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'SNL' Debate Sketch Proved Tricky, Say Seth Meyers & Jim Downey

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DEBATE
Jason Sudeikis and Jay Pharoah as Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. (NBC) | NBC

"Saturday Night Live" is notorious for rewriting sketches up until the last minute, but last weekend's parody of the first presidential debate between Romney and Obama proved to be one of the most challenging in the show's 38-year history, according to writers speaking to Bill Carter of the New York Times.

James Downey, a longtime "SNL" scribe who has penned the bulk of the show's political sketches since the '70s, told Carter that this debate did not have any obvious comedic hooks, unlike the others he's written. “I can never remember one that didn’t have something,” he told Carter.

Co-head writer and Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers agreed, telling Carter that while he watched the debate, nothing jumped out as obvious fodder.

Ultimately, the sketch presented a distracted President Obama as concerned about getting an anniversary gift for his wife, while Mitt Romney told outlandish lies about his record, including being responsible for killing Osama bin Laden.

The sketch was completed only about five hours before the show aired live.

All eyes are on "Saturday Night Live" right now, as the show is experiencing a transition year and an election year during the same season. Several key cast members recently departed, including Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg, and three new featured players have joined.

Additionally, the role of President Obama has been handed over from Fred Armisen to Jay Pharoah, creating an opportunity for rejuvenated political parody as well as increased pressure to perform.

The show's ratings are up from the previous season, although the Daniel Craig episode was the lowest rated of this season so far. Either way, the show consistently is the most-watched telecast on Saturday nights, making it a valuable commodity for NBC.

Next week's episode will be hosted by Christina Applegate, and will presumably feature a parody of the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden (Jason Sudeikis) and Paul Ryan (Taran Killam). Meyers has said that this debate is the one he's most looking forward to writing.

For more behind-the-scenes insight, click over to The New York Times.

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