Tina Fey’s Palin Impersonation No Longer Funny.
At one time, I did find Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin funny, in the way that I found Will Farrell’s impersonation of George W. Bush funny. We all know where Fey’s and Farrell’s political allegiances lie, but they mastered the art of taking one’s quirks and making them come alive on the screen.
Then in the 2008 election cycle something shifted in the performance, it became rather obvious that Fey not only disagreed with Palin’s politics, she was contemptuous of Sarah Palin herself and her impersonation went from being a harmless goof on Palin’s peculiarities to being a mean-spirited cartoon of liberal’s views on Palin and the culture Palin represented.
Last night with Fey hosting SNL, she reprised her role as Sarah Palin in a rather uninspired “undeclared 2012 GOP candidates debate”. Fey’s impression of Palin continues to be one of utter contempt and it actually makes it really unfunny. In fact, the only thing that saved that skit from being a complete and total disaster was Darrell Hammond’s spot on impression of Donald Trump and Kenan Thompson’s impression of “The rent is too damn high” guy. But Fey’s mean-spirited liberal jibes directed at Palin pretending to be a impersonation? It fell flat.
You know what else falls flat? Fred Armisen’s Barack Obama impression. It’s not because Armisen and the SNL writers aren’t slamming Obama. Again, it’s not about being mean spirited, it’s about latching onto peculiar aspects of the politician’s personality. The reason the writers at SNL don’t do this was made so apparent at the White House Correspondents Dinner, where SNL head writer Seth Meyers was the act. Meyers spent the whole time bashing the President’s opposition and had two “jokes” about Obama. It’s very clear Meyers has a lot of admiration for the President, and that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean he can’t skewer him. Rush Limbaugh had a better SNL opening skit on his show on Monday than SNL did last night.
SNL political impressions continue to be a hilarious tradition that should absolutely continue. But the writers need to remember what makes a political impression funny isn’t being mean spirited, it’s finding the peculiar aspects of the candidates personality and making them funny. They also need to remember it’s all right to make fun of Democratic politicians with whom they agree, Phil Hartman’s Bill Clinton impression remain some of the funniest SNL skits ever.