Photo Credit: Dana Edelson/NBC
When Saturday Night Live kicked off its 39th season on Saturday, host Tina Fey acknowledged that, despite nine years on the show, she had no iconic characters to revive. "I didn't have any characters," she said. "I never did. I'm just pleasant."
What Fey does have is a seemingly effortless ability to be cool and funny at the same time. Also, she's so comfortable in her comic skin that even poorly drawn sketches come off as amusing. SNL's opener featured skits both clever and lousy, yet Fey's involvement elevated the proceedings in almost every case.
In the parody of HBO's Girls, which impressed many TV critics (and Lena Dunham herself, who tweeted, "The SNL parody of Girls was a true honor"), Fey played Blerta, a new character from war-ravaged Albania. And guess what? Her problems (hunger, murdered loved ones, etc.) trumped the troubles of Hannah and her cohorts -- by a lot. "My ex-boyfriend is an Internet millionaire!" cries Marnie (Cecily Strong). "My ex-boyfriend is buried in shallow grave," retorted Blerta. Naturally, with all the obsessing over non-issues, she assumes the characters are still teenagers. Check it out below!
Fey's foreign accent and unflaggingly somber demeanor were brilliant, and there's no doubt she wrote the bitingly funny short. Buzzfeed called it the "best parody ever."
Fey's sketch as an airport worker wasn't laugh-out-loud funny. But it was still winning, due to her comic timing, hilarious faces, and writing that makes you say, "So true!"
Having Fey on hand for Strong's first night at the Weekend Update anchor desk was a golden opportunity for the show to remember past female anchors who paved the way for the newcomer. And Fey's advice, trendily cribbed from Orange Is the New Black, was all too fun to watch. One of Fey's most attractive traits is her refusal to ever be smaltzy, even in milestone moments.
Perhaps the most satisfying part of the show was getting to see Fey interact with old castmates, like Kenan Thompson. In a game show sketch that ultimately wasn't that funny, you still couldn't take your eyes off of Fey. She's just amusing, even when she's playing it straight.
Come on, Kenan! She deserves everything she's got!
Jennifer Graham Kizer is an Atlanta-based writer who covers pop culture and watches too much TV. Luckily, iVillage gives her an excuse to watch even more. Follow her on Google+.