Put on Pants Every Day, with Tina Fey
Tina Fey joins Andy to talk about comedy during Corona-times and other unfunny periods in recent history. They chat about stuck-at-home life (with a cameo from Tina’s daughter), SNL in isolation, and how American culture is being re-shaped. Then, Andy shares fresh polling from leading health care pollster Mollyann Brodie about how Americans are really feeling.
- https://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/episodes (SNL At Home episodes)
- https://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/photos/snl-at-home-bumper-photos-0/3742317 (Mary Ellen Mathews SNL At Home Bumpers)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVvpXZxXWZU (Tina Fey sheet cake bit on SNL)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mLsU46h8IA (Will Ferrell American flag speedo on SNL)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmkVWuP_sO0 (The Shining as a romantic comedy)
- https://vm.tiktok.com/vy4RUf/ (TikTok “Now you go to online school”)
- https://www.kff.org/global-health-policy/issue-brief/kff-health-tracking-poll-late-april-2020/ (Kaiser Family Foundation Polling)
- https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/27/those-whove-lost-work-or-pay-virus-still-broadly-support-stay-at-home-measures/ (Philip Bump article in the Washington Post about support for stay at home measures)
[00:39] Tina Fey: I know a lot of us are feeling anxious and we’re asking ourselves like, what can I do? I’m just one person, what can I do? And so I would urge people this Saturday, instead of participating in the screaming matches and potential violence, find a local business you support. Maybe a Jewish-run bakery or an African-American-run bakery. Order a cake with the American flag on it, like this one, and just eat it, Colin.
[01:13] Andy Slavitt: Hi, it’s Andy Slavitt and Zach Slavitt. Welcome to In the Bubble. Got an amazing episode today. You’re going to get to hear me talk to the person whose voice you just heard, Tina Fey. If you don’t recognize that clip, it’s a clip that she did on Weekend Update for SNL right after the rally in Charlottesville in 2017. It was a tough time for the country. It was really difficult to imagine how to make somebody laugh. And it’s one of the things that I’m going to ask Tina about when we talk. So, look, it is not so easy all the time in the bubble. There are certainly challenges as the weather gets nicer, as many of us feel the financial hardship. It’s not so hard to look outside and say, are things really that bad? Is it really necessary for us to stay inside?
[02:03] Andy Slavitt: And all of us have probably fantasies of breaking out and ending this stir-crazy feeling. But on the other hand, it’s working. It really is. For maybe the first time in America’s collective memory, we are largely acting in unison to save lives and to get through this crisis. And there’s a lot of evidence that people are really supporting their neighbors, and really helping each other through this. We’re going to hear from the principal pollster from the Kaiser Family Foundation at the end of the episode. She’s done some really interesting work into that question of how are Americans doing, what are we feeling, how long can we stay at this? And she really has some stunning results. But I think the question that is going to be foremost in this episode is this question that we’re going to explore with Tina Fey, which is how is our culture changing? What’s happening differently? And Tina is not only someone who is one of the funniest people in the world, as I think you’ll hear, but she’s also very in touch with the mood of the country. I know that in the Slavitt bubble, things are changing. On the one hand, there’s more togetherness. On the other hand, there’s more togetherness. Different things are occurring over the last five or six weeks that I don’t think ever would have occurred otherwise. A lot of the things I would have been traveling for we’re doing on Zoom. And they’re kind of working, or working well enough. So there are things happening that are unusual. Some are good, some are bad, but all of them are things that we’ll see how they play out over time as we get through this kind of cultural phenomena. One really important cultural phenomenon that I think you all know about is Zach’s Facts. It’s become a critical part of the landscape and part of many of your podcast comments. So fortunately, Zach is here again today to share some facts with us. Hey, buddy.
[04:03] Zach Slavitt: Hey. For today, I got some kind of under-the-radar news from Japan. So apparently Japan is approving a former Ebola drug, remdesivir, to be used in early May. And this is like the first country to allow it on people outside of a trial. So it’s kind of big news.
[04:26] Andy Slavitt: So why is it big news? Is it because you think this drug works? Do you have like stock in this company or something?
[04:33] Zach Slavitt: It seems like nobody really knows whether or not it works yet because the initial trials don’t come back for a couple more weeks. But Japan is kind of going to serve as a much larger sample where we can see how it works in Japan. And there has been promise, but there has also been similar treatments like hydrochloroquine, which were somewhat disproven. So this will be a good opportunity to see how well it works.
[05:02] Andy Slavitt: So you’re excited for the data? Not necessarily because you believe this is going to be the drug.
[05:07] Zach Slavitt: It’ll tell us whether or not it is the drug, hopefully.
[05:12] Andy Slavitt: Is it available here in the U.S. if it works?
[05:13] Zach Slavitt: I think it will become more available in the U.S., although there has been talk about expensive prices from Gilead, which is the pharmaceutical company that makes it.
[05:25] Andy Slavitt: Got it. So we’ll learn soon whether that treatment works and other treatments. So that’s positive. We’ll have some data. So will you make sure to report back when that study comes in?
[05:35] Zach Slavitt: Yeah.
[05;36] Andy Slavitt: Thanks. You excited to hear from Tina Fey today? All right. Well, let’s get to Tina Fey.
[05:45] Andy Slavitt: So welcome to Tina Fey, who I think the best way to introduce her is literally everybody’s favorite person.
[05:52] Tina Fey: Oh! That’s very kind.
[05:55] Andy Slavitt: That’s the reaction I’ve been getting as I told people I was talking to you today, flattering kind of reactions. And you must get that everywhere you go.
[06:03] Tina Fey: That’s so nice. I’m quarantined with three people who would love to see anyone else, love to see literally anyone else.
[06:11] Andy Slavitt: So my first question for you is an obvious one, which is how do you think Sarah Palin’s dealing with this whole coronavirus thing?
[06:18] Tina Fey: I haven’t heard. Has she emerged? I don’t keep tabs on the former governor. No. But hopefully she’s you know
[06:30] Andy Slavitt: Do you think she’s abiding by the stay-at-home quarantine rules?
[06:34] Tina Fey: I certainly hope so. Yes. I hope they’re all that well. Not willing to speculate.
[06:39] Andy Slavitt: Got it. Well, your former colleagues at SNL are putting on this kind of masterful at-home show that kind of really seems to work. What must that be like?
[06:52] Tina Fey: I’m so impressed with what they’ve done these first two shows, and the kind of escalation and production value between the first week, which was really fun and entertaining, and the second week, which was even better. And just so great to see the production value go up. You know, somebody mailed that wig to Brad Pitt and he got it on. He dressed it himself. He looked great. And I think it’s very, very meaningful for people to have that normalcy, and to have SNL to turn to. It’s something that we’ve always had to check in, you know, at times. And like, it’s just so nice. I watched the first one live with my 14-year-old and we were just so happy it was on. And I remember seeing Mary Ellen Matthews — the amazing photographer who does all the host photos and what they call the bumpers, which are the little things between that say SNL, the kind of the pictures that come up before a commercial or after a commercial, you know. And I was like, oh, Mary Ellen’s making these bumpers from home. I can tell that she’s just making these in what must be her house. And to see something artistic and finished like Mary Ellen’s bumpers just gave me such a tremendous amount of hope and joy. It’s hard to look at these. Zoom’s after a while, and I was just happy to see someone finishing something and having their artistic follow-through. I think it’s very comforting for people. I know it was comforting for me to see them. Just also, as soon as I heard that Tom Hanks was going to come out and do the monologue. I was like, this is what we all need. Just to see that man and see that he is OK. And in the same way, they say, like, stick to your routine and like, put on pants every day.
[08:28] Andy Slavitt: Oh shit, I gotta do that.
[08:29] Tina Fey: Like like having SNL on Saturday is a part of the American routine.
[08:33] Andy Slavitt: Yeah. I had this reaction that’s like we must still be whole. And in some sense, the world felt upside down. But there’s some things that are not. Is it hard to be funny during a pandemic?
[08:45] Tina Fey: I mean, I haven’t tried to write anything for SNL, but I would imagine it has its challenges. But at the same time, sometimes what makes you angry or what scares you can be a great source of comedy — or even just what frustrates you — because it comes from such a real place. It’s maybe, for a certain kind of comedian, easier to have something to say than when everything’s going well.
[09:11] Andy Slavitt: So talk about that sheet cake thing and how that tapped into — how you even thought about how to come on talk about a topic as oh, just awful, in a way that had people not only laughing, but just feeling better.
[09:30] Tina Fey: Like most things, SNL, it was extremely short notice. I think I was in California doing something, I live in New York, but I was in California at the time flying back on I want to say a Thursday with my kids, flying home to my husband. And Lorne had called knowing that I had gone to the University of Virginia saying, you know, if you have something that you’d like to respond to on Weekend Update, you’re welcome to come on. And so I thought well, I felt like I had a responsibility to try. And so on the plane ride back, I sat as the kids watched a movie and tried to come up with something. Yeah, it starts from like, what am I enraged about and how can I articulate it? And what is that like? What might other people feel in common with that feeling? And so I guess it was trying to channel, you know, my anger at these people who had come into this city that I have affection for, who had come from out of state to try to influence the local people who had voted to take down a statue, which is how our country works. The people who live there get to vote. And these people were coming to spread their ignorance. And then seeing that the president was saying that there were some good people — trying to find a way to express that anger in a way that feels like a relief, that feels like helping other people seeing it have some kind of relief. And the thing about eating the cake was just about feeling like we had no control over the situation and kind of a physical-ization of that.
[11:01] Andy Slavitt: Right. Right. I mean, you brought it all the way, with the sheet cake. And people no longer have to have a birthday to get a sheet cake.
[11:08] Tina Fey: It’s I hope so. I hope, if nothing else.
[11:10] Andy Slavitt: Telling people that it’s OK to laugh and experience joy, even when other people are hurting, feels really important because I think we have this guilt that we know people are suffering. People are suffering in lots of ways. And I feel like people — they almost apologize sometimes for saying something funny, or doing something frivolous and joyful when — I have to imagine — I mean, who knows how we will feel about this time after we get through it — but I just have to imagine that we will regret not finding those moments during the process.
[11:45] Tina Fey: Well, it’s a coping mechanism, you know, and to find something to laugh about doesn’t negate your empathy or your understanding of all the dark things that are happening. I had the experience of working at Saturday Night Live right after September 11th. And it was a similar conversation of like, what is okay? Because you don’t want to belittle the situation that’s happened. At the same time, there’s just a human need for some kind of relief. And I remember at that time, one of the first people to crack, like what it was OK for us to laugh at was Will Ferrell, who within a week or two of us being back on the air, wrote a sketch about casual Fridays at his office, and he wanted to express his patriotism by wearing an American flag Speedo at the office. And it was a really funny sketch. And it was like one of the first times that I remember feeling the audience being like this is OK. This is OK for us to laugh at.
[12:49] Andy Slavitt: You know what I find harder to watch — there’s a news channel that has a promotion where they show the anchor sitting there and they’re playing this sort of very somber music. And she takes this massive deep breath. And then they just cut to this is who we are. Talk about freaking people out. I mean, how is that helpful?
[13:06] Tina Fey Yeah, I agree. My kids, too, my older daughter is very aware of like it’s too many commercials with somber music, with brands being like, “we’re here for you.” I’m like, great, you know, Gatorade Ice is here for us or whatever. She’s very aware that it’s just manipulative and it just increases sadness as opposed to I don’t know. Also, every musical artist is like, hey, I want to help out. Let me find one from a list of 100 of the saddest songs in the world and play them for you on a bad speaker.
[13:38] Andy Slavitt: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. I got to say, I have a lot of admiration for the people who work in ad agencies who like the day after Coronavirus were like, OK, we gotta sell Hondas a new way. No one’s going to buy a Honda the current way, so can you spitball some ideas on how people might buy a Honda during a Coronavirus?
[13:56] Tina Fey: Yeah, I like to look at those commercials, too, and really think about how that the footage they’re using was all shot for a regular commercial. It’s just like a lady postal carrier delivering the mail, but now it’s got sad music on it. It’s like, have you ever seen those things where they recut the trailer for The Shining to be like a comedy? It’s that basically,
[14:18] Andy Slavitt: I mean, they’re killing it because there’s a whole genre. Speaking of which, do you expect like in the next couple of years, you’ll get like dozens of scripts for coronavirus movies, and coronavirus shows, and that there’s going to be a whole new category on I-Tunes well, I guess there probably is, but like an ongoing thing. I guess what I’m really getting at is how this changes our culture and how we experience culture.
