History of Saturday Night Live (2015–present)

History of Saturday Night Live series:

(seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
(seasons 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
(seasons 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
(seasons 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)
(seasons 21, 22, 23, 24, 25)
(seasons 26, 27, 28, 29, 30)
(seasons 31, 32, 33, 34, 35)
(seasons 36, 37, 38, 39, 40)
(seasons 41, 42, 43, 44, 45)

Weekend Update

This article is about the most recent history of Saturday Night Live from 2015 through 2020.

2015–2016 season[edit]

The 2015-2016 season of Saturday Night Live began on October 3, 2015 with host and musical guest Miley Cyrus.

Opening montage[edit]

The previous season's opening montage returns, but without the special SNL 40 logo. Darrell Hammond returns as the show's announcer. Repertory players are announced first, followed by featured players, the musical guest, and the host.

Bumper format[edit]

Various old bumper formats return. Each host has several bumper shots on a solid color faded background, where their image may be repeated or given other various picture effects. Each host also has one or two photos of him or her in costume around NBC Studios. The musical guest for each episode has two bumper photos on solid colored backgrounds.


The season has a cast of 16 members, including five African American cast members (the most to ever be in the cast at once). As in previous seasons, the cast is separated into a most established repertory company, and a newer featured company. Jon Rudnitsky was the only new addition to the cast prior to the season premiere. Four cast members were upgraded from featured to repertory. (Beck Bennett, Colin Jost, Kyle Mooney, and Sasheer Zamata.)


  • Announcer Darrell Hammond reprised his role as Donald Trump during this season.
  • The season premiere featured a cameo appearance by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, in a sketch called "Bar Talk". Kate McKinnon appeared in the sketch as Clinton, while Clinton portrayed a bartender named Val. Darrell Hammond reprised his long-running role as Bill Clinton for the sketch.
  • The third episode, hosted by Tracy Morgan, was the comedian's first large comedy appearance since suffering head injuries from a near fatal car crash.[1]
  • The announcement of Donald Trump returning to host on the fourth episode drew controversy for several reasons:
    • Hispanic and Latino organizations called for Trump to be removed as host due to controversial comments he had made regarding immigration. An online petition was formed requesting his removal.[2]
    • Trump's hosting was filled with the Federal Communications Commission in regards to the equal-time rule. Although no candidate has ever requested an appearance on Saturday Night Live due to equal-time, concerns were raised over whether SNL qualified for an exception to the rule as a live entertainment program.[3]
    • After the episode with Donald Trump hosting was aired, it quickly drew criticism for not being very humorous, largely because of Trump being cautious about offending voters in Iowa.[citation needed]
  • The Elizabeth Banks episode featured no comedic cold open; instead, cast member Cecily Strong issued a solemn address to the city of Paris, as the episode aired the day after the November 2015 Paris attacks, offering condolences in English and French.[4]
  • Amy Poehler and Tina Fey co-hosted the season's December 19 episode, marking the first time an episode has featured multiple hosts since 2004 (the season 29 episode hosted by Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson),[5] as well as the first time two female cast members have hosted, and the first time since season 12's Christmas episode hosted by Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short that two former cast members have hosted.
  • Larry David's hosting on February 6, 2016, marks the first time a cast member from the early 1980s sketch show Fridays hosts Saturday Night Live, as well as the first time since season 26 that a former SNL writer who was never a cast member has hosted (Conan O'Brien was an SNL writer from 1988-1991 and hosted in 2001).
  • Following the death of Prince (who had been a musical guest on the show in 1981, 2006, and 2014 and performed during SNL's 15th anniversary special) in April 2016, a planned rerun of the episode hosted by Peter Dinklage was replaced with a retrospective hosted by Jimmy Fallon called Goodnight, Sweet Prince, showing Prince's musical performances (including a never-before-seen-on-TV one from the show's 40th anniversary special and three The Prince Show sketches: one from the season 30 episode with Queen Latifah as host and musical guest, another from the season 31 episode with Steve Martin as host (and Prince returning as musical guest for the first time since the 15th anniversary special in 1990), and one from the season 32 episode hosted by Shia LaBoeuf.
  • Tina Fey and Amy Poehler received a historic co-nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a comedy for their roles as co-host of the Christmas episode, which they ultimately won.[6]
  • Fred Armisen is now the latest former SNL cast member to host SNL for the first time (he is the 33rd former cast member to host), and it's the fourth time a former SNL cast member has hosted a season finale,the others being Dan Aykroyd, Will Ferrell, and Andy Samberg.

