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TERRY GROSS, host:

This is Fresh Air. I'm Terry Gross. Today, we're featuring interviews with three of the people who helped make this a great year for political satire. And I'm not talking about the politicians, I'm talking about thesatirists.

Earlier in the show, we heard from "Saturday Night Live's" head writer and "Weekend Update" co-anchor Seth Meyers. He wrote most of the Sarah Palin's sketches featuring Tina Fey as Palin. Fey was the head writer of the show and "Weekend Update" co-anchor before leaving to start her sitcom, "30 Rock." I spoke with Tina Fey in November, just before the election. A few weeks before that, Sarah Palin had been a guest on "Saturday Night Live," and she very briefly shared the stage with Tina Fey. That edition opened with Fey as Palin at the podium for her first press conference.

(Soundbite of TV show "Saturday Night Live")

Ms. TINA FEY: (As Governor Sarah Palin) First off, I just want to say how excited I am to be in front of both the liberal elite media, as well as the liberal regular media.

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

Ms. FEY: (As Governor Sarah Palin) I am looking forward to a portion of your questions, so let's get started! Yes, you?

Unidentified Man: Yeah, what were your thoughts on Senator McCain's debate performance Wednesday?

Ms. FEY: (As Governor Sarah Palin) You know, I just thought he was great because the American people are angry, and John McCain is angry too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FEY: (As Governor Sarah Palin) And you can tell he's angry by the way he sighs and grits his teeth, and he's always going, like, grrr.

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

Ms. FEY: (As Governor Sarah Palin) You know, and then Barack Obama, well, if he's angry, I certainly can't tell. His words are smooth when he's talking. It's like an angel whispering in your ear.

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

Ms. FEY: (As Governor Sarah Palin) He makes John McCain sound like a garbage truck unloading trash at a landfill.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FEY: So to answer your question, yes, I think John McCain did great. You, guy.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah. At a rally in North Carolina this week, you said that you like to visit the quote pro-America parts of the country. Are there parts of America that you consider un-American?

Ms. FEY: (As Governor Sarah Palin) Oh, you know, that was just my lame attempt at a joke. But yes, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, California.

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

Ms. FEY: (As Governor Sarah Palin) But also, too - you have states like Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida, which could be real, real anti-American or real, real pro-American. It's up to them.

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

Ms. FEY: (As Governor Sarah Palin) And now, I'd like to entertain everybody with some fancy pageant walking.

GROSS: Tina Fey, welcome back to Fresh Air, and congratulations on all the work you've been doing. When Sarah Palin came on the national stage, it was as if Americans around the country simultaneously said, Tina Fey! She looks like Tina Fey. So what do you do to become her physically and then we'll talk about what you do to be her verbally.

Ms. FEY: Well, physically, I wear a wig, obviously, that's modeled after her hair. We do - at my request, we glue my ears back because my ears stick out pretty significantly and hers do not. And we overdraw my lip line because she has fuller lips and she has the - I don't know if there's a term for this, but the pointy part on your upper lip, the sort of doll baby part of her lips are much further apart than mine. These all things we've noticed in the makeup chair as we try to make me look like her. I try to stick my jaw out because she has a stronger jaw than I do, and I have a smaller mouth in general so I try to make my mouth a little wider.

GROSS: Now, how did you go about studying her voice so that you could get it and her vocal mannerisms?

Ms. FEY: I watched her a lot on YouTube. I watched the convention speech and I watched - obviously, the Katie Couric interview the week that we did that. Because I'm not an impressionist, I started to try to work from the accent backwards because she does have a distinctive accent, and dialect work and stuff - dialect work was something that I was kind of good at in my college acting days. We used to have a dialects course. So I started working backwards from that and really just trying to match, you know, instead of words like deal, she says, dill. And bel-lat(ph), like sort of for bailout, she has a, what we call an eeh-eh substitution. See, my theater degree is really paying off. And she has those kind of Minnesota O's and really hard R's.

And when she's being sort of sassy, when she's, you know, taking a shot at someone, her voice tends to get higher, the example being, you know, I guess being a mayor is kind of like being a community organizer. She gets pretty pleased with herself up there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FEY: And then I also tried to think about - this is actually - I hope that somehow my college acting teachers hear this because they will be proud that I tried to think it through this much. But I did also tried to think of - people speak differently when they're doing public speaking. And so there's a little bit, hopefully, a little a bit of a difference between the one where I'm supposedly kind of giving a speech and then the one where I'm talking to Amy as Katie Couric because people kind of...

