Saturday Night Live parodies of Sarah Palin
The sketch comedy television show Saturday Night Live aired several critically acclaimed sketches parodying then Alaskan Governor and vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin in the lead-up to the 2008 United States presidential election. The sketches featured former cast member Tina Fey, who returned as a guest star to portray Palin. Fey won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her impersonation of Palin.
Soon after the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign's August 29, 2008 announcement that Alaska governor Sarah Palin would be McCain's vice presidential nominee, people noted a physical resemblance between comedian Tina Fey and Palin. Fey had decided she would play Palin after her daughter saw a picture of the Alaskan governor and mistook her mother for Palin.
Viewers began to speculate who would play Palin on SNL during the run up to the November 4 presidential election. Days before the broadcast of the sketch, SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels said "there are [ongoing] discussions" about Fey playing Palin. On September 13, 2008, NBC announced that Fey would appear in the thirty-fourth season premiere.
"A Nonpartisan Message from Governor Sarah Palin & Senator Hillary Clinton"
The first sketch, "A Nonpartisan Message from Governor Sarah Palin & Senator Hillary Clinton," aired during the thirty-fourth season premiere of SNL on September 13, 2008. The sketch starred Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as Palin and Clinton, respectively. Fey, the series' former head writer and repertory player, made her third appearance on the series since officially leaving SNL in 2006 to work on 30 Rock, a series which she created. The sketch was written by Poehler, Fey, and head writer and Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers.
Poehler and Fey are featured in a fictional speech playing New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, respectively. The pair discuss the presence of sexism in the 2008 United States presidential election, and the differences between Palin and Clinton. Governor Palin was the Republican Party vice-presidential nominee and Senator Clinton was a contender for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Through the course of the message, Palin tries to present herself as the candidate for the job, and Clinton gets progressively more and more disgusted at Palin's sudden rise to fame as John McCain's running mate, despite her background. It also features references to Clinton's campaign.
The sketch was well received by critics. Erin Fox of TV Guide wrote that Tina Fey "nails [Sarah] Palin's mannerisms and accent. [Amy] Poehler is amazing as Hillary [Clinton]; her timing is better than ever. My favorite line was Tina saying 'I can see Russia from my house!'" Fox added that "this was a much anticipated and hoped-for pairing and we got it!" Annie Wu of TV Squad thought that Fey's "impression wasn't perfect but it was more accurate than Amy Poehler's Hillary Clinton, which [she] still find[s] incredibly off." Wu added that "the mugging for the camera was absolutely hilarious." James Poniewozik of Time Magazine wrote that "Fey's Palin was perfectly good enough" and that "the skit itself did a good job of what SNL—which has lately cultivated a strong set of female comics—tried hard to do through Hillary's campaign, which is try to address sexism without either simply going for the easy stereotypes or letting female candidates off the hook". The Huffington Post's reviewer wrote that "Fey bears a striking resemblance to Palin and nailed the candidate's distinctive accent."
When asked how she felt about Fey's portrayal, Sarah Palin replied, "I watched with the volume all the way down and I thought it was hilarious... I didn't hear a word she said, but the visual was spot on." Palin "and the press corps watched the sketch in the back of her plane, laughing at Tina and Amy's satirical take on the two politicians", and Palin later claimed that she had once dressed up as Fey for Halloween. However, Carly Fiorina, a spokeswoman for the John McCain campaign argued that the sketch portrayed Hillary Clinton as "very substantive", but Fiorina thought, in the case of Sarah Palin, that she was portrayed as "totally superficial". Fiorina thought the sketch was "disrespectful in the extreme" and "sexist".
In a series of interviews, Palin made some "flubs" leading her to joke that "[she] was just trying to give Tina Fey more material". She also joked that it was to provide "job security for SNL characters." Sarah Palin later remarked that she should appear on SNL to spoof a series of American Express commercials which featured Tina Fey.
