'SNL' breaks character to offer moment of levity in 2016 campaign

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In its final live episode before Election Day, "Saturday Night Live" took the opportunity to get in a few extra jabs at each candidate's expense before taking a surprising turn to break the fourth wall — and stopping just short of making a political endorsement.

Saturday's show kicked off with a cold open similar to what we've seen all season with Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump and Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton facing off in split-screen, this time poking fun at the investigation over Clinton's emails.

"I never use emails," Trump boasts. "I use a very private, very secure site where one can write whatever they want to and no one can read it It's called Twitter."

"Everyone can see your tweets," a reporter tells him. "Really? And I'm still in this thing?" Trump asks dumbfounded. "America you must really hate this lady."

Then something unexpected happened.

"When I'm elected, I will assign a special prosecutor," Trump begins to rant, but trails off.

"I'm sorry, Kate. I just hate yelling all this stuff at you like this," Baldwin says, breaking character and addressing McKinnon directly.

Here are the best SNL debate and politician parodies ever:

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The best SNL politician and debate parodies
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The best SNL politician and debate parodies
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Tina Fey and Amy Poehler' Episode 1692 -- Pictured: (l-r) Pete Davidson as Marco Rubio, Jay Pharoah as Dr. Ben Carson, and Darrell Hammond as Donald Trump during the 'GOP Debate Cold Open' sketch on December 19, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 11 -- Pictured: (l-r) Bill Murray as Ted Kennedy, Jane Curtin as moderator, Brian Doyle-Murray as Jody Powell during 'Kennedy-Powell Debate' skit on February 16, 1980 -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 3-- Pictured: Dana Carvey as George Bush during the 'Debate 92' skit on October 10, 1992 (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE WEEKEND UPDATE THURSDAY -- Episode 2 --Air Date 10/16/2008 -- Pictured: (l-r) Fred Armisen as Senator Barack Obama, Darrell Hammond as Senator John McCain (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Episode 1701 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton and Larry David as Bernie Sanders during the 'Brooklyn Democratic Debate Cold Open' sketch on April 16, 2016 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 18 -- Pictured: (l-r) Dana Carvey as Jerry Brown, Phil Hartman as Bill Clinton during the 'Clinton-Brown Debate' skit on April 18, 1992 (Photo by Al Levine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Anne Hathaway' Episode 1535 -- Pictured: Tina Fey as Governor Sarah Palin during the 'Vice Presidential Debate' skit on October 4, 2008 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Adam Driver' Episode 1693 -- Pictured: (l-r) Cecily Strong as Maria Bartiromo and Kyle Mooney as Neil Cavuto during the 'Republican Debate Cold Open' sketch on January 16, 2016 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Donald Trump' Episode 1687 -- Pictured: (l-r) Cecily Strong as Rachel Maddow and Kate McKinnon as Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 'MSNBC Forum Cold Open' sketch on November 7, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 1 -- Aired 10/07/2000 -- Pictured: (l-r) Darrell Hammond as Al Gore, Will Ferrell as George W. Bush during 'First Presidential Debate' skit on October 10, 2000 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 2 -- Aired 10/09/2004 -- Pictured: (l-r) Darrell Hammond as Dick Cheney, Will Forte as John Edwards, Queen Latifah as Gwen Ifill during 'Vice Presidential Debate' skit (Photo by Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 18 -- Pictured: Phil Hartman as Bill Clinton during the 'Clinton-Brown Debate' skit on April 18, 1992 (Photo by Al Levine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 2 -- Aired 10/09/2004 -- Pictured: (l-r) Will Forte as George W. Bush, Seth Meyers as John Kerry during 'Second Presidential Debate' skit (Photo by Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Anne Hathaway' Episode 1535 -- Pictured: Jason Suedikis as Senator Joe Biden during the 'Vice Presidential Debate' skit on October 4, 2008 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 3 -- Aired 10/21/2000 -- Pictured: (center) Dana Carvey as George Bush during 'The Third Presidential Debate' skit on October 21, 2000 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 1 -- Air Date 09/18/1976 -- Pictured: (l-r) Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford, Dan Aykroyd as Jimmy Carter during the 'Debate '76' skit on September 18, 1976 (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 09: Darrell Hammond (McCain), Fred Armisen (Obama) and Chris Parnell (Brokaw) and the cast of Saturday Night Live October 9, 2008 at the SNL NBC studios in New York City. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 10 -- Pictured: (l-r) Dana Carves as Richard Gephart, Phil Hartman as Bruce Babbitt, Al Franken as Sen. Paul Simon, Jon Lovitz as Michael Dukakis, Nora Dunn as Pat Schroeder, Dennis Miller as Gary Hart, Carl Weathers as Jesse Jackson, Kevin Nealon as Al Gore during 'Democratic Debate 88' skit -- Photo by: Al Levine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Tracy Morgan' Episode 1686 -- Pictured: (l-r) Alec Baldwin as Jim Webb, Larry David as Bernie Sanders, Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton, Taran Killam as Martin O'Malley, and Kyle Mooney as Lincoln Chafee during the 'Democratic Debate Cold Open' sketch on October 17, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
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"I just feel gross all the time about this. Don't you all feel gross?" Baldwin asks the studio audience.

McKinnon also breaks character to agree, and the two clasp hands to run off stage and out of the building.

