'Saturday Night Live' recap: Tina Fey as Sarah Palin and a nine-inch-tall prostitute

Tina Fey’s return to Saturday Night Live wasn’t a non-stop laugh-fest — it was something almost better: interestingly uneven, as though Fey wasn’t quite sure how to fold her sensibility (and her sitcom and movie stardom) back into the role she used to occupy as a writer and performer on SNL.

After a mildly awkward opening monologue/musical number that addressed how she “juggles it all” (fake nannies, personal trainer, Steve Martin cameo’ing as her tax lawyer), there was a funny commercial for “Duncan Hines Brownie Husband,” with Fey biting and licking a man-shaped brownie. (“Rich fudge and emotional intimacy,” cooed the voice-over.)

The evening frequently reminded us that Fey (often in partnership with her comrade Amy Poehler) used to go for two extremes on SNL: inserting a feminine sensibility into  a show traditionally dominated by guy-humor, and parodying the worst aspects of female celebrity.

For Fey last night, this sometimes meant making mean-girl jokes: portraying a skanky commentator at the Masters who’d slept with Tiger Woods, and a blowsy Dina Lohan in Kenan Thompson’s nicely weird sketch about Al Roker as a party-animal.

Fey’s return to “Weekend Update” was as host of her own “Women’s News” segment, during which she made sure to slam Tiki Barber, and really let loose on Bombshell McGee, whom Fey said had “a tattoo on her forehead because she ran out of room on her labia.” Ouch.

Fey’s pre-publicized return to her most famous impersonation resulted in “The Sarah Palin Network”: Fey as Palin in a black leather jacket promoting a slate of programming such as Tea Party Wheel of Fortune, Hey Journalist, I Gotcha! (re-edited news footage that had Fey/Palin out-smarting Katie Couric), and her husband starring in a guns-blazing adventure show, Todd! At the end of the sketch, Fey/Palin looked at her palm to read, “Good night.” All of this ranged from the mildly funny to  that-joke’s-been-done-to-death (a palm-reading gag, really?).

The most intriguing sketch was one set at a school dance in which Fey played the drab, kind surburban mom to a brainy daughter (Nasim Pedrad) who idolized her. It was smart, genuinely sweet, and in the context of SNL, downright daring: What, no harsh ridicule for a nerd? Admiration for a parent?

Even better was the night’s final scene, in which Fey played a nine-inch-tall hooker telling her hopes and dreams to sympathetic guys at a bar. The dialogue was only fitfully funny, but it had the strong verbal rhythms of a 1950s kitchen-sink drama.

Musical guest Justin Bieber was worked into a sketch in which Fey, playing a teacher, fantasized about super-cute student “Jason.” In the teacher’s fantasy, Jason sings for the depressed, over-worked teacher, who fantasizes about the cute boy (“I love the way his hair really knows the way it wants to go”). Fey knew she had to play off the teen idol’s appeal, and found a way to do it that was both funny and not creepy. Or creepily exaggerated, as when the teacher day-dreamed about pushing Jason around in a stroller.

All in all, not a great SNL, but a different sort of one. Familiar faces receded — Kristen Wiig was limited to one appearance, as the cranky movie reviewer Aunt Linda; Fred Armisen virtually disappeared after his Obama cold-open — while Nasim Pedrad was given some strong supporting roles. Jason Sudeikis had an “Update” segment playing the devil that was, of all things, almost endearingly sincere in the scorn heaped upon pederast priests.

Sincerity from SNL — who’da thunk it? Tina Fey’s influence was everywhere, and mostly it yielded goodness. Not huge laughs, but an evening with more substance than usual.

Agree? Disagree?

Comments (213 total) Add your comment
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  • UGH

    SNL R.I.P.

    • derek

      It will sadly be unmissed.

      • Lots O Questions

        Who are they doing Satire of?
        They were making fun of Obama Critics in the opening and making fun of Palin Critics in the Palin Network Skit?
        OR where they comparing Obama’s strong arm, class warfare poltics to 1930s Germany(Question about Jews and Wall Street pretty biting satire) in the Opening and making fun of Palin herself too later on. I assume the later since THE Obama skit went on to satire his overreactions to critics. Also the REAL Census in itself looks like a bad SNL skit using the word “Negro” as an offical desigantion for African Americans.
        Last night was a mix of writing that went to edge then jumped over like teacher sex and incest jokes. Not really funny as much as creepy.

      • Josh R.

