LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Octogenarian actress Betty White helped "Saturday Night Live" reach its largest TV audience in 18 months during a Mother's Day show that saw the "Golden Girls" star make fun of her age, Facebook and sex.
"Saturday Night Live" averaged an 8.8 rating in cities where viewership is measured overnight, up 66 percent from last year's 5.3 rating, according to preliminary figures released by the NBC network on Sunday.
It is the highest overnight rating for "SNL" since November 1, 2008 when U.S. Senator John McCain was a special guest during his presidential campaign and comedian Tina Fey was drawing fans with her impression of his running mate, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
Final audience figures will be released on Monday.
White, 88, who hosted Saturday's late-night show, has enjoyed a long career dating back to the early days of live TV. She joked in her opening monologue that "in 1952, we didn't want to do (TV) live, we just didn't know how to tape things."
The grandmotherly figure starred on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Golden Girls," and in recent years has seen her celebrity grow ever higher by contrasting her sweet, matronly image with a sometimes foul mouth.
Fans had launched a Facebook campaign to get the show's producers to hire her as guest host, and she wasted no time in poking fun at social networking on the Web.
"Now that I know what it is, it felt like a huge waste of time," she said.
White also joked at the Facebook feature of "pokes" or "poking," which people use to attract other users. White said back in her day, "poking" was something people did on a moonlit hay ride -- typically under a blanket.
In various skits, including mock radio talk show "Delicious Dish" where she showed off her muffins, White delivered sexually-charged punch lines. Playing the grandma of fictional Hollywood action star "MacGruber," she chided him about his manhood and breast reduction surgery.
And in a skit with the character Sally O'Malley, who touts the fact that she is 50 years' old and still kicking, White portrayed a 90-year-old who was still sitting.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte