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Tina Fey and the 'SNL' cast on 'Oprah': Was John Belushi sexist?

April 13, 2011 |  8:04 am

SNL Yes, we know Tina Fey is superwoman these days, punching through that glass ceiling with her big, hairy man-arms, but during an all-star "Saturday Night Live" cast edition of "Oprah' on Tuesday, Jane Curtin said "SNL" wasn't always so proud of its female alums. Joined on stage by Fey, Chevy Chase, Dana Carvey and Tracy Morgan, Curtin blamed John Belushi for being tough on female writers.

"They were working against John, who said women are just fundamentally not funny," Curtin told Oprah. "You'd go to a table read and if a woman writer had written a piece for John, he would not read it in his full voice. He would whisper it. He felt as though it was his duty to sabotage pieces that were written by women."

Curtin said that resistance reflected what was happening far outside the writers' room. "Women's liberation happened in the '60s, and so women were going out into the workforce and challenging men," she said. "Well, it was not necessarily embraced by the male population — understandably so. They were threatened by the fact that there were all these women going out into the workplace and they were going to have to compete with them as well as the other men."

Fey, who's always been somewhat uneasy about critiquing things from a feminist viewpoint, says she didn't feel alienated during her time at "SNL." "By the time I got there, in that read-through room ... our director was a woman; one of our stage managers was a woman," she says. "The more women that were in the room to laugh at the different pieces, then [the more] people were like, 'Oh, OK, maybe we'll put it on.'"

Even some dudes insisted they'd done their part in supporting the sisterhood. "I did the Church Lady to increase gender diversity," Dana Carvey quipped. Actually, so did Oprah, in her own special way: We hope she loves that head-exploding "SNL" parody of her "Favorite Things."

--Melissa Maerz

Photo: Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Dana Carvey, Jane Curtin, Chevy Chase on "Oprah." Credit: Harpo Productions.