GROSS: Can you demonstrate how you hear the difference?

Ms. FEY: Well, there's a kind of a speech cadence of like, you know, John McCain and I are going to the White House - like there's a different cadence that people use when they're on the stump than when they're just speaking to another person.

GROSS: And speaking to another person, you'd sound like?

Ms. FEY: In that Katie Couric one, she was just - she was way more intimate, and she was - you know, we've got to - yeah. Just she was really more chatty but - as compared to the one that is the debate one. I felt like she kind of had the spirit of a very well-prepared high school debate captain. You know, she was confident in her answers and the ones that she had practiced.

(Soundbite of laugther)

Ms. FEY: There was a - she was confident, but it was because she had studied for the test.

GROSS: Since you mentioned the vice-presidential debate sketch on "Saturday Night Live," we've put together a collection of excerpts of you from that vice-presidential "Saturday Night Live" debate. So why don't we hear that? So this is my guest, Tina Fey, as Sarah Palin with Queen Latifah as the moderator, Gwen Ifill.

(Soundbite of TV show "Saturday Night Live")

Ms. FEY (As Governor Sarah Palin): You know, John McCain and I, we're a couple of mavericks, and gosh darn it, we're going to take that maverick energy right to Washington and we're going to use it to fix this financial crisis and everything else that's plaguing this great country of ours.

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

QUEEN LATIFAH (As Gwen Ifill): How you will solve the financial crisis being a maverick?

Ms. FEY (As Governor Sarah Palin): You know, we're going to take every aspect of the crisis and look at it, and then we're going to ask ourselves, what would a maverick do in this situation? And then you know, we'll do that.

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

QUEEN LATIFAH (As Gwen Ifill): Senator Palin, address your position on global warming and whether or not you think it's manmade or not.

Ms. FEY (As Governor Sarah Palin): Well, we don't know if this climate change whoozy-what's-it(ph) is manmade or if it's just a natural part of the end of days.

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

Ms. FEY (As Governor Sarah Palin): But I'm not going to talk about that. I would like talk about taxes because with Barack Obama, you're going to be paying higher taxes, but not with me and my fellow maverick. We are not afraid to get mavericky in there. I'm not about to allow that, and also to the great Ronald Reagan.

QUEEN LATIFAH (As Gwen Ifill): Governor Palin, would you extend same-sex rights to the entire country?

Ms. FEY: You know, I would be afraid of where that would lead. I believe marriage is meant to be a sacred institution between two unwilling teenagers.

(Soundbite of audience laugher)

Ms. FEY: Oh, and for those Joe six-packs out there playing a drinking game at home - maverick.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: That's so great. That's my guest, Tina Fey, as Sarah Palin on "Saturday Night Live." You were so fantastic in that. Now you were talking about how you got the voice for that, and you described that as the high school debate kind of sound, the practiced kind of sound?

Ms. FEY: For that one. And when she came out, she said, can I call you Joe? And she just was, you know, you could tell she was - it was just you could feel that everything that she was going to say was planned. Which is, you know, how they all are in that. But that was just something I tried to use.

GROSS: And it was this joke yours about a marriage is just a sacred institution between two unwilling teenagers?

Ms. FEY: That joke, I believe, is mine also. Yeah. And I think that's probably the toughest joke we've done in any of those. You know what I mean, it's maybe the harshest joke because it's close to being about her own life which - but in some ways, it was one night. I did it, and it's one of those ones that I had a little tinge of, like, oh, did we just do that? But at the same time, this is a person who is trying to, you know, who is talking about the issue of marriage and who's allowed to get married and who's not. And it seemed to me to be an interesting connection to make.

GROSS: Well, you've got to go. I want to thank you so much for talking with us.

Ms. FEY: Thank you, Terry.

GROSS: And congratulations on the show and your Sarah Palin impressions. Thank you again.

Ms. FEY: Thank you, Terry. It's a pleasure.

GROSS: Tina Fey, recorded in November just before the election. Coming up, Steven Colbert talks about his satirical coverage of the election on "The Colbert Report." This is Fresh Air.

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