Sarah May Have Last Laugh

Tina Fey’s expected “SNL” encore may actually help Palin – the jokes show she’s being taken seriously as a presidential contender

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP / Getty Images
    Tina Fey is expected to morph into Sarah Palin again – or is it the opposite way around?

    Word that Tina Fey is likely to reprise her Sarah Palin imitation on “Saturday Night Live” while hosting the show in April is good news for "SNL" fans – and probably even better news for Palin.

    It’s the latest sign that the polarizing politician remains firmly in the public eye – even if she’s the apple of some eyes, and in the political crosshairs of others. It’s also another indication that Palin is seen as a serious presidential contender, just a year and change into President Obama’s first term.

    Being lampooned by Fey is a privilege of sorts Palin enjoys without holding office or officially running for one – she’s very craftily carved out a niche as a political celebrity, thanks to her perch on Fox News and her smart use of Facebook as a platform. Unlike last year’s presidential campaign, she’s put herself in a position where she doesn’t regularly face direct questions from the press.

    But Palin can’t escape the comedians – which may not be such a bad thing for her. A gratuitous crack on Sunday’s episode of “Family Guy” that was seen by some as mocking Palin’s 22-month-old son Trig, who has Down syndrome, seems to have generated an outpouring of support for her, judging from the 25,000 comments on her Facebook page. David Letterman’s tasteless quip about one of Palin’s daughters last year spurred a movement to fire him, and he ultimately apologized.

    Palin showed she was a good sport last year by making a cameo with Fey on “SNL”– it’s a good bet she’d jump at another chance to appear on the show. She knows the power of that stage.

    “SNL” won a prestigious Peabody Award last year, with the Peabody folks opining that Fey’s Palin sketches “may have swayed the [presidential] race itself.” There’s no way, of course, to measure whether that’s true.

    But it is clear a lot has changed since last year. Palin is a far better known quantity now. More people love her or hate her – humor at her expense could reinforce those strong feelings on both sides.

    By limiting her exposure to the press and being more careful in her public utterances, Palin has proven less gaffe-prone in recent months – though her literally handwritten notes during her recent Tea Party speech prompted ridicule.

    Just imagine how Fey would have clubbed that softball. Too bad her “SNL” hosting gig isn’t until April.

    For "SNL" fans, Fey’s expected return as Palin, no doubt, will bring laughs – “I can see Russia from my house” is still a great line, all these months later. That the two women look somewhat alike is a small part of the potency of Fey’s imitation: She’s got Palin’s mannerisms and homey Alaska-by-way-of-“Fargo” speech patterns down pat.

    With Palin running a not-so-stealth 2012 campaign, she and Fey could be stuck with one another for a long time to come. Is there a chance that years from now Fey will be remembered more for her Palin imitation than for “30 Rock?” You betcha!
     

    Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.