Problems with election coverage[edit]

As usual during election seasons, SNL has placed particular emphasis on the 2016 presidential election. Given the unusually large field of candidates, some impressions of candidates shift or have shifted based on who remains in the race.

On the Democratic side, Kate McKinnon is the show's current Hillary Clinton. McKinnon debuted as Clinton in Season 40, Episode 15 (though she previously portrayed an actress portraying Clinton).[7] While they remained in the race, cast members Taran Killam and Kyle Mooney portrayed Martin O'Malley and Lincoln Chafee, respectively, both debuting in Season 41, Episode 3. Former candidate Jim Webb was portrayed by Alec Baldwin, also debuting in the aforementioned episode. Larry David has made recurring appearances to portray Bernie Sanders.

There was media speculation as to who would play whom for the upcoming election prior to the season.[8] The casting was made problematic because many of the candidates were played by the same impressionists prior to the election. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul had all been portrayed by Taran Killam. Chris Christie was portrayed by Bobby Moynihan, who had also played Cruz. Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush were both portrayed by Beck Bennett. Additionally, Pete Davidson and Colin Jost were not considered by speculators to be generally desired for the job, since neither was an impressionist. Carly Fiorina had been portrayed by McKinnon on one occasion, while Ben Carson was portrayed by Kenan Thompson. No one on the current cast had portrayed John Kasich.

More issues further complicated the matter. Just prior to the start of the season, SNL announced that Killam would be portraying Donald Trump for the upcoming election,[9] which meant that Killam would be portraying four of the candidates in the main Republican race. SNL ultimately was forced to wait until their ninth episode to tackle a Republican debate, when the field was sufficiently narrowed.

For the December 19 episode, the first to feature a debate, several impressions were ultimately moved permanently to new cast members. Jimmy Fallon was initially offered the role of Trump on a recurring cameo basis, but a last-minute change resulted in announcer Darrell Hammond portraying him as he had done for fourteen seasons in the cast.[10] Killam ultimately portrayed Cruz, while Moynihan portrayed Christie. Rubio was played by Davidson, Bush by Bennett, and Paul by Kyle Mooney. Cecily Strong and Jay Pharoah portrayed Fiorina and Carson, respectively, while Colin Jost acted as a stand-in for Kasich, with no lines. Rudnitsky portrayed debate moderator Wolf Blitzer.[11]

The following episode, on January 16, featured another debate, with a slightly smaller Republican field. Carly Fiorina had been demoted to the earlier undercard debate, and while Paul and Kasich remained on the mainstage, SNL chose not to include them in the sketch. Trump, Cruz, Christie, Rubio, Bush, and Carson were all portrayed by the same people that portrayed them in the earlier episode.[11]

Despite Hammond's acclaimed impression, speculation remained as to whether he was playing the role because he was needed (as Killam was playing Cruz) or because his impression was superior.[12] The show ultimately confirmed that Hammond was going to be portraying Trump indefinitely; the following week, he appeared alongside Tina Fey's Sarah Palin in a sketch without Killam, confirming that he would continue to play Trump even if Killam were available (for the time being).[13] Killam, in turn, was confirmed as the show's indefinite Cruz, in a sketch where he portrayed him when Moynihan was not present.[14]

2016–2017 season[edit]

Season 42 was indirectly confirmed via advertising plans from NBC's sales division. The announcement revealed that the program will contain 30% less advertisement time in the coming season.[15] Additionally, select NBC advertising clients will be given the opportunity to have their brand appear in promotional sketches, called "pods". Six of these pods will air each season.


On June 24, 2016, Lorne Michaels announced that Michael Che and Colin Jost would continue as the anchors of "Weekend Update".[16] Both were featured on SNL special editions of "Weekend Update" for the Democratic and Republican Conventions.