Baldwin and McKinnon take a dizzying run through Times Square, embracing strangers, sharing food and handing out balloons in a surreal moment of levity.

When they return to the stage, they share a more serious message.

"None of this would have mattered if you don't vote," Baldwin says, still out of character.

"We can't tell you who to vote for, but on Tuesday we all get a chance to choose what kind of country we want to live in," McKinnon says. The actors embrace to call out their final "Live from New York, it's Saturday night!" together as presidential candidates before a winner is declared.

The character-breaking montage was a departure from how the iconic sketch show has traditionally behaved in the final performance before an election, although 2016 has been no traditional campaign season.

Here's a look at what the show did just before Election Day in past seasons:

Oct. 30, 1976: In what was the last episode on which breakout star Chevy Chase would appear as a full-time cast member, the reigning Weekend Update anchor played footage of President Gerald Ford's controversial pardon of Richard Nixon and framed it as a faux ad for Jimmy Carter. Chase has since admitted that he was an unabashed Carter supporter, and that his jabs at Ford were deliberate.

Most successful "SNL" cast members of all time:

17 PHOTOS
Most successful SNL cast members, Saturday Night Live
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Most successful SNL cast members, Saturday Night Live
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 2 -- Aired 02/08/2001 -- Pictured: Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek during 'Jeopardy' skit (Photo by Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Anne Hathaway' Episode 1535 -- Pictured: Tina Fey as Governor Sarah Palin during the 'Vice Presidential Debate' skit on October 4, 2008 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 8 -- Aired 12/16/2000 -- Pictured: Jimmy Fallon during 'Weekend Update' on December 16, 2000 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 8 -- Pictured: Eddie Murphy as Solomon during the 'Pudge & Solomon' skit on December 10, 1983 -- (Photo by: RM Lewis Jr./NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 17 -- Aired 04/14/2007 -- Pictured: Amy Poehler as Dakota Fanning during 'The Dakota Fanning Show' skit on April 14, 2007 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 9 -- Aired 12/16/2006 -- Pictured: Andy Samberg 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 9 -- Pictured: Host Steve Martin on January 21, 1978 -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 14 -- Pictured: Bill Murray during 'Weekend Update' on March 10, 1979 -- (Photo by: Fred Bronson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 7 -- Air Date 11/20/1993 -- Pictured: Adam Sandler as Brian during 'The Denise Show' skit on November 20, 1993 (Photo by Raymond Bonar/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 6 -- Pictured: Julia Louis-Dreyfus during the 'Saturday Night News' skit on November 19, 1983 -- (Photo by: Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Pictured: Chevy Chase during 'Weekend Update' -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Josh Brolin' Episode 1536 -- Pictured: Kristen Wiig as Suze Orman during the 'The Suze Orman Show' skit on October 18, 2008 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 10 -- Air Date 02/15/1986 -- Pictured: Robert Downey Jr. as Julian Lynch during the 'Models Against the Wilderness' skit on February 15, 1986 -- Photo by: Al Levine/NBCU Photo Bank
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 7 -- Air Date 12/03/1994 -- Pictured: Mike Myers as Rajneesh Singh during the 'Civil War Memories' skit on December 3, 1994 (Photo by Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 8 -- Pictured: Chris Rock during the 'Weekend Update' skit on December 7, 1991 (Photo by Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Mick Jagger' Episode 1620 -- Pictured: (l-r) Bill Hader, Seth Meyers -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
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Related: How 'Saturday Night Live' Has Shaped American Politics

Nov. 5, 1988: "SNL" had a lot of fun at the "low-energy" Democratic nomineeMichael Dukakis' expense, and in a sketch based on Hugh Hefner's "Playboy After Dark" series, Jon Lovitz depicted a candidate hosting a party full of downtrodden Democrats and at relative peace with his inevitable defeat. "I'm gonna be beaten. Badly beaten. And I see no reason to sit here tonight and pretend otherwise," Lovitz deadpanned as Dukakis.

Nov. 2, 1996: In a sketch set the following morning, Norm McDonald — doing a devastating Bob Dole parody — is given advice on how to lose with dignityfrom former President George H. W. Bush (played by former cast member Dana Carvey). "Bob Dole wants to be president, but not gonna do it," Carvey said. "Read my lips no chance in hell." He went on to contrast Dole's dour image and reputation with Clinton's "laid-back uncle" aesthetic. "Bill's gonna spank you just like he was your daddy," Carvey quipped.

Nov. 4, 2000: The show accurately understood that the results that year were a total toss-up, so they hedged their bets with two sketches: One portrayed a "glimpse of a possible future" under George W. Bush (in which the president accidentally sets the Great Lakes on fire) and one led by Al Gore (in which he would routinely force the country to take pop quizzes on topics like the economy).

Nov. 1, 2008: In a rare move, Republican presidential nominee John McCain appeared as himself alongside Tina Fey playing an exaggerated version of his running mate, Sarah Palin. In a surreal sketch, which seemed to suggest McCain knew where the electoral winds were blowing, the Arizona senator hawks items from his campaign on QVC, while Fey as Palin "goes rogue" to pitch "Palin in 2012" gear.

"SNL" will squeeze in one last laugh on election eve when it airs an hour-long clip show highlighting its best sketches lampooning the 2016 race on Monday night at 10 p.m. ET.

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