        SNL now stands for: Sorry No Laughs

      • Nick T

        The tiny prostitute was the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life.

    • Hero Kitty

      Oh god it was terrible. Tina Fey has no comedic range. She can only play herself. She is better off writing only.

      • Brenda Barrett

        I thought it was the best ep since Taylor Swift hosted. The sketch with Fey as Bieber’s teacher was hilarious (“I’ll buy you a panini, and some Spanx to make you teeny”), and the devil’s commentary on the Vatican was great, too — LOVED it.

      • Matt

        I thought Sudeikis as the Devil was hilarious as well. That was my favorite part of the night. And I laughed SO hard at Kenan’s Roker voice when he was presenting the weather. The farther the skit went on, the less understandable he was. “Now let’s see what’s going on in your neck of the woods. WHERE THE WEED AT?!” I had to pause it I was laughing so hard.

      • hen

        oh, that line was *funny*. he wasn’t half bad.

      • jones

        I am tired of tina fey using Sarah as her kickbox! Enough already! What is she without Sarah! I think she has milked this far enough! It is not funny any more! Please STOP

      • Love

        still funny

      • D-Con

        Tina doing Palin is still hilarious. and @Jones “what is she without Sarah?” same thing she was before Sarah, hugely successful.

      • TFP

        Where was Fey before Palin? Only a multi-Emmy winning writer-actress, the first SNL woman head writer and one of the most respected people in comedy. She is a genius.

    • terri

      SNL gets dumber and dumber each season. It needs to get off the air. it’s been on way too long. Back in the days of John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, and then on to Mike Myers, Dana Carvery, etc., now THOSE were good shows and funny skits. the writers now are rude and in-sentitive to matters that involve things like suicides, politics, racial remarks, etc. I refuse to watch it anymore, I have tried, but goodbye SNL!!! You are not on my TV anymore.
      from a “former Fan”

      • Yes

        Yeah, and everyone was saying the version with Dana Carvey and Mike Myers needed to go off the air. Perhaps you’re just no longer their target audience.

      • jeff

        No one ever said Carvey or Myers SNL should go off the air. Get a clue and stop lying.

        Those wer the best years.

        And waht is the current target audience, Zombies?

      • Anon

        “Hi, my name’s terri and I can’t stop living in the past!”

      • Connor

        “Hi, my name is Anon (yeah, really), and I think other people’s view are wrong, and find ways to make them seem like the flawed ones!”

      • Skip182

        Hi, I’m Connor, and I disagree with someone else’s view, so I make hypocritical comments about other those views being wrong.

      • fred

        Hi my name is Anon and I am an a$$hole :)

      • John

        I have to agree with Jeff-they’ve been saying this every season of SNL since before Carvey. The show is still excellent on occasion, and anything looks better in hindsight. Saying SNL is beyond passe, and not even pretentious anymore.

      • Douche

        Hi, I’m a douche and I have to post on blogs and attack others to make my self feel better about my erectile dysfunction.

      • D-Con

        John is right people bitched when Chevy Chase left, then they bitched during the Eddie Murphy, Joe Piscipo years (not sure if I spelled Piscipo right but whatever happened to him?) then they Bitched during the Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Michael Hall years (anyone remember that?), then the Dana Carvey, Adam Sandler years then during the Will Farrel years and then during the Tina Fey, Amy Poehler years and they are still bitching now. The show has been on for 35 years and has managed to stay relevant and funny the entire time and has entertained enough people to stay on the air. You can’t please everyone but they are obviously pleasing enough of us so they are doing something right. Also I have the first 4 seasons on DVD and believe me, there were some sketches that were duds back then too. Sometimes they swing and miss but more often they knock it out of the park.

      • Jinka

        Yeah, I LOVED “Dana Carvery.” Such a cut-up

      • ellen

        Terri – I still love SNL (I’m 72 so have been watching from the start). There are some die-hard fans out here who never want it to go away. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it (as you said), but it should not be taken off the air. I always watch for that one skit that may become a pop-culture phrase. But I love this cast and I really, really miss Tina.

    • jeff

      As a long time SNL fan, the show is the worst its ever been. I no longer watch it.

      Last night I was watching paint dry. Much funnier!

      • Tom

        Wait – you’re commenting on how bad the show is, but you don’t watch the show??

    • LOL

      Pretty solid episode all the way through. Ken’s review is right on. This show had a little different tone to it (a good thing). Tina probably had a hand in the writing and it made a difference. Glad most of the tired recurring characters took the week off.