It was also announced that Michael Che, Pete Davidson, and Leslie Jones would all be upgraded from featured to repertory status.[17]

The above-named changes kept the cast membership for this season at 16 members, with four African American cast members and one Hispanic cast member. As in previous seasons, the cast is listed in two separate groups: repertory and featured players.

Opening montage[edit]

The opening montage is the same as in previous seasons, except this time the still photos of the musical guest and host are replaced by short video clips of them.


  • Starting with this season, Donald Trump is now played by frequent host Alec Baldwin instead of former cast member and current show announcer Darrell Hammond.
  • Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah (who were cast members for 6 seasons) were fired. Taran was fired due to scheduling conflicts with his movie Killing Gunther, and both had one year left on their contract, featured player Jon Rudnitsky (who only lasted one season) was let go as well, and they were replaced by SNL writer (and writer/voice actor on Adult Swim's stop-motion series Robot Chicken) Mikey Day, Chicago improv comedian Alex Moffat, and stand-up comedian/impressionist Melissa Villaseñor.
  • Melissa Villaseñor is the first fully Latina cast member and the fourth Hispanic cast member overall, joining Horatio Sanz (who is Chilean), Fred Armisen (who is half Venezuelan) and Noël Wells (who is a quarter Mexican. Coincidentally, Melissa Villaseñor is also Mexican, making her the second Latina cast member to be Mexican).
  • At the end of this season, Vanessa Bayer, Bobby Moynihan, and Sasheer Zamata all left the show.
  • At the time Vanessa Bayer left SNL, she was the longest-tenured female cast member, having been a cast member for 149 episodes over the span of 7 seasons (2010-2017). She surpassed the record from Maya Rudolph, who also was on the show for seven years (2000 to 2007), but was only credited for 146 episodes.
  • Some hosting milestones include:

Election coverage[edit]

On September 28, SNL announced that while Kate McKinnon would return as Hillary Clinton for its parodies of the 2016 presidential election, Alec Baldwin would play the role of Donald Trump, replacing Darrell Hammond, who continues as the show's announcer.[18]

2017–2018 season[edit]

During the last episode of Weekend Update Summer Edition (on August 24, 2017), it was confirmed that SNL had been renewed for season 43, and would debut on September 30, 2017, with host Ryan Gosling, and musical guest Jay-Z.

As was the case in the previous two seasons, this season had a cast of 16, with four African-Americans (Thompson, Jones [the only African-American female cast member of this season], Che, Redd) and one Hispanic (Villaseñor). As usual, the cast in listed in two separate groups: repertory and featured.

Due to his return for a 15th consecutive season, Kenan Thompson became the show's longest-running cast member, surpassing the previous record of 14 seasons set by Darrell Hammond.

Opening montage[edit]

The montage is exactly the same as in the previous three seasons.


