| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin put in a widely anticipated appearance on "Saturday Night Live," sharing the stage with a host of top stars including Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin and of course Tina Fey, the former SNL star whose impression of Palin has garnered almost as much attention as the Alaska governor herself.
The TV show opened with a mock press conference in which Palin's spokesman requested that the press "don't write anything down."
Fey then appeared as Palin and tossed off a few remarks skewering the vice presidential candidate, such as "I am looking forward to a portion of your questions," a reference to her occasional practice of answering questions by addressing her own chosen topics.
Asked if her recent remarks about patriotic states meant there were any unpatriotic ones, Fey-as-Palin rattled off a list of Democratic-leaning states such as New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California. Listing swing states such as Ohio, she remarked that they could be either "pro or anti-American ... it's up to them."
The scene then switched backstage to the real Palin and the show's producer Lorne Michaels who were accosted by outspoken, left-leaning actor Baldwin, who said "Hey Tina" before proceeding to trash Palin.
The skit played off Fey's remarkable resemblance to Palin and seeming ability to channel her voice and manner, with Baldwin appearing to think he was talking to Fey while insulting Palin repeatedly. Informed by Michaels he was speaking to Palin herself, he quipped, "You are way hotter in person."
Baldwin, who co-stars on hit comedy TV show "30 Rock" with Fey, then left to whisper to Fey, at the press conference, that the real Palin was on hand. "What? The real one? Bye!" she said, fleeing. Palin then took her place.
"I'm not gonna take any of your questions," Palin said, "but I do wanna take this opportunity to say "Live, from New York, it's Saturday Night!" -- the show's trademark opening line.
'RUSSIA AND SUCH'
Later Palin appeared on the show's Weekend Update mock news segment, saying she had decided "I'm not gonna do the piece that we rehearsed," because it would be "bad for the campaign."
It then fell to Amy Poehler to do the bit, and she launched into an extended rap.
Among the lyrics: "From my porch I can see, Russia and such," a reference to Palin's notorious comment that Alaska's proximity to Russia was emblematic of a measure of foreign policy experience.
The audience cheered as a large moose danced onto the set, followed by the sound of gunshots as the moose fell to the stage, a joke on Palin's fondness for hunting. Throughout the bit, Palin rocked back and forth in her anchor seat, pumping her arms in the air in time with the music.
Politics figured heavily in the show, which was hosted by Josh Brolin, star of the new Oliver Stone film "W" in which he plays U.S. President George W. Bush. Director Oliver Stone also did a cameo, asking Brolin during his opening monologue to make sure he mentioned the film's title.
Palin, clad in a black suit and boots, also appeared on stage for the finale with the cast and Brolin.
She was a surprise pick by Republican presidential candidate John McCain in August as his running mate, and has been a big hit with conservative Christians who admire her no-nonsense, folksy style. But the choice has been derided by supporters of Democratic candidate Barack Obama, thanks in part to the Fey skits.
Satirical news shows like "The Colbert Report" and Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" along with jokes by late night chat show hosts David Letterman and Jay Leno have gone where straight news reporting has often feared to tread, media analysts say.
Palin's standing among Republicans is largely unscathed by all the satire. A poll last week by HCD Research and Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion found that her favorability rating with Republicans dropped only 1 percentage point to 79 percent after seeing Fey's latest skit.
Palin's favorability rating among independent voters fell to 33 percent from 37 percent, according to the poll.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)