Tina Fey Has Some Advice for Artists in the Age of Trump

In a long interview for The Hollywood Reporter — conducted by his excellence David Letterman — Tina Fey put forth some useful pointers for artists in the age of Trump, advice that basically boils down to: Don’t be Leni Riefenstahl.

The interview begins with both parties acknowledging their mutual feelings of anxiety and apprehension post-election, which leads Fey — this year’s recipient of the magazine’s Sherry Lansing Award for pioneering women in entertainment — to discuss how artists can respond with dignity to the many indignities of the upcoming Trump administration:

Fey: In a world where the president makes fun of handicapped people and fat people, how do we proceed with dignity? I want to tell people, “If you do two things this year, watch Idiocracy by Mike Judge and read [Nazi filmmaker] Leni Riefenstahl’s 800-page autobiography [Leni Riefenstahl: A Memoir] and then call it a year.”

Letterman: Wait a minute. Tell me about Leni Riefenstahl.

Fey: She grew up in Germany. She was in many ways a brilliant pioneer. She pioneered sports photography as we know it. She’s the one who had the idea to dig a trench next to the track for the Olympics and put a camera on a dolly. But she also rolled with the punches and said, “Well, he’s the fuhrer. He’s my president. I’ll make films for him.” She did some terrible, terrible things. And I remember reading [her book] 20 years ago, thinking, “This is a real lesson, to be an artist who doesn’t roll with what your leader is doing just because he’s your leader.”

Letterman: My impression of this woman is that she was the sister of Satan.

Fey: She was in many ways. But what she claimed in the book was, “He was the president, so what was I supposed to do?” And I feel a lot of people are going to start rolling that way.


Later, Fey mentions her former 30 Rock co-star Alec Baldwin’s Twitter feud with our dear president-elect, who hasn’t taken kindly to Baldwin’s impression of him on Saturday Night Live. “At one level, it just makes me feel sick for the state of the world because it’s so beneath a president,” Fey says, “but also my feeling is: ‘You think you’re good at being a jerk on Twitter? You will now face the grandmaster of being a jerk on Twitter.'”

The nine-time Emmy winner also admits she feels awkward about awards, and that she’s “a little nervous” about accepting the Sherry Lansing Award, named after the first woman head of a Hollywood studio. “Have I really done enough to warrant this?” Fey ponders. “Sometimes I tell myself, ‘Well, what would a guy do? He’d take it.'”