    • Normalman

      As usuaul with SNL, the first 30 minutes are the best. I don’t think it’s necessarily worse then ever but it seems less relevant with everyone else doing similar humor but better. And of course thanks to the internet, you only have to watch the good skits and can skip the junk.

    • antonio stark

      @ Nick T: WHAT? Did you not live through back-to-back Bush administrations?

      • Really?

        A Bush joke? REALLY? That’s new and refreshing.

      • Keira

        everytime i visit your blog i find asleatt one post that interests me.your content never ceases to engage me.

    • Ty

      What is this love affair the EW has with Tina Fey?
      She is overrated and is not funny. That is why 3rd Rock gets such low ratings.

  • couchgrouch

    SNL has never been funny. now I don’t even wanna watch it though I DVR’d it. and I like Tina.

    • Joseph

      So, “couchgrouch”, you just DVRd a show that you claim has never been funny in 35 years, even during those years when Tina Fey (who you say you “like”) was a performer and head writer? Congratulations on posting the stupidest comment I have ever seen on the internet.

  • TorontoTom

    I laughed throughout the show. Your review is a little harsh. The Palin skit definitely delivered. Brownie Husband was great – the caramel oozing out of him as she frenchs him, the puddle of caramel between his legs after they make out. I found the Teacher & Justin thing kinda creepy.
    FEY ROCKS!

    • Brian

      Yeah, this show was definitely the best of the season. ALL ORIGINAL SKETCHES. That alone is such a welcome change. Great Job Tina Fey on making those writers work this week.

      • mark in nyc

        Thought it was the best show of the season as well.
        he only unoriginal bit was Kristen Wig doing her “mugging for the camera” bit as the movie reviewer.

      • Jason

        Totally agree. It was a strong effort – definitely one of the best this year. Of course, I agree with mark — the less Wiig we have to put up with, the better the show automatically is. If only Andy Samberg had been around, it might have been a classic episode.

      • Dan

        Seriously Jason?
        You cant honestly believe that Andy is better than freaking Kristen Wiig in a sketch format. In a short sure, but there is noooneee like Wiig

      • Frank Anderson

        I agree that it was the best of the season, but I still did not laugh much and thought it was still worst than most SNL shows just a short year or two ago.

        BTW- You obviously don’t remember John Lovitz playing the Devil regularly on Weekend Update, and the horrible Wiig movie reviewer was a return as well… at least I am pretty sure it is since most of her sketches are pretty forgettable.
        Wiig is just a trussed up, less funny Molly Shannon. She also just made faces, mugged for the camera and played the same characters over and over again.
        I expected more with Fey on board, and other than a few bright moments this episode let me down.
        Still, at least it had a few moments, which is more than most episodes this season has had.
        D+

      • etm

        Totally agree, Brian.

      • annie

        It was the best – the appearance of Fey and the absence of Wiig contributed to that. Too bad Justin Bieber can’t act. His singing was off key, too.

      • Amanda

        Very true!

      • Anna C.

        I miss the Biiiiitch please reviewer. way better than aunt linda.

      • Wiig Sucks

        Wiig reduced to one skit = best show of the season. Fey is just icing on the deliciously yummy, nearly Wiig-free cake.

    • joni

      The Brownie husband was so stupid, and so was the skit with Justin Beiber (very sick and creepy) Who is he, anyway? Another pre-teen idol?
      Tina Fey is “old news” now, she has carried on the Sarah Palin skits way too long…
      SNL needs new writers — otherwise get it off the air.

      • Stevereeno

        I liked that skit,…funny!!!

      • spiek78

        Who says anyone is old news???? Stupid comment. Love Tina!

      • Grinch

        I laughed out loud during most of Brownie Husband

      • chris

        Brownie Husband was the best of the night. I love Tina Fey.

      • D-Con

        @joni, how is Tina Fey old news? she has the number 1 movie and a hugely popular TV show, she is more popular and successful now then ever before, I’m not sure what you don’t like about her but she certainly isn’t old news. Also as long as Sarah Palin continues to make an ass of herself it will continue to be funny when someone does a parody of it.

      • AJ

        If you don’t know who Justin Bieber is, maybe you’re too old to be watching SNL.

      • Doremifah Solatido

        Anybody still talking about the Hanson brothers? Same thing with this Bieber twerp in two years.