  • During the week of the last episode of season 42, it was announced that Bobby Moynihan (who had been with the show since 2008), Vanessa Bayer (who has been with the show since 2010), and Sasheer Zamata (who joined SNL in early 2014), would not be returning for season 43.
  • Due to his return for a 15th consecutive season, Kenan Thompson became the show's longest-running cast member, surpassing the previous record of 14 seasons set by Darrell Hammond (who had been a cast member from 1995-2009).
  • Alec Baldwin announced in early September that he would continue his Donald Trump impersonations on the show, but noted that his busy schedule would result in such appearances occurring on a much smaller scale.
  • On September 26, it was announced that Heidi Gardner of The Groundlings, Luke Null of iO Chicago (the second cast member to have been born in the 1990s, though Pete Davidson is still the youngest cast member, as Null was born in 1990 while Davidson was born in 1993), and stand-up comedian Chris Redd from Second City would be added to the cast. Redd was originally announced as joining the cast the previous season, but did not end up doing so. On that same day, the return of the remaining cast members from Season 42 (repertory and featured) was confirmed as well.[19] It was also announced that Sam Jay, Gary Richardson, Erik Marino, Andrew Dismukes, Steven Castillo, Claire Friedman and Nimesh Patel would all join the writing team.[20]
  • With Bobby Moynihan's departure, Kenan Thompson is now the only cast member who was hired in the 2000s to still be a cast member.
  • Due to Vanessa Bayer's departure, Kate McKinnon is now the longest-tenured current female cast member, as she joined SNL in early 2012.
    • Also, with Moynihan's departure, McKinnon is now the second longest-tenured current cast member, after Thompson.
  • Some milestones include:
    • John Mulaney (who was a writer on SNL for 5 years: 2008-2013), came back to host this season, making him the third former SNL writer who was never a cast member to come back and host the show, after Conan O'Brien (who wrote for the show from 1988 to 1991) and Dick Ebersol-era writer Larry David (who hosted the show earlier in the season)
    • Natalie Portman came back to host SNL for the first time in over 12 years. The last time she hosted the show was during season 31 in 2006.
    • With the season finale on May 19, 2018, which featured host (and SNL former cast member) Tina Fey and musical guest Nicki Minaj, the show came full circle for the second consecutive season with a single host and solo musical guest beginning and ending the season, while it marked the seventh consecutive season finale with a solo musical guest. In fact, this season produced the most solo musical acts (16) of any one season in the series’ history.
    • Tina Fey is now the fifth former cast member to host an SNL season finale, after Dan Aykroyd, Will Ferrell, Andy Samberg, and Fred Armisen. Fey is also the first former female cast member to host a season finale, and, like Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, has hosted a season premiere, a Christmas midpoint episode, and a season finale.
    • Tina Fey’s hosting the finale marked the first time a female had done so in over ten years, with the last being Lindsay Lohan at the end of season 30 in 2005.
  • For the first time in the show's history, every episode aired this season has had at least one cameo appearance by a celebrity (be it live or pre-filmed).
  • On August 15, 2018, it was announced that Luke Null would not be returning for the show's 44th season.[21]

2018–2019 season[edit]

Prior to the premiere of the 44th season of Saturday Night Live, Ego Nwodim was announced as a new featured player for the show.[22] The season premiered on September 29, 2018 with host Adam Driver and musical guest Kanye West.

For the fourth straight season, there are 16 cast members, with five African-Americans (Che, Jones, Nwodim, Redd, Thompson) and one Hispanic (Villaseñor). As always, the cast is listed in two separate groups: repertory and featured.

Opening Montage[edit]

The intro changed this season, after having been the same for the past four seasons. It featured black and white video which showed each cast members' whereabouts through New York City, which changed to color and a freeze frame over which the names of each cast member would appear in white text with a color background. The SNL logo that debuted in 2014 remained and the theme music is a rearrangement of the 2014 theme. Also, the host and musical guest portions are the same as in the past two seasons, in which they are live short video clips.


