Tina Fey 'Relieved' She's Not On 'Saturday Night Live' In 'Truly Ugly' Political Climate

The comedian said she doubts the long-running show can "really sway" viewers' political opinions.
Tina Fey appears on "Weekend Update" on "Saturday Night Live" in 2017.
Tina Fey appears on "Weekend Update" on "Saturday Night Live" in 2017.
NBC via Getty Images

Tina Fey considers herself lucky that her tenure on “Saturday Night Live” ended before politics became “so truly ugly.”

The comedian, who co-wrote and starred on the long-running series from 1997 to 2006, this week said she’s “relieved” that her days poking fun and sometimes even hosting political figures on live television are behind her.

“The culture is so ugly and the political climate is so ugly,” Fey said on an episode of David Tennant’s podcast “David Tennant Does a Podcast With” released on Tuesday.

“We would always have everybody on, because you could,” she said of her days on the show. “You’d have Bush Sr. come do a thing with Dana Carvey before I worked there.

“It’s so truly ugly now.”

Tina Fey as Sarah Palin on a 2018 episode of "Saturday Night Live."
Tina Fey as Sarah Palin on a 2018 episode of "Saturday Night Live."
NBC via Getty Images

President Donald Trump has repeatedly bashed “SNL,” which features a caustic impression of the president played by Alec Baldwin. Trump has called the show “very unfair” and a “hit job” that ought to be investigated. Baldwin has suggested Trump is trying to incite his followers to attack him.

Fey said she doubts whether the show can “really sway” viewers’ political opinions.

“I think you can shine a light,” the “30 Rock” creator explained. “You can help them articulate something they’re already feeling about a given person.”

Fey famously impersonated Sarah Palin, the vice presidential nominee and reality TV star, on “SNL.” She revealed that her husband Jeff Richmond was the first to notice a similarity between the two.

Her impression won favor with show’s liberal fan base, but Fey said she tried to approach the acting challenge by revealing “what seemed true about the situation.”

“We went into it wanting to make sure that we were very fair. That we weren’t just swinging, throwing punches,” she said. “I’m not just gonna go with the flow of like, ‘Okay, you love her. You hate her.’ Let me think with my own mind of what do I think about her.”

When asked if she believes her portrayal led to Palin’s shrinking political influence, Fey responded, “I think she’s the nail in her own coffin, but I think it shined a light on something.”

Fey has returned to “SNL” multiple times since departing the show, most recently hosting in May 2018. She caught some backlash when she appeared on the show’s “Weekend Update” segment in 2017 to respond to the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The actress famously encouraged viewers not to join the protests, while stuffing her face with sheet cake ― a moment she later admitted she “screwed up.”

“You try your best, you try to have your eyes open, try to be so mindful, but it’s also a fast-moving train,” she told David Letterman on his Netflix show in May 2018. “I felt like a gymnast who did like a very solid routine and broke her ankle on the landing. Because it’s literally within the last, I think, two or three sentences of the piece that I chunked it. And I screwed up, and the implication was that I was telling people to give up and not be active and to not fight. That was not my intention, obviously.”

Fey also touched on the criticism surrounding Trump’s much-discussed 2016 appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” pointing out how the talk show host tousling a presidential candidate’s hair might not have been so incendiary years ago.

“Poor Jimmy. That was sort of business as usual. You wouldn’t think, ’Oh, you can’t have a presidential candidate on your talk show,” she said. “But the world had changed and he has since very much realized that. It was the beginning of those kinds of things. Like, ‘I have to really think about the optics of this.’”

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