Tina Fey to Play Sarah Palin on SNL

Separated at Birth? Writer - actress Tina Fey makes an appearance on MTV's Total Request Live at MTV Studios, in this Tuesday, April 22, 2008 file photo in New York. Fey is 'likely' to return to her former show, 'Saturday Night Live,' Saturday to play the Alaskan governor and Sen. John McCain's running mate, a person close to the show told The Associated Press on Friday night Sept. 12, 2008.<br /> (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, FILE)Tina Fey will return to ‘Saturday Night Live’ tonight to debut the program’s Sarah Palin character.

Tina Fey was “likely” to play Gov. Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live,” said a person close to NBC’s sketch comedy show.

Fey is “likely” to return to her former show Saturday to play the Alaskan governor and Sen. John McCain’s running mate, a person close to the show told The Associated Press on Friday night. The person requested anonymity because the decision has not been announced officially. No further details were available.

Since Palin’s entry onto the national political stage, speculation had been rampant over who might play Palin on the program. Many have commented that Fey resembles her. In an interview earlier this week with The AP, “SNL” executive producer and creator Lorne Michaels said, “The whole world cast her in that role.”

The final decision went down to the last minute, apparently. “SNL” premieres Saturday evening with Michael Phelps as host. An appearance had been planned by Sen. Barack Obama, but his campaign said early Saturday that the Democratic nominee for president was canceling.

I’ve noted the resemblance myself, which is likely flattering to both.  Palin is universally described as “hot” and Fey is a few years younger than Palin, so it’s win-win.

UPDATE: Here’s a recap of the first Tina Fey as Sarah Palin sketch:

After wild conjecture over whom would play Sen. John McCain’s running mate on “Saturday Night Live,” Fey returned to her old show for an opening sketch featuring her and Fey’s former “Weekend Update” co-host Amy Poehler as Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The NBC comedy show’s season premiere opened Saturday with a “nonpartisan message” where the two pleaded for an end to sexism in the presidential campaigns — which have seen Palin enjoy sudden popularity after Clinton’s loss to Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination.

“I didn’t want a woman to be president, I wanted to be president,” said Poehler, reprising her caricature of Clinton.

Many have said Fey bears a resemblance to Palin, a comparison alluded to in the sketch. A frustrated Clinton eventually broke down, complaining about Palin’s ease of ascendance and her “Tina Fey glasses.”

A few digs were made about Palin being less experienced than Clinton. As Poehler’s Clinton bragged about her foreign policy experience, Fey’s Alaskan governor exclaimed: “I can see Russia from my house!” When Poehler said she disagreed with the Bush Doctrine, Fey’s Palin acknowledged, “I don’t know what that means” — a reference to Palin’s apparent confusion on the subject in her first major interview earlier this week on ABC.

Poehler wrapped up the sketch: “In conclusion, I invite the media to grow a pair. And if you can’t, I will lend you mine.”

I’ll wait to watch the video (I forgot to TiVo it) before rendering final judgment, since timing and delivery are a large part of humor, especially parody. Based on the summary? Meh.

UPDATE:  My wife remembered to set the TiVo.  It’s much funnier than the write-up. Here’s the video:

I should note that every other skit, with the exception of a couple of one-liners on Weekend Update, were absolutely horrid. It’s the worst episode I can recall and there have been some stinkers over the years.

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Matt says:

    Shouldn’t Tina be staying home to take care of her baby?

  2. skylights says:

    The moment I laid eyes on Palin I thought Tina Fey should play her on SNL. Fey is hotter than Palin, though.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Fey is hotter than Palin, though.

    I’d concur, although Palin’s six years older and has given birth to five more children so there probably oughta be a curve.

  4. Michael says:

    Given Tina’s roles in such sketches as “Old French Whore”, and her more recent work in “Baby Mama”, this comparison is implying that Palin is an old, sterile prostitute (from France, no less). Will the McCain campaign let Lorne Michaels get away with such obviously sexist insults?

  5. Matt says:

    there probably oughta be a curve.

    Judging from the picture of Palin in her workout clothes, there are curves aplenty.

  6. Diane says:

    I’ve asked my friends and family to join me in BOYCOTTING Saturday Night Live – they’re exploiting all of this for increased ratings.

    Palin is selling her book; getting all kinds of publicity – toys and t-shirts are being sold ‘in her name’, and I will not let myself get even close to this shameful exploitation!

  7. they’re exploiting all of this for increased ratings.

    If you are joking or being sardonic, I apologize: but this is hilarious if a serious assertion. What else does SNL exist to do beside try to get increased ratings?

    Why else have they, over the years, made fun of politicos like Ford, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 and the like? So that people won’t watch?

  8. sam says:

    Haven’t watched SNL in a long while. I guess Will Ferrell’s not on any more, right? My question, who’s gonna do Todd Palin? And will there be a moose in the skit? Anyone know?

    (I can hear the screeches of outrage from the Palintroops right now.)

    P.S. Jesus, Diane — stand in front of mirror and read your post of out loud.

  9. G.A.Phillips says:

    You guys still watch SNL, oh ya I forgot Alec the I don’t keep my word and move to France Baldwin hosts every other week, sorry.

  10. Rick DeMent says:

    Me thinks Diane has a bit more on the ball the you do Sam.

  11. rodney dill says:

    Pretty funny, as usual the SNL bias comes through.

    Its interesting to note that they did pick Palin and Clinton to parody. They can, and did slam both, but only one is still in contention in the upcoming election. Allows them to claim evenhandedness while only potentially hurting only one candidates changes.

    Outside of that the portrayal of Palin is no more demeaning than they have been of Bush41, Clinton^2, Reno, Bush43, Obama…. or any other politician.

  12. Norman Rogers says:

    I’m of an age to remember when SNL first burst on the scene (back when it was funny — at least occasionally). I tuned in last night to see how the self-styled intelligentsia would try to wield humor as a weapon to slay the PalinMonster. And here’s my takeaway:

    1. Tina Fey did a great job mimicking Gov. Palin’s voice and speech patterns. The look was pretty much spot-on as well. But, Tina Fey can’t help smirking and telling us that she’s in on the joke. This is a fatal flaw in any comic mimicry (the comic actor MUST play it straight and let the material deliver the laughs). Jon Stewart and others manifest this same flaw — that “chocolate” smile that always curl their lips.

    2. The content of the skit fell flat (this is the thing that makes SNL unwatchable — their comic premise is sometimes good but their execution is often (always?) heavy handed and lame). The SNL writers (and producers and actors) sought to portray Gov. Palin as an airhead — and Her Highness Hillary as accomplished and entitled — albeit suffering from overweening ambition and a sense of entitlement. The members (an overwhelming majority, I expect) of the SNL audience probably found this skit funny — largely because they’re up-to-date with the desperate untruths the media has tried to float.

    3, This SNL episode put everything in context a few minutes later when it presented a truly awful skit of a kind of college bowl game show pitting some high school dullards against what was supposed to be a “typical” Fundamentalist Christian Family — lifted right out of the Ozarks (and the set of Deliverance). Of course the SNL skit was unfunny. And of course it was crass. And of course it showed us all once again the ignorance of these writers and producers and actors who have this strange need to imagine that people of faith are stupid and narrow minded — and only them urban folks have any sense at all.

    What I don’t get (and never will) is why these folks keep patting themselves on the back and telling each other how smart they are — and all the while they’re insulting folks who might otherwise be loyal viewers. And you wonder why network television (and the MSM) is failing?