  • On August 15, 2018, it was announced that featured player Luke Null would not be returning after just one season.
  • The entire cast of the previous season minus Null returned to the show, with Mikey Day, Alex Moffat and Melissa Villaseñor being promoted to repertory status. Guest star Alec Baldwin also reprised his role as U.S. President Donald Trump.
  • The show hired actress and Upright Citizens Brigade alum Ego Nwodim as a new featured player. Nwodim is the seventh African-American female cast member in the show's history, the third hired in the last five years, the second one to be born in the 1980s (after former cast member Sasheer Zamata; Nwodim was born in 1988), and the youngest female cast member currently in the cast (she was born six months after Villaseñor).
  • Michael Che, Colin Jost and Kent Sublette continued as co-head writers while Bryan Tucker had stepped down to become a senior writer. In addition, four new writers had been added to the writing staff: Alison Gates, Alan Linic, Eli Coyote Mandel and Bowen Yang (who appeared on the Sandra Oh episode as Kim Jong-Un in a sketch where Beck Bennett's Vladimir Putin worries about his influence over his country now that the Mueller Report states that Trump did not collude with Russia over the 2016 election).
  • Some milestones this season included:
    • Jonah Hill became the latest member of the Five-Timers Club.
    • Steve Carell came back to host for the first time in over 10 years. The last time was the season 33 finale in 2008.
    • Jason Momoa is now the second Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian celebrity to host after Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
    • Matt Damon came back to host for the first time in over 16 years. The last time was the season 28 premiere in 2002.
    • John Mulaney became the second SNL writer who worked under Lorne Michaels and was never hired as a cast member to come back and host (after Conan O'Brien). Mulaney is also the second SNL writer who was never hired as a cast member to host more than once (joining short-lived Dick Ebersol writer Larry David).
    • Awkwafina became the second Asian-American female to host SNL in over 18 years. The first host was Lucy Liu in 2000 (coincidentally, Awkwafina mentioned in her monologue that the Lucy Liu episode inspired her to one day be famous enough to host SNL).
      • Sandra Oh became the third Asian female (joining Lucy Liu and Awkwafina), the first Asian-Canadian to host SNL (though, as mentioned in the monologue, Oh recently obtained American citizenship), the fourth East Asian overall (following Jackie Chan, Liu and Awkwafina), and, if one were to count Middle Eastern and Southeastern Asian countries, the seventh Asian overall (joining Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Aziz Ansari, Gal Gadot, Kumail Nanjiani, and Awkwafina).
      • Oh's hosting also marked the first time in SNL history that two Asian females have hosted separate episodes within the same season.
    • BTS was the first K-Pop band to be a musical guest on SNL and the first East Asian musical guests.
    • Adam Sandler became the latest SNL cast member to come back and host. Sandler is also tied with Dan Aykroyd for longest gap between leaving Saturday Night Live as a cast member and coming back to host an episode at roughly 24 years (Aykroyd left the show in 1979 and came back to host in 2003 while Sandler was fired from the show in 1995 and returned to host in 2019). It should also be noted that both Dan Aykroyd and Adam Sandler made cameo appearances on various episodes (including anniversary specials) before returning to host.
    • This is the third consecutive year a season came full circle, beginning and ending with a host and solo musical guest, and was the eighth consecutive season the final episode of the season featured a host and solo musical guest, although the finale's musical guest, DJ Khaled, was joined in all his performances by guest artists.
    • This season featured the second-highest number of solo musical acts in one season (15), one show shy of tying last year's record of 16.
    • This season had the fewest former cast members who have come back to host, with only two (Seth Meyers and Adam Sandler) who did so. That said, a fair number of former cast members cameoed in sketches throughout the season's run.
  • Despite mounting rumors that this would be the last season for Kenan Thompson,[23] Thompson insisted he would not be leaving SNL anytime soon.[24]
  • It was also reported that Kate McKinnon, whose contract is expiring, may have been eyeing her own SNL exit.[25] However, it was announced that she would be returning for the 45th season, having renegotiated her contract.[26]
  • On August 27, 2019, it was also announced that Leslie Jones would not return to SNL for the next season, after having been a cast member since the 40th season.[26]

bold denotes "Weekend Update" anchor

2019–2020 season[edit]

The 45th season of Saturday Night Live premiered on September 28, 2019 with host Woody Harrelson and musical guest Billie Eilish.

On August 27, 2019, NBC announced that Leslie Jones would not be returning to SNL after five years, in favor of focusing on her movie career and other projects coming up. It was also announced that Kate McKinnon would be returning for her eighth full season on SNL.[27]

On September 12, 2019, NBC also confirmed the hiring of three new featured players: Bowen Yang, previously a staff writer for the show who appeared on last season's episode hosted by Sandra Oh as Kim Jong-Un; Chloe Fineman, both a regular performing at the Groundlings and a New Face at the 2018 "Just for Laughs" Festival in Montreal; and Shane Gillis, a stand-up comedian who was recognized as a New Face at the 2019 "Just for Laughs" Festival. However, almost immediately, Gillis' hiring was met with backlash after video clips of him making racially and sexually offensive remarks (including anti-Asian slurs against 2020 election hopeful Andrew Yang) had surfaced, and he was subsequently fired just four days later, less than two weeks before the season began.[28]

On September 24, 2019, it was confirmed that featured players Heidi Gardner and Chris Redd would be upgraded to repertory status this season.[29]

This season has 17 cast members (which is one shy of the 17th season [1991-1992] for the most number of cast members in a season), with four African-Americans (Thompson, Che, Redd, Nwodim), one Latina-American (Villaseñor) and one Asian-American (Yang).