    • dorahelen

      TINA FEY IS SO SHARPE AND FUNNY – I LAUGHED OUT LOUD…

    • mads

      I agree. I rather enjoyed it unlike a lot of people. I also loved all the Sandra Bullock support from Tina and Kristen. Also, I’m really starting to like Nasim Pedrad. I think she’ll contribute a lot in the years to come.

    • RB

      I thought it was the best show so far this season. Some of the mediocre skits, like the 9″ prostitute, would have been the “best” episode on some this season’s other lesser shows.

      I’d go so far as to say this is one of the best episodes I’ve seen in years.

  • bootsycolumbia

    Kind of disagree with this review. I missed the first half hour because I was out seeing Date Night, so I was in the mood for more Tina Fey. But the show I saw was pretty good. Actually, this show really made me realize which of the cast I really love (Nasim Pedrad, Jason Sudeikis), and which cast members I wish would leave after this season (Kristen Wiig–I hated the Aunt Linda bit; it only made me miss “Bitch Pleeze”)and Kenan Thompson. And Tina was great in every sketch she did. Justin Bieber was good too!

  • jenna

    I thought it was a great show. Tina did a great job with Justin, and she added that much needed ‘woman’s touch’ to the show. Loved the ‘9 inch hooker’ segment.
    A nicely balanced, and well done episode, IMO.
    *sigh*, Tina and Amy are sorely missed on the show.

    • bg

      I thought the entire show was funny – wouldn’t it have been sweet if Amy P had shown up? Or does she film her show in California, so that’s not as easy as it sounds?

      • Irene

        My daughter and I hoped Amy would have made a guest appearance too.

      • D-Con

        They were both on Jimmy Fallon’s show earlier in the week and it was hilarious.

  • fromtoronto

    I am sorry but I will definitely disagree with the writer – who was very unfair, I laughed throughout the show, loved the monologue, loved the Women’s update, loved the schoolteacher & nerdy girl skit! And the brownie commercial had me in stitches, I am sorry but did u even see the very lame JLo episode??? FEY ROCKS AND ROCKED SNL last night…..can’t wait to see Betty White soon! SNL u brought the funny back last night ….and now if u excuse me, I will be going to see Date night now….bi*”&es!! lol

    • Chevy

      It’s become apparent reading these comments that viewers either love Tina Fey or find her tired and dull, there seems to be no middle ground.

      Would’ve found Wiig’s movie review segment a lot more interesting if she had something to say about Fey’s ‘Date Night’ flick. In fact I assumed that was the only reason that segment aired this week.

  • BG 17

    I enjoyed Fey through the portion of the show I was awake for, and I laughed out loud when she described Bombshell McGee’s tattooed skin as looking like “the binder of a dirtbag 7th grade metal shop student”. I love obscure, on-the-mark analogies like that, especially when that dirtbag probably describes Jesse James 29 years ago.

  • mike1

    I thought it was amazing. Tina is a great comedian and one of the best former SNL. Good to see her as host.

    • SueN

      Agreed. The sketches were subtle and rich, as Ken said, filled with sweetness and humor.

    • Kim

      Also agree. My daughter and I pretty much laughed out loud through the whole show, for the most part. I actually thought Justin Bieber was kinda funny. Wasn’t expecting that!

      • Babs

        I agree. I like it when they use the musical guest’s strengths to their advantage. This show definitely had a lot of laugh out loud moments.

      • Dana

        Not sure what I thought of the Fey-Bieber moments, and at the end of his second song I found it slightly off-putting that he added Tina’s name to the lyrics.

  • Amy

    I love when people say Tina is missed on the show when the fact is is that she was never a huge presence in sketches during her time on SNL. And also, the level of writing in her later years as head writer was far worse than the standard of seasons 32-34 under Seth Meyers. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tina, I just think that her work on 30 Rock and Mean Girls is far better than a lot of what she did on SNL.

    • annie

      She was always really good on Weekend Update.

      • Michael

        Eh. As a fan of her’s, she tends to be great at something new but start phoning it in once it’s established. Her and Jimmy were great on Update because they played so well against each other. Her and Amy started off well, but their final season together was really the only time I stopped looking forward to Update each episode. Just a series of really obvious and unfunny punchlines.

        Last night’s ep was great, though.

      • Ardian

        You made some nice pintos there. I looked on the internet for the subject and found most people will agree with your blog.

    • TJ

      Agreed. Am a fan of Fey, but SNL was not very good when she was head writer.