Further Palin sketches
Due to the popularity of the sketch and Fey's impression of Palin, Fey reprised her Sarah Palin role during the September 27, 2008 episode of Saturday Night Live. That sketch featured Palin being interviewed by Katie Couric who was played by Amy Poehler; that sketch parodied an interview which took place between Palin and Couric which aired days before the sketch's broadcast. In the sketch, Fey quoted near verbatim one of Palin's answers from the actual interview and mimed Palin's gestures. The following episode featured a skit parodying the debate between Palin and Joe Biden (played by Jason Sudeikis). Queen Latifah also appeared in the skit as moderator Gwen Ifill.[dead link]
Palin herself appeared on the October 18, 2008 episode of SNL, along with Fey in the cold opening. Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg also appeared in that sketch as themselves. On the October 23 episode of Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday, Fey as Palin appeared alongside Darrell Hammond as John McCain and Will Ferrell as President George W. Bush.
On November 1, 2008, Fey once again portrayed Palin, this time in a sketch featuring the real John McCain, the last of numerous sketches featuring the Arizona Senator. In the sketch, McCain poked fun at himself and his campaign, as well as Barack Obama's purchase of airtime on several major networks earlier in the week.[dead link] In the sketch, McCain and Palin can only afford to buy airtime on QVC, a home-shopping channel. McCain's wife, Cindy, also made an appearance in the sketch as herself.
After Sarah Palin's memoir, Going Rogue: An American Life, achieved best-seller status through pre-orders, Tina Fey announced she would resume impersonating the former Governor despite having "retired" the act months previously. On April 10, 2010, Fey hosted SNL, and once again played Palin, who unveiled her own television network featuring shows such as "Hey Journalist, I Gotcha", "Todd!" starring her husband Todd Palin (Jason Sudeikis) and "Are You Smarter than a Half-Term Governor?" Another time, Fey hosted SNL in May 2011, while pregnant. A new sketch was made in which parodies of Mitt Romney (Jason Sudeikis), Newt Gingrich (Bobby Moynihan), Michele Bachmann (Kristen Wiig), Palin (Fey), Donald Trump (Darrell Hammond), and Jimmy McMillan (Kenan Thompson) fought in a Republican Party debate between undeclared candidates, with Shepard Smith (Bill Hader) coordinating.
On March 11, 2012, on the episode hosted by Jonah Hill, Palin was impersonated by Andy Samberg in the Weekend Update segment. The dialogue leads the audience to think that it was supposed to be another appearance by Fey and that Seth Meyers wasn't aware of the change, but Samberg convinces Meyers to finish his part.
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- SNL Transcripts
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- "Saturday Night Live Welcomes Back Tina Fey And Queen Latifah For Their Take On The Vice Presidential Debate" (Press release). NBC Universal Media Village. 2008-10-05. Retrieved 2008-10-07.
SNL alum and 30 Rock star Tina Fey returned to SNL tonight to reprise her wildly popular rendition of Republican VP candidate, Gov. Sarah Palin. Fey was joined in the parody of the debate by special guest Queen Latifah as moderator Gwen Ifill and cast member Jason Sudeikis took on the role of Democratic VP candidate Sen. Joe Biden in the opening of tonight's show[dead link]
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After weeks of speculation, Vice Presidential candidate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin made her SNL debut tonight, shouting the program's signature opening line: "Live from New York, It's Saturday Night." Palin appeared as herself in the opening sketch of the show, alongside executive producer Lorne Michaels, surprise guests Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg as well as her SNL doppelganger, Tina Fey.[dead link]
- "Will Ferrell returns to Saturday Night Live as President George W. Bush, Tina Fey reprises role as Governor Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday October 23" (Press release). NBC Universal Media Village. 2008-10-23. Retrieved 2008-10-26.
Coming off the record breaking ratings of last Saturday's SNL—the highly-rated SNL live primetime Weekend Update Thursday finished its three-week run tonight with the return of SNL alum Will Ferrell as President George W. Bush, joined by the current talk of the political world—Tina Fey as Governor Sarah Palin. The show opened with President Bush giving a public endorsement of the McCain—Palin ticket.[dead link]
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-  Archived October 4, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
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- Presidential Parody Dominates Saturday Night Live[dead link] (September 27, 2008 sketch transcript)
- "Tina Fey On Palin Persona" (Interview on the "Late Show with David Letterman") on YouTube