Opening Montage[edit]

The intro is the exact same as in the previous season, except there's an "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE 45" or "SNL 45" title card to celebrate the show's 45th anniversary. Also, the shot of the couple making out is replaced by a shot of a traffic light that flashes purple (stop), then blue (go), the cast card for Leslie Jones is gone (as Jones is no longer on the show), and the ones for new cast members Bowen Yang and Chloe Fineman were added in, and the background for the host/musical guest clips are now completely white.


  • Former cast member Eddie Murphy will host on December 21, 2019, which will mark his first time hosting the show in 35 years (he hosted in December 1984 during the show's tenth season), though he did make an appearance on SNL's 40th anniversary special. Murphy will be the third cast member, next to Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Martin Short, from Dick Ebersol's tenure to host an episode under Lorne Michaels' tenure, will be the first (and only) one to be African-American from the Dick Ebersol era to host, will be the first Jean Doumanian-era cast member to host a Lorne Michaels episode (making Murphy one in a handful of cast members who have appeared on the show under all three showrunners: Lorne Michaels, Jean Doumanian, and Dick Ebersol), and will beat Dan Aykroyd and Adam Sandler's records for the longest time between being on the show as a cast member and coming back to host an episode.
  • Billie Eilish became the youngest season premiere musical guest and the first to be born in the 2000's. Eilish is 17 years old.
  • With the departure of Leslie Jones (b. 1967) from the show, Kenan Thompson (b. 1978) returns to being the oldest current cast member. Because of this, the show has come full-circle in the demographic changes to the cast. In 2003, Thompson was then the show's youngest cast member (being 25 years old at the time) and was, at that time, the first cast member to have been born after SNL's 1975 premiere. Also, with Jones' departure, this will be the first season of the show in which all the cast members have birth dates after Saturday Night Live's premiere in 1975.
  • Bowen Yang is now the fourth Asian cast member hired (after Rob Schneider, Fred Armisen, and Nasim Pedrad), the third male Asian cast member hired, the first full-blooded East Asian-American cast member (the East-Asian cast members the show has had before were part-Asian. Rob Schneider is Filipino and Jewish-American while Fred Armisen is German, Korean, and Venezuelan), and the first one to be Chinese.
    • Yang is also the third gay male cast member after Terry Sweeney (from the 1985-1986 cast) and John Milhiser (from the 2013-2014 cast), the fifth homosexual cast member hired (joining Terry Sweeney, Danitra Vance, John Milhiser, and Kate McKinnon), and the second homosexual person of color after Danitra Vance.
    • Yang (born 1990) is also the third cast member to have been born in the 1990s, after Pete Davidson (born 1993) and former cast member Luke Null (who, like Yang, was also born in 1990).
  • Chloe Fineman (born July 20, 1988) is the new youngest female member of the current cast, as she was born four months and ten days after Ego Nwodim (born March 10, 1988).
  • The hiring of Shane Gillis was met with backlash after videos resurfaced of him making racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks. Because of this, Gillis was let go before the start of the season.
  • After being featured players for two years, Heidi Gardner and Chris Redd were upgraded to repertory status.[29]
  • On November 23, 2019, Will Ferrell will host SNL for the fifth time, and become the fourth former cast member to enter the Five-Timers Club after Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and Tina Fey.

Future seasons[edit]

Although NBC has not officially renewed Saturday Night Live for any subsequent seasons beyond season 50, the show is considered continually renewed by NBC until further notice due to its status as a cultural icon.


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  19. ^ This link verifies that information.
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  21. ^ http://www.vulture.com/amp/2018/08/luke-null-will-not-return-to-saturday-night-live-next-season.html
  22. ^ Ego Nwodim Joins ‘Saturday Night Live’, Variety, 21 September 2018. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  23. ^ See this story for details.
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  27. ^ , Michael Ausiello, SNL Shocker: Leslie Jones Is Leaving, Kate McKinnon Is Staying. TV Line. 27 August 2019. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  28. ^ 'SNL' fires Shane Gillis over racist comments, four days after hiring him, USA Today, 16 September 2019. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
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