    • taksi

      Well I think you’d need to see what it is people miss about her. It’s true she wasn’t a huge sketch presence but I was a fan of the writing when she was head writer and found the show to be far more consistently funny. It was later when she decided to pursue other opportunities and started splitting duties with Seth Myers that the show began to be unwatchable for me.

    • Marci

      Biotch pleaseeee….the writing under Tina Fey was SO much better. My generation actually tuned into SNL these years. I still rewatch countless ones from that period, especially the “Boston Teen” sketches.

  • Brock

    I thought SNL last night was very good. I thought Tina Fey was great,funny and smart. Justin was good, he won me over completely when he improvised at the end of his second song singing, “When you smile Tina, I smile.” I thought it was very cute, and made Justin extremely endearing.

    • Adam

      As a stand-alone comment that may have been cute, but he didn’t do himself any favors playing a student to Fey’s teacher in the earlier sketch. In the light of Mary Kay Letourneau it’s hard to take those sort of situations lightly.

  • Kat

    I’m pretty sure in the last skit, Justin’s character’s name was “Jason.”

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  • jfms777

    Uneven show. Tina OK. But let’s face it: even if Tina had been horrible. EW would never admit it. EW worships her. Like the “Twilight” series.

    • toonaspie

      LOL that’s so true.

      Trust me, you dont really wanna know what I think of Tina Fey. I’m afraid people will beat me up for it. XD

    • tarla

      Women comedians get the short-end on SNL, haven’t you noticed? The only reason Tina gets a chance like this (hosting again) is because her TV show is bringing it in. Hard to get respect as a woman in this business. Look at how many women they cut from SNL this year alone. Previous SNL women have said it was always difficult to get their sketches on the show.

      • WhitneyD

        Thank you Tarla. I find it funny that people say, I love her on 30 Rock (which is mostly her writing), but hated her as head writer on SNL. Seems to me they didn’t like the fact that Fey was probably pressured to use more of the male writer’s sketches to appeal to the “target demo”

  • Lisa Simpson

    I turned it off as soon as that id started to ‘sing’. It was unbearable, and I figured all the best sketches would be posted online.

    • toonaspie

      I HATE it when the SNL hosts break into musical numbers during their opening monologues. Most of the time when they do, there’s really no point.

      • teena

        yea, that’s ridiculous when they do that (and boring too)
        Kristin Wig is the one who should leave the show. Don’t like her, and all her skits are the SAME.

  • richardIII

    Never Ever Funny. Almost painful to watch as they remind you of Grade-schoolers with their half baked routines…at least the kids have an excuse.Fey is still trying to help out the socialist occupying the white house with her Palin routine however even douchebag liberals have to admit that bit is long of tooth…just like Tina

    • Liberal and proud

      Nope, don’t admit it. She was funny, and the more skewering of Palin and her idiocy, the better off we all are.

      • Babs

        AGREE. Making fun of Sarah is fun (and easy).

    • tarla

      not what I experienced at all, sure you watched and didn’t just hate-comment for politics?

    • wakeforce

      I hope Richard gets hit by a car and dies…

      • dana b

        Wow………

    • wendeeloo

      Oh socialist-smocialist – Will you people get a new record to play?! All such false exaggerations perpetrated by FOX Snooze…

    • Grinch

      And screeching the word “socialist” ISN’T long in the tooth???

    • LOL

      Richard is another weak Republican male. Such a sad lot.

    • @Grinch

      Amen!

    • Irene

      I can’t get enough of that impersonation. The jacket was right on – Palin was wearing that last week.

    • SB

      No, only douchebag conservatives feel that way even though the real Sarah would be almost as funny if dimbulbs like you didn’t actually think she had anything worthwhile to say.

  • Shane

    jfms777 calls it right.
    It was an uneven show- not bad cold open, the brownie thing was very funny (the men on here would never get that one, not really why it was funny) and there were some other funny moments but that sketch (and its SKETCH not SKIT people) with the mom and the kid at the dance was like watching paint dry.
    And whoever wrote yesterday about giving Beiber a chance- he is AWFUL and he CANNOT sing.

    • Patti

      I guess I was expecting something a little funnier, since Tina Fey was the host. I knew she had to do a Sarah Palin skit, and it’s getting tired. I did like the brownie commercial, but my favorite part was Al Roker doing the weather from a night club. Also, I laughed at Sudekis playing the Devil. The part I liked least was anything with Justin Bieber in it. I know that I’m too old for his target demo, but this kid was a horrible actor! You could tell he was reading right off the cue cards, like he was reading the script for the first time on national television! :(

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