Tina Fey appeared on a Thursday edition of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update last night. Fey, who graduated from Charlottesville’s UVA in 1992 offered a special comment about the violence last weekend and President Trump’s response to it.
Fey’s bit, which lasted about six minutes, contained plenty of pointed attacks on Trump and the right but her proposed solution to dealing with upcoming white nationalist protests wasn’t to go out and punch a Nazi but to stay home and eat a sheet cake.
“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,” Fey said. She then proceeded to do just that for the rest of the bit, telling her costar, “Sheet-caking is a grass roots movement, Colin.”
Perhaps Fey was partly offering an ironic attack on progressive apathy, i.e. telling people to do the exact opposite of what she actually believes they should do. If so, it’s odd that she closed her skit by reinforcing the idea of inaction. “Treat these rallies this week as you would the opening of a thoughtful movie with two female leads: don’t show up,” she said. It was one of the better-crafted lines of the whole skit and seemed to suggest that she wasn’t joking about staying home.
Fey’s suggestion to ignore the Nazis was “vexing” to feminist site Jezebel which declared the skit not funny.
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 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 [sic] the stakes are a little too high.”
Jezebel doesn’t really spell this out, but I think there’s another reason this skit probably didn’t appeal to them apart from Fey’s advice. A lot of the actual humor in this bit comes not from the attack lines but from the growing sense of progressive panic she is acting out. When she advises people to take their frustrations and “yell it into the cake” she is behaving like a lunatic. And the bit ends when one of her costars, having been told about armed militias, reaches over and starts “sheet-caking” too. The progressive panic has spread.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it but in light of her advice to stay home, I think it’s at least possible Fey is taking a jab at the left’s Nazi panic. She seems to be saying: Hey, I understand why you’re worked up but don’t let these people drive you bananas or if you can’t help it, at least go bananas at home rather than feeding into the vicious cycle of two angry mobs of people egging each other on to violence.
Whatever she meant by it, I think Fey’s advice is good advice. But it doesn’t appear that many people on the left are in the mood to take it right now.