[14:45] Tina Fey: Yeah, I think it’ll be interesting to see. The one thing I’ve been telling myself and my family, in terms of people saying like, will it ever be normal again? I’m like, hey, guys, we’re now hearing and learning a lot about the Spanish flu. And, you know, what came a couple years later? The Roaring Twenties. So, yes, at some point we will be able to go back into a restaurant together. But in a way, I kind of hope that the way our culture has changed, I hope we are a little less enamored of celebrity and influencer culture. It’s just been so wonderful and clarifying to see who’s really essential in our society. And it’s not the people who make lip kits. It’s the people who are nurses and doctors. And in New York City, it’s food delivery people and people who work at Duane Reade and doormen. And there’s a lot of people in our society, myself chiefly among them, who are overvalued. And it would be nice to see that readjusted. There was a really funny — I think it’s just some kid on TikTok. Ask Zach if he saw this video. But there is this kid who did a really funny TikTok video about like where you go to college and what it says about you. And it’s basically him going through like you went to Harvard. You thought you were best school in the country. Now you go to online school. Just like how it’s like the great equalizer. And Cornell, you thought you were not as good as Harvard, but pretty good, but now you go to online school. And it was just like, yeah, everyone’s going to online school. It’s really funny.
[17:18] Andy Slavitt: In the Bubble has a team of producers and editors and composers that bring you the show every week. Please help support the creation of the show by going to LemonadaMedia.com/IntheBubble. By signing up to pitch in wherever you can, you’ll also get exclusive show content. And any profits that come to Zach or I will be donated directly to Covid relief.
[17:50] Andy Slavitt: You know, the years leading up to this, we’re not so normal either. And so I wonder if — you’re exactly right — that we will look back and you’ll hear the coronavirus period was obviously distinctive and sad. I mean, there’s no way this isn’t going to be a very sad period in our history. But there were so many other things before it that were kind of going haywire, whether it’s culturally or politically or what have you, that we don’t come out of this going, you know what, there’s maybe three things that matter and here’s what they are. And our priorities changed. We take fewer things for granted. I know I used to get pissed off if I used to go to the store — I’m serious about this — And they didn’t have a very special brand of toothpaste that I like. And when they didn’t have it, I would just be like, this store has serious problems.
[18:39] Tina Fey: Now, I want three guesses to try to guess the toothpaste that you like. Is it Sensodyne?
[18:45] Andy Slavitt: It’s not. It’s the opposite.
[18:50] Tina Fey: Is it like a fancy, Dr. So-and-so’s?
[18:55] Andy Slavitt: I’m going to go way too TMI with this audience, but I have inflamed gums. OK. So there’s a special toothpaste for people that have slightly inflamed gums. And it’s like a dollar more. And they rarely have it. It’s called Biotene. And you know, when they don’t have it, I’m like, oh, my God. They don’t have Biotene! What are they thinking here? Of course, like, I probably the only person there who buys the damn thing.
[19:20] Tina Fey: Yeah, it’s going to be fascinating. You know, my parents were a little older, so they grew up in the Depression. And so, like, I at least had some of that understanding of that. Like, you don’t waste food, you know, you reuse a paper bag. That kind of stuff that has been hard to impart to my children. And now I feel like they get it a little more, of like, oh, yeah, that thing you wanted, like, you can’t have it now, and you can’t have it indefinitely. In many ways, I think that is a good thing to learn, too. Not that they were the worst, most consumerist kids, but like that’s a wrap on that.
[19:57] Andy Slavitt: No, but we all were. I mean, it’s true because when Lana — my wife, and also an enormous fan of yours, too — and she’s like, you know, let’s not use the plastic baggies. Let’s use Tupperware, because they may never be any more plastic bags on the planet. And then Zach, who’s 18, says, guess what, guys? The planet now after a month of this is in much, much better shape. And so, you know, you kind of do a little bit about your head spins around on its axis. And I think some of these kids must be looking at us to do a great you’re going to cure the Coronavirus so y’all can get back to wrecking the planet again for us.
[20:32] Tina Fey: Yeah, I hope that people see how much stuff they don’t need, and how wasn’t that hard to be a little bit greener, and to use less gas, and to go fewer unnecessary places. I hope that sticks with us. Also, the other thing, I hope is like let’s go back to everyone believing in science. None of this cute, I-might-know-more-than-scientists baloney. The thing that always cracks me up about the kind of environmental stuff is like big business telling us that these scientists are probably trying to trick us into believing global warming. Who is probably trying to trick us? The scientists? Or the big business men?
[21:14] Andy Slavitt: Well, I think it’s like which one of you is willing to tell me I don’t have to sacrifice? OK. You sound both credible. I realize how wired we are to hear things that meet our narrative. And like if we have a narrative which says, you know, I don’t really want to change a lot in uncomfortable ways for something that might or might not happen in two generations or 100 years, then, you know, maybe I’ll find people who sound credible or who can make the people who say that sound not quite so credible. And that wishful thinking. Like, I mean, I do it.
[21:47] Tina Fey: That confirmation bias.
[21:49] Andy Slavitt: Yes. Anything you want to believe, you can confirm. You want to believe that we’ll never get a vaccine, I can show you 10 articles. You want to believe we’re gonna have a vaccine in three months? I can show you 10 articles. And so we’re not good at having the patience to say, gosh, we don’t know. We’re just getting started here and there’s a lot of uncertainty.
[22:07] Tina Fey: Yeah. I’ve also kind of hit a level of frustration with MSNBC, with the constant breaking news, breaking news. I’m like, it’s not all breaking news, guys. It’s you winding people up. I do really think, you know, the healthiest course of action is read the paper, listen to Governor Cuomo, turn it off for a few hours. Because otherwise they’re just going to keep agitating for ratings. It’s both sides, but I don’t watch the other side. But it’s a business.
[22:41] Andy Slavitt: Sure. Well, it’s addicting when you get when people are paying attention because you do A, then you just do a lot more of it. I think people, if they just listen to the scientists, maybe listen to their local health commissioner, watch a movie, listen to a good podcast or two, you know, I’m just saying. And then play with your family, do stuff like that.
[23:00] Tina Fey: Yeah, because cable news, the 24-hour news cycle, creates this thing of like this is what’s gonna save me. If I don’t watch this all the time, I’m going to miss something and it’s gonna cause my demise.
[23:12] Andy Slavitt: That’s right. Now, people who are consumers of what you do in entertainment, and we see this very finished product with these people that are very famous like yourself and Alec Baldwin and others don’t really realize how many people —
[23:30] Child’s voice: Hello?
[23:33] Tina Fey: Hi. I’m taping a podcast. Yes. Daddy has access to the parent portal. Sorry.
[23:43] Andy Slavitt: No, those words are spoken all over America.
[23:48] Tina Fey: I told daddy how to do it. That’s the thunderous crawling of an eight-year-old. Go, go, go, go, go. Close the door. We’re all going crazy. Yes. School is taking all day. I like school, so I don’t mind doing it. And then I’ll have a day where I feel like we really got, you know, what we achieved so much today. We did some laundry and we did all of school. And then I remember that I also have a job at like 4 p.m. And I’m like, oh, God, what about my job?
[24:21] Andy Slavitt: I like how parents are combining tasks where they’re like, OK, count the number of socks in the laundry, and that’s your math class today. Like, oh, how does that work? Right.
[24:31] Tina Fey: We’ve definitely had days where P.E. was shooting Nerf arrows inside the house.
[24:38] Andy Slavitt: I love it. Where I was going was there’s a lot of people who do the work to make a show. And a lot of those people don’t have work right now. And while we tend to think of, oh, people who work in entertainment as people who don’t need to worry about money. That’s not true. There’s writers, there’s producers, writers, all people on the set. I’ve had the privilege of coming to see SNL in person before. And there’s just lots and lots and lots of jobs. How are those folks doing? And is there anything you could suggest to this audience who wants to help people who are going through that?
