanwhile, Matthew McConaughey and musical guest Adele are taking their places on Nov. 21. Elizabeth Banks makes her own series debut a week before that. And how could we possibly forget ...

4. Everyone loves a reunion
... Tracy Morgan made his triumphant return to Studio 8H this season, a year and change removed from a horrific automobile accident that took his friend Jimmy Mack's life and forever changed Morgan's. The former "SNL" cast member looked and sounded great when the spotlight was brightest.

Morgan's episode was as successful for advertisers as it was inspirational to fans — but we'll save the numbers for last.

The comic's "SNL" reunion sparked another one involving some of his closest former coworkers.

5. Killer cameos
We already mentioned Clinton, but did you see Larry David's perfect impression of her left-wing rival Bernie Sanders? Alec Baldwin also joined the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star at the podium for the mocked debate.

The last time "SNL" called an old friend back to impersonate a top political candidate, it was Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. Well, Fey stopped by the show this season too, alongside friend and "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" collaborator Jane Krakowski — as well as Jack McBrayer and Baldwin — joining Morgan for a "30 Rock" spoof.

Fey also swung by her old stomping desk "Weekend Update" to talk about Playboy's controversial editorial decision to walk away from its bread-and-butter nude photos.

6. Consistency is key
There were no firings on the turnover-happy "SNL" this season, though there was one addition and one asterisk-y subtraction.

Stand-up comedian John Rudnitsky joined the cast for Season 41 as a featured player. Meanwhile, Colin Joststepped down from his co-head writer position to focus more on "Update."

Have these moves paid off? We don't really know yet. But they sure haven't hurt.

7. Rat(ings) Race
We won't spend too much time on ratings, as they're admittedly a result of "SNL" staying buzzy and not a reason for it. But the numbers beg mention.

"Saturday Night Live" is up 9 percent in total viewers for original episodes versus last year, averaging 7.8 million this time around per Nielsen's "most current" ratings, which count seven-day of delayed viewing where available. The show is fractionally up in the key 18-49 demographic as well.

Cyrus' season premiere rose 12 percent year over year in terms of total viewers; that was the most-watched episode of the fall. Morgan's return yielded the best numbers in the main demo. Time-shifting has made a big difference this season, as the show's affluent audience is finding it beyond its live time slot.

All of this and it's just November 2015 — just wait until the same pivotal month in 2016.

See more from "Saturday Night Live" in the gallery below!

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Saturday Night Live iconic moments, SNL
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7 ways 'Saturday Night Live' is staying buzzy before election year
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 1 -- Pictured: (l-r) Christopher Durang, Dana Carvey as Church Lady during the 'Church Chat' skit on October 11, 1986 -- Photo by: Reggie Lewis/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 18 -- Pictured: Steve Martin during 'KingTut' skit on April 22, 1978 -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 5 -- Pictured: (l-r) Will Ferrell as Craig Buchanan, Cheri Oteri as Aranna during the 'Football Game' skit on November 11, 1995 -- (Photo by: Al Levine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 6 -- Pictured: (l-r) Buck Henry as Mr. Dantley, John Belushi as Samurai Futaba during 'Samurai Stockbroker' skit on 10/30/1976 (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 4 -- Aired 10/27/1990 -- Pictured: (l-r) Patrick Swayze as Adrian, Chris Farley as Barney during 'Chippendales Audition' skit (Photo by Al Levine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE - Episode 14 - Pictured: (l-r) Will Ferrell as emcee, Molly Shannon as Mary Katherine Gallagher, Elle MacPherson as Melanie Harvey, Cheri Oteri as Shelly Peterbuilt during the 'Fresh Face Modeling Contest' skit on February 24, 1996 - Photo by: (Al Levine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 9 -- Pictured: (l-r) Gail Matthius, Eddie Murphy during the 'Weekend Update' on February 7, 1981 -- Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 2 -- Air Date 10/11/2003 -- Pictured: (l-r) Justin Timberlake as Robin Gibb, Jimmy Fallon as Barry Gibb during 'The Barry Gibb Talk Show' skit on October 11, 2003 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 2 -- Aired 02/08/2001 -- Pictured: (l-r) Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek, Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery during 'Jeopardy' skit (Photo by Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Josh Brolin' Episode 1536 -- Pictured: (l-r) Andy Samberg, Mark Wahlberg during the 'Wahlberg's Confrontation' skit on October 18, 2008 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 1 -- Aired 10/02/2004 -- Pictured: Rachel Dratch as Debbie Downer during 'Debbie Downer' skit (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 20 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mike Myers as Linda Richman, Heather Locklear as Lila Klein during the 'Coffee Talk' skit on May 14, 1994 -- (Photo by: Gerry Goodstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 3 -- Air Date 10/13/2001 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jimmy Fallon as Dave, Rachel Dratch as Virginia Klarvin, Will Ferrell as Roger Klarvin during the 'Hot Tub Lovers' skit on October 13, 2001 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 2 -- Pictured: Eddie Murphy as Mr. Robinson during the 'Mister Robinson's Neighborhood' skit on October 15, 1983 -- (Photo by: Raymond Bonar/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 7 -- Air Date 12/03/1994 -- Pictured: (l-r) Norm MacDonald, Adam Sandler during 'Weekend Update' on December 3, 1994 (Photo by Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 3: (VIDEO CAPTURE) Singer Sinead O'Connor rips up a picture of Pope John Paul II October 3, 1992 on the TV show 'Saturday Night Live'. (Photo by Yvonne Hemsey/Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 8 -- Pictured: Dan Aykroyd as Julie Child during 'The French Chef' skit on December 9, 1978 -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 19 -- Aired 05/14/2005 -- Pictured: (center) Will Ferrell as Gene Frenkle onstage with musical guests Queens of the Stone Age (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 8 -- Air Date 12/08/2001 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mick Jagger as himself, Jimmy Fallon as Mick Jaggers reflection during the 'Mick & Mick' skit on December 8, 2001 (Photo by Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 9 -- Aired 12/16/2006 -- Pictured: (l-r) Andy Samberg as guy, Justin timberlake as guy during 'Dick in a Box' skit on December 16, 2006 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 11 -- Air Date 01/24/1976 -- Pictured: Chevy Chase during Weekend Update on January 24, 1976 -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 2 -- Pictured: (l-r) Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin during the 'Weekend Update' on October 14, 1978 -- Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 3 -- Pictured: Bill Murray during the 'Weekend Update' on October 21, 1978 -- Photo by: Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 2 -- Pictured: Kevin Nealon during the 'Weekend Update' skit on October 5, 1991 (Photo by Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 1 -- Air Date 09/24/1994 -- Pictured: (l-r) Norm MacDonald, Laura Kightlinger during 'Weekend Update' on September 24, 1994 (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 2 -- Aired 02/08/2001 -- Pictured: (l-r) Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon during 'Weekend Update' (Photo by Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 5 -- Aired 11/12/2005 -- Pictured: (l-r) Tina Fey, Amy Poehler during 'Weekend Update' on November 12, 2005 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 6 -- Aired 11/18/2006 -- Pictured: (l-r) Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers during 'Weekend Update' on November 18, 2006 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 1585 'Paul Rudd' -- Pictured: (l-r) Bill Hader as Stefon, Seth Meyers during 'Weekend Update' -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Chris Pratt' Episode 1663 -- Pictured: (l-r) Colin Jost and Michael Che during the 'Weekend Update' skit on September 27, 2014 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
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