Tina Fey Called Out Cosby A Decade Before #MeToo
Believe it or not, Michael Che and Colin Jost weren’t Saturday Night Live’s first “Weekend Update” anchors to crack jokes that make people uncomfortable. Neither was Tina Fey, and today we’re focusing on one particular joke she told about a touchy subject that took almost ten years to be discussed openly.
In 2005, Tina took the chair behind the Weekend Update desk, a position she held for a total of seven seasons on SNL, and addressed a sexual assault allegation made against then-beloved comedy icon Bill Cosby.
The allegations against Mr. Pudding Pop were an open secret in entertainment, and it’s one of the great failings of the comedy community that no one apparently had the guts to address them sooner. Even after the Weekend Update segment, the influential Cosby kept a Harvey Weinstein-like lid on things until Hannibal Buress famously blew that off during a 2014 set in Philadelphia. By 2017, the #MeToo movement started in earnest, and Cosby was far from the only powerful figure in entertainment to be brought down after decades of predatory behavior.
The power of the “Weekend Update” segment stems from the sheer courage required to say something that no other comedian was willing to say about one of the most important figures in comedy history at that time. That is, until Tina stepped up and with Amy Poehler chiming in, squeezed nervous laughter out of a live studio audience. If they were looking for their bit to kick off something larger, that wasn't to be. Cosby was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor four years later in 2009, an honor that would not be rescinded by the Kennedy Center’s Board of Trustees until 2018.
The same year that Cosby was honored at the Kennedy Center, Tina Fey once again took shots at him on her smash hit sitcom 30 Rock in a scene that feels much less subtextual in 2022. Hannibal Buress joined the writer’s team for 30 Rock the very next season, in a definitely-unrelated-but-weirdly-fitting coincidence.
Whistleblowers need to be celebrated, especially those who target figures feared to be “untouchable." There was no good reason for Tina to be ignored, and the scores of accusers who had fought for justice, some as long as a half century, all deserved to be heard much, much sooner. It’s sad that the world didn’t decide to start caring about Cosby’s crimes until a man talked about it.
Nevertheless, Tina and Hannibal should both be recognized for saying what everyone knew but no one would dare speak. Also, shout-out to Kenan Thompson for even appearing in that segment, even though Tina Fey's zingers about him being weak in the knees to dare defy Bill Cosby appear dead-on.
Hope the Fat Albert money was worth it.