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Miley Cyrus, Hillary Clinton and the Trump circus boost SNL premiere

The premiere of Saturday Night Live’s 41st season this past weekend, starring the always unpredictable Miley Cyrus as both host and musical guest, started the sketch comedy show off strong, as Nielsen reports that the household ratings were up 13 percent compared to last year’s premiere episode.

Certainly, Cyrus’ appearance is enough to get people’s attention, curious to see what she’ll say or do, as well as what kind of crazy outfits she’ll be wearing. No doubt many were also wondering how the show would approach attacking the presidential candidates, most notably Donald Trump, of whom we knew in advance that Taran Killam would be impersonating. And who could possibly miss the rumored appearance of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton?

Related: Tracy Morgan returns to TV as host of SNL, follows Miley Cyrus and Amy Schumer 

Luckily for Saturday Night Live, the episode delivered the goods. It started off with a stellar Trump impression by Killam, with Cecily Strong as Melania Trump, followed by a musical monologue number that paid tribute to all of those hot news stories from the summer that we’re bound to forget by next year. As Cyrus belted out Frank Sinatra’s My Way, cast members strutted out on stage dressed as a host of “celebrities” including Rachel Dolezal, Jared Fogle, Josh Duggar (who, apparently, is just Fogle without the glasses), Kim Davis, and even the cast of the Entourage movie.

Mrs. Clinton held her own with a humorous impersonation of Trump while playing a bartender that’s lending a sympathetic ear to the Kate McKinnon version of herself. The two discussed everything from her views on the Keystone XL Pipeline to gay marriage. There was even a cameo from perhaps the best Bill Clinton impersonator in the land, Darrel Hammond. The episode almost didn’t even need Cyrus, though she did draw the eye with her obligatory crazy outfits during the live performances, and scooped up plenty of laughs with her off kilter raunchy rap rendition during a ’50s high school dance a la Grease/Back to the Future.

If the inaugural episode is any indication, this season is poised for success. And the next two weeks will surely keep the momentum going: comedy “it” girl Amy Schumer is set to host next week, followed by Tracy Morgan, not only returning to the show on which he was once a cast member, but also marking his first return to comedy following his life threatening car accident last year.

Last year’s premiere was hosted by then up-and-coming leading man Chris Pratt. And there was no political media circus like this one with which to help pique viewers’ interest. Saturday Night Live, of course, thrives on political humor, known not only for tackling the biggest political issues with comedy, but also injecting plenty of satirical truth in there as well.

Perhaps most promising for the long-running series is that the premiere not only beat out last season’s first episode, but also its finale, up an impressive 18 percent from that May 16 episode. After some shaky footing following the exodus of the latest generation of newly-minted stars like Kristin Wiig, Andy Samberg, and Bill Hader (to name a few), it looks like this year will be a hot one for the perennial comedy powerhouse. And the GOP primary election circus doesn’t hurt, either.