Tina Fey's Vexing Self-Parody

Tina Fey showed up on Weekend Update’s summer edition Thursday night, acting as a comedian, political commentator and graduate of University of Virginia to address the atrocities in Charlottesville.


Speaking alongside anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che, Fey condemned President Donald Trump’s mealy-mouthed response to the violence in Charlottesville before offering some words of advice for those thinking about mobilizing against the various alt-right rallies planned across the country, including the one in New York. “Part of me hopes these Neo-Nazis try it in New York City,” she said. “I hope they try it and get the ham salad kicked out of them by drag queens. Cause you know what a drag queen still is? A six-foot-four black man.”

Fey’s comedic suggestion for preventing any further violence at these protests is as follows:

“I would urge people this Saturday, instead of participating in these screaming matches and potential violence, find a local business that you support, maybe a Jewish-run bakery, or an African-American-run bakery. Order a cake with the American flag on it like this one, and just eat it, Colin.

If you’re not entirely sure how this method is supposed to help, seeing as it sounds like resistance by doing nothing, here’s her explanation.

“Next time when you see a bunch of white boys in polo shirts screaming about taking our country back, and you want to scream, ‘It’s not our country; we stole it from the Native Americans, and when they have a peaceful protest at Standing Rock, we shoot at them with rubber bullets, but we let you chinless turds march through the streets with semi-automatic weapons!’ When you want to yell that, don’t yell it at the Klan, Colin—yell it into the cake.”

She proceeds to do just that, shoving grocery store sheet cake into her face while delivering what The Hollywood Reporter called “biting commentary” on Donald Trump, the horror of Charlottesville and the goddamn emails.

Fey’s bit is a little like the well-intentioned statuses popping up on your Facebook feed about how the past weekend’s events sickened them to their stomachs; the sentiment exists as a stand-in for action. “Sheetcaking”—screaming your feelings into a cake—as a “grassroots movement” is clearly meant to be a joke, though it lands with a pretty deafening thud.


What’s most obnoxious about this clip is how Fey is encouraging people to actively ignore neo-Nazis, by characterizing the protests as “violent” and urging those who might otherwise be encouraged to physically show up to stay at home. In the fictive world of 30 Rock, this bit would’ve had its place—I can see Liz Lemon watching CNN and crying into an Entenmann’s pound cake as a coping mechanism, and then falling asleep covered in Cheetos dust. In less dire circumstances, this joke might have been actually funny. But right now, when satire hews so close to the truth that even The Onion recently printed a real headline, is the stakes are a little too high.

Fey chose to end her monologue with another call to inaction, followed by an off-color comment about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings:

“Treat these rallies this week as you would the opening of a thoughtful movie with two female leads: don’t show up. Let these morons scream into the empty air. I love you Charlottesville, and as Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘Who’s that hot light-skinned girl over by the butter churn?’”


For a joke to be a joke, it has to actually be funny. This bit was not.

Senior Writer, Jezebel


Ari Schwartz: Dark Lord of the Snark

Maybe I’m just the dummy here, but I took it as her making fun of the inactive people who think they can ignore the problem?

There’s also a bit of funny historicism there with “eating cake,” which may (or may not) have been a sly wink to the French Revolution.

That, and it did make me think that maybe I’m just sitting here in my nice cozy liberal bubble eating cake. In that sense, it did get me thinking more about how to not just be inert. However, I do think that this bit shows the challenge with sly comedy: it’s too easy to miss the mark and end up shooting to the other side.

In other words: I took this as a call to get off my ass and not just eat cake. But maybe someone less inclined would not feel the same way and might take it literally.