After the thumpin’ liberals took in this week’s midterm elections, at least they can relive the glory days of 2008 next week. On November 8, the Washington and Hollywood elite will gather at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to give comedian Tina Fey the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor for her 2008 smear of Sarah Palin.
At 40, Fey is by far the youngest and likely the least-qualified recipient of the Twain Prize. That doesn’t concern Mark Krantz, the executive producer of the award program. He said he sees the Twain Award as a “prize” rather than a “lifetime achievement award,” and that Fey is “at her apex.”
At her apex? So it’s all downhill from here? That’s a shame for Fey.
Fey, for what it’s worth, gets “groundbreaking” credit for being the first female head writer for “Saturday Night Live.” Whether that is such a big deal is questionable considering “SNL” is long past its prime. Neither movie in which she had a lead role (“Baby Mama” and “Date Night”) were hits, and the one she wrote (“Mean Girls”) is memorable only for helping make Lindsay Lohan the celebrity she is today. Her “30 Rock” television show is more of a hit with critics than viewers.
It’s hardly a resume fit to stand with past Twain Award recipients such as Bill Cosby, Neil Simon, Carl Reiner and Bob Newhart.
But Tina Fey does have one standout performance. She was quite proficient in making fun of Sarah Palin at a time when Palin was just being introduced to most Americans. On regular appearances on “SNL” during the 2008 general election campaign, Fey portrayed the vice presidential nominee as a simpleton. The clips went viral, and were regularly played on newscasts as part of the establishment media’s obsession with putting Palin down.
This mocking image of Palin became so ubiquitous that it undoubtedly defined the Republican ticket to many voters. As proof of this, a survey of Obama voters by pollster John Zogby conducted just after the 2008 election found that 87 percent identified Palin as saying that she could “see Russia from her house.” In reality, it was a line from one of Fey’s skits.
Fey, who already won an Emmy for slamming Palin, is now being feted by the establishment, allegedly for her vast body of work. But her career pales next to Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett and possibly even Betty White — who all have yet to be honored with the Twain Award.
It’s obvious Fey’s Kennedy Center “prize” is nothing more than payback for poking fun at Sarah Palin when it counted.
Fey should enjoy her award. She should bask in the adulation of the beautiful people — and perhaps even revel in personal thanks for her help from the man who now sits in the Kennedy Center president’s box. Celebrity is fleeting, and — if Krantz is right — it’s never gonna get better for her than it is right now.
Sarah Palin, on the other hand, emerged from Fey’s character assassination attempt stronger than ever. She’s not vice president, but she is more politically relevant now than ever before.
Palin’s support put many tea party candidates over the top during this year’s primary season, and Governor-elect Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Congressman-elect Sean Duffy of Wisconsin and Senator-elect Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania may be able to pin their wins on Palin’s endorsement of them.
Palin’s first book was a bestseller, and her second book will be released later this month. She has a show premiering on TLC and is a Fox New contributor. She is also regarded as a frontrunner for the 2012 Republican nomination to presumably challenge Barack Obama.
Sarah Palin hasn’t yet reached her apex.
Sorry, Tina — you lose.
David W. Almasi is the executive director of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington-based think tank.