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CAMPAIGN '08: THE REPUBLICANS

Tina Fey, meet Sarah Palin

The vice presidential nominee meets her comic doppelganger during a guest spot on 'Saturday Night Live.'

October 19, 2008|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Politics and parody collided on Saturday as Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made a self-deprecating appearance on "Saturday Night Live" in which she critiqued the performance of her comic doppelganger.

The Republican vice presidential candidate endured a diatribe from actor Alec Baldwin, who pretended to mistake her for comedian Tina Fey, before opening the program with its signature line, "Live from New York, it's 'Saturday Night!' "

Fey's lampooning of Palin as a clueless but perky candidate has become a pop culture phenomenon and has helped lift "Saturday Night Live's" ratings to their highest level in seven years.

On Saturday, the program opened with a skit in which Fey blithely fielded questions in what was billed as the governor's first news conference. The camera then cut to the real Palin, standing in a hallway with executive producer Lorne Michaels, watching the bit on a television monitor.

"Yeah, Lorne, you know, I just didn't think it was a realistic depiction of the way my press conferences would have gone," she said, shaking her head disapprovingly.

"Yes, but it's obviously a heightened reality," Michael replied.

"Why couldn't we have done the '30 Rock' sketch that I wrote?" the governor asked, referring to Fey's critically acclaimed but low-rated comedy.

"Honestly, not enough people know that show," he responded.

For Palin, the cameo offered a chance to demonstrate a lighter side in the midst of a hard-edged campaign.

She told radio host Neal Boortz on Friday: "I just want to be there to show Americans that we'll rise above the political shots that we take, because we're in this doing serious business for serious challenges that are facing good American people right now."

She was forced to field some more shots on the program. In Fey's sketch, the comedian offered to entertain reporters with "some fancy pageant walking," a jibe at Palin's beauty queen days.

Then Baldwin rushed up to Palin and Michaels in the hallway, greeting them as "Lorne" and "Tina."

"You can't let Tina go out there with that woman," he implored Michaels as Palin listened, her lips pressed tightly together. "She goes against everything we stand for. . . . This is the most important election in our nation's history and you want our Tina to go out there and stand there with that horrible woman?"

When informed that he was standing next to the governor, Baldwin drew himself back.

"I see," he said. "Forgive me, I feel I must say this: You are way hotter in person."

The bit ended with Baldwin whispering in Fey's ear as she stood at the lectern addressing the media.

"What?" she asked with alarm. "The real one? By-uh!"

Fey quickly walked off stage, passing Palin coming in. The two -- dressed in identical red jackets, black skirts and gaudy flag brooches -- exchanged curt nods of recognition.

Later in the show, Palin made an appearance on "Weekend Update," telling co- anchors Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler that she wasn't going to do the piece they had rehearsed because she was afraid it was a bad idea for the campaign.

Instead, Poehler got up and rapped the song that Palin supposedly was going to perform, chanting: "McCain got experience, McCain got style, but don't let him freak you out when he tries to smile. Because that smile be creepy, but when I'm VP, all the leaders of the world gonna finally meet me."

Smiling, the governor nodded and swayed to the beat.

Some Republicans have decried Fey's impersonation as sexist and belittling. At a rally in Virginia on Saturday, the crowd booed when Sen. John McCain mentioned that Palin would be appearing with Fey that night, according to CBS News.

But Palin herself has sought to make light of the parody. She told Fox News' Sean Hannity last month that she thought Fey's first sketch was "hilarious" and "spot-on" (although she said she watched it with the volume off). The Alaska governor noted that people have told her for years that she looks like Fey, adding that she dressed up like the comedian once for Halloween.

After Palin was mocked by some for her uneven performance in a series of interviews with CBS anchor Katie Couric, the candidate quipped, "I was just trying to give Tina Fey more material -- job security for 'Saturday Night Live.' "

Fey left the late-night program but returned this season as a guest performer to play Palin between her work as an executive producer and star of "30 Rock," which has its season premiere Oct. 30.

The comedian might portray the Republican candidate through the election, but "if she wins, I'm done," Fey told TV Guide. "I can't do that for four years. And by 'I'm done,' I mean I'm leaving Earth."

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matea.gold@latimes.com

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