Emmy episode analysis: Tina Fey brings back Sarah Palin on ‘Saturday Night Live’

Tina Fey is hoping to add another Emmy to her robust collection thanks to another stint hosting “Saturday Night Live.” Fey has won 9 Emmy Awards out of 42 previous nominations. “Saturday Night Live” accounts for three of those wins, while “30 Rock” provided the other six. With the addition of her nomination this year for Comedy Guest Actress and another Comedy Series bid as producer of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Fey’s nomination tally has reached a whopping 44. She has also been nominated for a Grammy Award (Best Spoken Word Album) for “Bossypants” and a Tony Award (Best Book of a Musical) for “Mean Girls.”

Fey has won Comedy Guest Actress twice for hosting “Saturday Night Live,” most recently in 2016 when she prevailed with Amy Poehler as joint hosts. This year she contends for hosting the season 43 finale, which begins by turning her monologue into a question-and-answer session with the audience. Except the audience is a parade of celebrity cameos including Robert De Niro, Jerry Seinfeld, Anne Hathaway, and Fred Armisen.

She pops up in sketches throughout the episode including as a deranged “Aunt Creepy” at the royal wedding, no nonsense Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in a “Morning Joe” interview, and even the return of her Sarah Palin impression to sing Trump administration-inspired lyrics over ‘What I Did For Love’ from “A Chorus Line.” She also lampoons herself in a digital short where she attempts to join the cast of her Broadway show “Mean Girls,” to disastrous results.


Tina Fey is well liked in the industry, as evidenced by her already impressive Emmy haul. She’s a proven commodity for this group of voters, and there is no evidence to suggest they are tired of checking off her name wherever they can.

Fey shows off many characters and comedy styles thanks to the nature of sketch comedy. She plays a fictionalized version of herself, does kooky character work in the royal wedding sketch, and employs a brilliant Russian accent in the “Morning Joe” segment. This type of variety has propelled many “SNL” hosts to victory, including Justin Timberlake (2009, 2011), Betty White (2010), Jimmy Fallon (2012-2014), Melissa McCarthy (2017) and Dave Chappelle (2017) in the last 10 years.


The episode lacks a memorable opening monologue for Fey as she cedes the spotlight to the parade of celebrity cameos. These special guests end up walking away with some of the best lines. This ends up being a recurring theme in the episode: Fey is not present in the cold open, and many of the sketches feature her as a supporting player as opposed to being built around her.

Tiffany Haddish is also nominated for her “Saturday Night Live” hosting duties. Emmy voters may be more inclined to throw support behind Haddish, who is riding the momentum of a banner year that included breakout roles in “Girls Trip” and “The Last O.G.,” as well as a memorable appearance at the Oscars.

Or worst case scenario: the two “SNL” hosts split the votes and allow someone like Jane Lynch (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) to sneak in.

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