The thirty-fourth season of the variety series Saturday Night Live began airing in 2008 and concluded in 2009 on NBC. This season of Saturday Night Live consisted of 22 episodes, in an attempt to compensate for episodes lost during the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike. This made it the longest season since the show's second season. The season began on September 13, 2008 on NBC, with Olympic swimming gold medalist Michael Phelps as host and Tina Fey appearing as Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, alongside Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton, and rapper Lil Wayne as the musical guest. The show scored its highest-rated premiere since September 2001 and is the second most-watched SNL ever. The season premiere date of September 13 was earlier than the premiere date for previous seasons, which typically have started during the final weekend of September or in early October. However, a month later, the show drew its highest ratings in over 14 years when the real Sarah Palin appeared. SNL had 17 million viewers during its first half-hour. Before the start of the season the cast remained mostly unchanged except for the addition of Bobby Moynihan. Moynihan came to SNL as a performer with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater; in season 33, Moynihan and Wilson were among the group of Upright Citizens Brigade performers SNL auditioned mid-season while the show was looking for a new cast member to join after the writers' strike in early 2008. Moynihan did not make the cut in his season 33 audition, but instead ended up being invited back for another audition shortly before this season started. Wilson remained a featured player.