[25:15] Tina Fey: That’s a great question. I think, you know, there’s so many different layers of that. You know, that’s another reason I’m so thrilled to see SNL doing their show, because you can see even the first show to the next, I feel like that whole crew is working. Like clearly editors are working hard, graphic designers. I hope they’re finding a way to use the camera crew remotely. That’s a massive organization. A lot of really talented people make that show. You know, we were in the middle of — I had just begun shooting a TV show called Mr. Mayor with Ted Danson out in California. And we only got about three and a half episodes in before the shutdown. Yeah, those men and women on that crew, I think they were able to get a little bit of severance from Universal and then they’re just waiting for us to go back. And hopefully there have strong unions that are helping them. We have a Mean Girls musical on Broadway and on tour, both of which are paused now. And those actors, I think we were able to pay them for like two more weeks. And then like all the actors on Broadway, they’re kind of collecting unemployment, I hope. And those crews are enormous, too. There is something called the Actors Fund that people can donate to if they want to help people. And that you know, that doesn’t just help actors. That helps all the people who work in theaters, dressers and stitchers and wig makers and lighting guys and stage managers and everybody. I was joking that some people are overvalued. And I do mean that about like celebrity celebrities. But the people who actually make TV and film — you think now how much we’re all sitting inside and binge-watching stuff for comfort, like all of the people that work on the crews of those shows are out of work and need us to remember them.
[27:00] Andy Slavitt: We’ll put a link up. And I want the audience to know that many of these folks, not just the well-known folks, but mainly the people who are writing, have been in their spare time trying to do things to help without getting paid. And they’re just rolling up their sleeves and trying to help. And I think to find that just one of the many amazing things that I’ve experienced.
[27:19] Tina Fey: Yeah. That’s how you and I met, was on a Writer’s Guild of America call of people trying to figure out the best way to help. And a lot of things have come out of that. Some PSAs, I think some live events. We’ve been trying to figure out what to do. And one thing I remembered that you had said on that call, Andy, was that, you know, there’s going to come a time that people are going to be quarantined for a while and then they’re going to get fatigued of being quarantined. And they’re going to be like, I did it already, I want to go outside now, and that now maybe a time to remind people that it does suck, but we have to keep abiding by it and help it keep working.
[27:55] Andy Slavitt: Well, it’s so great of you as America’s favorite person to join our podcast. And I really think that you’d win that vote pretty easily, although you mentioned Tom Hanks. I think he would have won like a decade ago.
[28:09] Tina Fey: I would try to just be like on a short list of his vice-person.
[28:16] Andy Slavitt: So what’s the most surprising, positive thing that’s happened to you, most joyful, funny, fun or positive feeling in the last six weeks that surprised you?
[28:28] Tina Fey: The good thing, inside all this terribleness, I think for me has been just the amount of time with my family, with my immediate family, and the kind of forced stillness. I think that my 8 year old who was in here is very happy that we’re always there to put her to bed. Now, that said, it’s happening at 10 o’clock at night instead of 8. And I don’t know how to fix that, but the 8 year old and the dog are so happy that we’re here. And then I would say that the other moment that I find to be the most uplifting is in Manhattan, in our neighborhood is the 7 o’clock scream, which is hearing everybody open their windows and come together and bang on pots and cheer and yell for the first responders.
[29:13] Andy Slavitt: Well, I’ve got to imagine, if I put myself in the shoes of your 8 year old that she’ll remember this is a great time that she got to spend with her parents, stay up late, do the scream. And I think we should all feel really good about the fact that for all of the horrible things that are going to come out of this, some really great memories are, too. And so I think it’s nice to have that. Well, thank you so much again for making the time to be on. It was really delightful to talk to you.
[29:40] Tina Fey: It’s nice to talk to you again, Andy.
[29:41] Andy Slavitt: Thanks, Tina. So that was great. Hard to say that I have a favorite episode of the show, given all the great people that have been kind enough to come on and talk. And of course, we have some amazing guests next week. But talking to Tina Fey was just amazing. I just love how she looks at things and the sort of perspective she has. And she’s so right about the amount of normalcy that both we have and that we’re gonna be able to see going forward. So I’m really grateful she came on.
[30:15] Andy Slavitt: Now, as we move into Segment 3, which is officially my third favorite segment. It’s really not. It’s a great segment. I want to actually get to some of the information, the factual information, about how it is we’re doing, what’s changing about our culture. How are Americans feeling? And for that, we’re going to ring up the best pollster when it comes to topics of healthcare, Molly Brody from the Kaiser Family Foundation. So let’s dial her up.
[30:48] Andy Slavitt: Molly, it’s Andy Slavitt, you’re on our podcast.
[30:52] Molly Brodie: Hi. Thanks for having me.
