Not everyone is laughing at Tina Fey and her sheet cake.
On Thursday night, the “Saturday Night Live” and University of Virginia alum appeared on “Weekend Update: Summer Edition” and lamented the violence that unfolded in Charlottesville last weekend.
Fey, wearing a U-Va. sweatshirt, proposed an alternative strategy to getting into arguments with neo-Nazis.
“I know a lot of us are feeling anxious and we’re asking ourselves, like, what can I do? I’m just one person,” she said. “I would urge people this Saturday instead of participating in the screaming matches and violence, find a local business you support, maybe a Jewish run bakery or African-American run bakery. Order a cake with the American flag on it … and just eat it.”
Fey proceeded to take several large bites of a sheet cake, ranting in between mouthfuls to Weekend Update co-anchor Colin Jost, who asked, “How does that help?”
“When you see a bunch of white boys in polo shirts screaming about taking our country back and want to scream that ‘it’s not our country, we stole it … from the Native Americans and when they have a peaceful protest at Standing Rock, we shoot at them with rubber bullets, but we let you chinless turds march through the streets with semi-automatic weapons’, when you want to yell that … don’t yell it at the Klan, Colin, yell it into the cake,” she said.
When Jost chimed in that several upcoming Neo-Nazi rallies had been canceled, Fey scooped more cake onto her fork. “You see, it’s working already. Sheetcaking is a grass-roots movement.”
Fey got a good deal of applause from the SNL audience and the bit quickly inspired Twitter praise and hashtags including #sheetcakemovement and #sheetcaking. But others dismissed her message — to essentially ignore racism and anti-Semitism — as tone-deaf.
This isn’t the first time Fey has been called out for racially insensitive humor. She penned the 2004 film “Mean Girls,” which has been criticized for stereotypical depictions of various racial and ethnic groups. Her Netflix comedy “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” has been condemned for running jokes about the Native American heritage of one character (played by Jane Krakowski, who is white). In a 2015 interview with Net-a-Porter, Fey said she had decided “not to explain jokes.”
“I feel like we put so much effort into writing and crafting everything, they need to speak for themselves,” she said. “There’s a real culture of demanding apologies, and I’m opting out of that.”
Fey’s cake comments weren’t the only jokes that offended some during her Weekend Update appearance. Another was: “Part of me hopes these neo-Nazis do try [rallying] in New York City,” Fey said. “I hope they try it and get the ham salad kicked out of them by a bunch of drag queens. Because you know what a drag queen still is? A 6’4″ black man.”
She also treaded into racially charged territory with an apparent reference to Sally Hemmings, the enslaved woman who historians believe gave birth to six children fathered by the nation’s third president.
“I love you Charlottesville,” Fey proclaimed. “And as Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘Who is that hot light skinned girl over by the butter churn?'”
Another common thread zeroed in on the fact that Fey’s cake routine was just that — a comedic routine.
Others pointed out that the show could have turned to another SNL alum with ties to U-Va. — Sasheer Zamata, who quietly left the sketch comedy show in May after four seasons. On Monday, she reflected on her time there in a series of Instagram posts.
“I got really sad and scared after reading the news and didn’t know what to do with my emotions, but after thinking about it for a while, I’ve decided to write out some positive memories I have from my time in Charlottesville that make me smile when I think of them,” Zamata wrote.