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The former SNL writer and star admitted she’s “glad” and “relieved” that she’s no longer on the late-night sketch show when she stopped by David Tennant’s podcast David Tennant Does a Podcast With, which debuted Tuesday.
“The culture is so ugly and the political climate is so ugly,” she said. “We would always have everybody on because you could. You’d have Bush Sr. come do a thing with Dana Carvey before I worked there. It’s so truly ugly now.”
Fey also said that she doesn’t think that SNL can influence how audience members view politics, specifically when politicians make appearances on the show. “I don’t think that show can really sway people,” she said. “I think you can shine a light. You can help them articulate something they’re already feeling about a given person.”
While Fey doesn’t believe SNL has much political influence, she did play a major political figure on the show.
Fey touched on her impression of Sarah Palin during the podcast. Prior to Palin being announced as John McCain’s running mate during the 2008 election, Fey admitted that she had never heard of her.
“I saw the cover of the [New York] Times with her picture on it and my husband said, ‘She looks like you.’ And I was like, ‘No, I don’t think so.’ And this was August,” she recalled. “And then it just started this kind of strange snowballing where I talked to Lorne [Michaels] on the phone, because we would talk a lot on the phone — 30 Rock stuff at the time — and he would say, ‘By the way, my doorman says you should play her.'”
After Michaels’ doorman told him to have Fey play Palin on the show, the show’s creator also ran into Robert De Niro, who had the same suggestion. “No one knew I wasn’t on the show anymore,” she said. “They were just like, ‘That’s sweet that they look alike.'”
“That’s happened more and more since then where the world has decided they want an outside person to play a political figure on SNL,” said Fey.
Tennant then asked if the actress believed that she was “the nail” in Palin’s political coffin. “I think she was the nail in her own coffin, ultimately,” Fey answered. “But I think it shined a light on something.”
“We went into it wanting to make sure that we were very fair. That we weren’t just swinging, throwing punches,” she continued. “That we focused on what seemed true about the situation.”
Fey added that it was important for her to add to the political conversation as opposed to simply cracking jokes. “To add to it, but also to be fair at our core,” 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.”
Palin eventually appeared on the show, which Fey did not want to happen. “I didn’t want to be in a two-shot with her,” she said. “Because I just thought, ‘Well, that’s what they’ll show when I die.’ When I die, that’s what they’ll show on the Emmys.”
Fey also spoke about the backlash that SNL alum and The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon received when he had then-presidential nominee Donald Trump on the late-night talk show. “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.'”
Fallon previously apologized for messing up Trump’s hair in the then-presidential candidate’s appearance on the show, telling The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg, “I’m sorry. I don’t want to make anyone angry — I never do and I never will. It’s all in the fun of the show. I made a mistake. I’m sorry if I made anyone mad. And, looking back, I would do it differently.”
Chevy Chase is another former SNL star that has been outspoken about the new politically charged direction of the show. “I’m amazed that Lorne has gone so low. I had to watch a little of it, and I just couldn’t fucking believe it,” he said during an interview with The Washington Post last September. “That means a whole generation of shitheads laughs at the worst fucking humor in the world. You know what I mean?”
While Fey believes that SNL lacks political influence, 39 percent of participants in a poll conducted by The Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult in March said that the show has “gotten too political.” Meanwhile, 30 percent of those polled disagreed. Additionally, 40 percent said that SNL has a liberal bias, while 5 percent said the show is more conservative and 10 percent voted that it had no political lean.
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