[30:53] Andy Slavitt: We’re thrilled to have you. Zach in particular, because he likes data.
[30:57] Molly Brodie: Well, data we have plenty of and I’m happy to share it with him at any time.
[31:02] Andy Slavitt: Excellent. So let’s start with this. Americans have been on some form of stay-at-home program for a number of weeks. How are they doing? What are Americans’ attitudes towards it?
[31:15] Molly Brodie: You know, I think one of the things that is most fascinating when you look at the polling data is what a shared experience we are all having. The universality in responses is really something I’ve never seen in 25 years of asking the American public questions. I think at the moment, you know, 84 percent of us say that our lives are disrupted. And that’s up from 40 percent just a few weeks ago. Eight in 10 say that they are abiding by the strict social distancing measures. And 8 in 10 say they can keep doing it for at least another month. Eight in 10 tell us that the social distancing measures are important, and they’re important to stay in place to be able to protect people, more so than the two in 10 who say that they have become a burden and then it’s time to let them go. You know, three-quarters of us have bought or made a protective mask. I mean, these kind of universal experiences are just not things I’m used to seeing. And in fact, fourn in 10 of us know somebody personally who has been affected by the virus. So what the data is showing us is that Americans are in it together. But there’s a lot of underlying problems and challenges that are really emerging for people. And I want to make sure that we talk about that, too.
[32:33] Andy Slavitt: OK. Wow, that’s a great, fascinating insight that it’s the most collective experience that you’ve seen in all your years of research. So can we keep at it and for how long can we keep at it?
[32:47] Molly Brodie: You know, right now, Americans think they can keep at it. They’re telling us that they can. As I mentioned, about eight in 10 say they can do it for at least another month. About a third say they can do it for six months or more. So certainly people recognize that this is working and that it’s the right thing to be doing. On the other hand, there are real economic impacts, and real mental health and physical impacts happening to families. And in our data, about 55 percent of people who were working on February 1st now have some sort of change to their employment situation. That is, they’ve either lost their job or they’ve been furloughed or their salary has been cut back. And those folks in particular are having real challenges. And among that group, about 45 percent is having trouble paying their bills already. And this is real early on, if you look at what some of the experts are predicting.
[33:40] Andy Slavitt: So are Democrats and Republicans looking at this any differently in terms of the severity of the crisis and their reaction to it?
[33:49] Molly Brodie: Yes, we are seeing some political polarization in terms of particularly what should be done going forward with this epidemic. So in terms of whether these strict shelter-in-place restrictions are doing more harm than good, Democrats are more likely to say that we should keep them in place. So 94 percent of Democrats say, yes, keep them in place. Only 5 percent say they’re doing more harm than good. Independents, it’s 84 percent to 16 percent. But among Republicans, 61 percent of Republicans do still support the shelter-in-place orders, but 38 percent now are saying that they’re doing more harm than good. We’re seeing those things rise. In another question that we asked about whether the worst is yet to come or whether the worst is behind us, we see that Republicans are now in a position to believe that the worst is yet behind us. About half, 53 percent of them, say the worst is behind us. That compares to 21 percent for Democrats and 31 percent for independents.
[34:50] Andy Slavitt: What do you think accounts for the differences? By and large, the Trump administration and Democratic governors, they’re not that far apart on their messaging. There may be some implied differences, and you’ve tracked different questions by political party. Is this a wide gap? And why do you think it exists?
[35:10] Molly Brodie: It is definitely a gap. I mean, I have seen wider gaps, particularly on all my polling on the ACA. But the polarization is definitely there, and it’s there more in terms of attitudes than it is an experience. There’s much more shared experiences between people among parties because, of course, the virus isn’t affecting one political party different than another political party. But their opinions are different. And I think it comes both from, you know, just fundamental underlying beliefs about the role of government and about, you know, individual liberty and those, you know, things that sort of initially attract people to one party versus another party. But I think it also is coming from the differences in the messaging that’s coming from the top and from the leaders of the party. And I think there’s been some analysis that’s been looking at people who are getting most of the information from one new source versus another. And you can really see differences in how those opinions are developing. I think one of the things that was interesting in our project is that when we looked at people’s willingness to maintain these shelter-in-place rules, people living in states with Democratic governors and Republican governors felt the same about them. So even though we’re hearing somewhat different messages from some Republican governors than we are from some Democratic governors, the folks living in their states have much more shared visions on that front.
