-- John McCain rounded out the Republican ticket Saturday on television's Saturday Night Live, two weeks after running mate Sarah Palin brought the late-night comedy show its highest ratings in 14 years.
Three days before the election, the presidential candidate detoured from the campaign trail. He starred in the "cold open," the kickoff sketch, aside Tina Fey reprising her popular portrayal of running mate Palin. They were hawking souvenirs on QVC because, unlike Democratic candidate Barack Obama's multi-channel prime-time ad buy Wednesday, "We can only afford QVC," McCain explained.
The goods for sale included a complete set of "pork knives – they cut the pork out," said McCain; a set of commemorative plates for the candidates' 10 town-hall debates – blank, of course, because they never took place; plus limited edition "Joe" action figures, including Joe the Plumber, Joe Sixpack, and, said Fey, "my personal favorite, Joe Biden — if you pull this cord, he talks for 45 minutes."
McCain's wife Cindy helped display McCain fine-gold jewelry, a reference to the McCain-Feingold bipartisan campaign reform act of 2002. And Fey, in an aside, went "rogue" with "Palin in 2012" T shirts; "Just try and wait till after Tuesday to wear 'em."
Later in the evening, McCain appeared on Weekend Update, the program's faux newscast. Given a chance to talk about last-minute campaign strategies, McCain offered several possibilities. He said he might try to be a "reverse maverick," someone who does everything he is told; or a "double maverick, where I'd go totally berserk and freak everybody out, even the regular mavericks."
The late-night comedy shows have proven to be prime campaign stops for candidates, and the shows have benefited in return in the ratings. Earlier this week, an appearance by Obama brought Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Jon Stewart its highest ratings ever, 3.6 million viewers.
McCain's delayed appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman Oct. 16 brought the show's best ratings in three years, more than 6.5 million. And Palin's comedic bow lifted SNL to an average 15 million viewers two nights later.
McCain himself is no stranger to SNL. He appeared in May, after clinching the nomination, and he hosted the show in 2002, a well-regarded appearance during which he lampooned singer Barbra Streisand's liberal bent by singing a greatest-hits medley.
In the audience for the show was guitarist and actor Steven Van Zandt (The Sopranos).
Contributing: David Jackson in New York