[36:32] Andy Slavitt: I’m fascinated, as you are, and find it really promising this idea of a shared experience between Democrats and Republicans. Because certainly we know that the dialog between Democrats and Republicans can often be strained. But a shared experience is something to build on. Are there any clues in here or in your mind about how to bridge the gap, and how Democrats and Republicans can talk to one another, whether in their own families or neighbors, in ways that keep the response aligned to the experiences that people are having and take down the party barriers?
[37:09] Molly Brodie: Yeah, that’s a tough one. You know, it’s to the extent that they can keep the conversation on public health and the public health implications and the healthcare implications as opposed to the political implications. To the extent that you can focus on the economic hardships and have real compassion and an understanding for people who are in such different economic situations, the folks who are paycheck to paycheck, who might be forced to take the risk to go back and put themselves into harm’s way because otherwise they can’t put food on their table, versus people who are in better economic situations who have the luxury of being able to take measures. I think those are the sorts of conversations that can be shared. I think where we’re going to see continued partisanship is on, you know, what are the solutions? How long? And it’s another area where your underlying sort of beliefs about the role of government really do impact your views on things like that as well.
[38:10] Andy Slavitt: Is there any evidence that people are responding differently based upon income? In other words, are people at higher incomes more likely to be unquestioning about the need to put their health and safety first? Whereas people with lower incomes is, as you said earlier, people who are working paycheck to paycheck are having less tolerance and are more eager to dismiss some of the public health warnings and get back to work.
[38:40] Molly Brodie: Yeah. You know, it actually we haven’t. And Philip Bump from The Washington Post actually did a great piece today looking at our data in exactly that manner. And it’s really interesting that people who are at either the lower ends of the income distribution, or looking at it by people who have lost their job or had some sort of economic hardship hit already are as likely as anybody else to think that the stay-at-home measures are really important and we still need to abide by them for a while. One of the things that I do think is important about this group, though, that is for me the biggest concern, and the thing I want to keep the closest eye on going forward is that the group of people who have already had lost jobs or lost income, they’re incredibly optimistic that they’re going to get those jobs back and their income back within six months. And that’s something that is really disconcerting for me, listening to the experts and listening to the economic experts, I think that it’s just unknown. We don’t know when the economy will come back and when those people can expect to get their jobs and their income back. And the idea that their current expectation is that this is a very short-term thing I think is very disconcerting. And it’s the one sort of real note of caution in this whole survey that I want to keep an eye on.
[39:55] Andy Slavitt: Well, Molly, thank you for doing that really important research. It sounds like Americans have a lot to be proud of, and there really is a lot of good news in the unity that people are feeling even as they’re going through this. But also, as you say, a lot of warning signs that that might not last as things play out over the next few months. Thanks so much for joining us.
[40:16] Molly Brodie: Thank you for having me. And we’ll keep tracking this, so I’ll keep letting everyone know what we find.
[40:22] Andy Slavitt: Thanks to Molly. And thanks also to Tina Fey. And thanks, of course, to you, Zach, for the extraordinary fact that you shared with us. I’m pretty sure that for many people your fact will be the highlight of the show, although I got to tell you, Molly was pretty darn good. And Tina Fey, she’s top-shelf. So you and I both need to keep working at it to get to their level. So one more thing before we get off, we’re gonna have a surprise podcast over the weekend. And it won’t be a surprise to you because I’m about to tell you. But we’re doing a special In the Bubble for kids. Well, actually, for moms and kids and for dads and kids, for families. We’re going to be taking some questions from kids and we’re going to put that up on Sunday. And then next week we’ve got two really interesting podcasts on Monday and on Wednesday. So stay tuned. Thanks so much for listening.
[41:16] Andy Slavitt: In the Bubble is a production of Lemonada Media. Niccole Galteland is our producer and Ivan Kuraev is our editor. Music is by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill. Zach Slavtii is our co-producer and my co-host. You can find out more about our show on social media @LemonadaMedia. And you can find me on social media at @ASlavitt on Twitter, @AndySlavitt on Instagram. If you liked what you heard today, tell your family and friends, but tell them at a distance. For now, stay safe. Share some joy. We’ll get through this together. And #StayHome.