Sisterhood means forging through life with a mutual protector, someone who will have your back just as you have theirs. In the case of the decades-long friendship of Tracey Ullman and Meryl Streep, it also means playfully skewering your platonic confidante’s public persona. And that’s exactly what happened during Friday night’s season 3 premiere of the HBO variety sketch series Tracey Ullman’s Show at the 2018 Tribeca TV Festival.
“They say to me in the writer’s room [‘Will you do Meryl?’], and I go, ‘No, no,’ Ullman, whom has impersonated esteemed actresses from Judi Dench to Maggie Smith across the program’s first pair of seasons, told Streep during a post-screening discussion moderated by the three-time Oscar-winning Iron Lady actress. Without missing a beat, however, Ullman launched into an unmistakable impersonation of Streep’s polished brand of articulation.
“‘Oh, peanut!’” she said in the style of Streep, bouncing a few of the Mamma Mia star’s favorite expressions of the event’s enthusiastic audience. “‘We’re off like a herd of turtles.’ She talks like something from 1942. ‘Hey peanut girl.’”
Ullman then nudged at Streep’s appearance at the 90th Academy Awards in March.
“‘Inclusion rider!’” she bellowed, recalling McDormand’s well-received Oscars acceptance speech at the ceremony, within which she called for her fellow nominees to stand in solidarity with her push for gender and racial equality in the film industry. “I love when she said to you: ‘Meryl, stand up. If you stand up everybody will stand up.’ And then you went like this, ‘I’ll stand up!’ We love watching Meryl at the Oscars and we love seeing your husband, Don, opening pizza boxes and stuff.”
Streep did, however, manage to wrangle Ullman in for some serious reflection on her personal life (she touched on Ullman powering through her latest project without her late husband, manager, and producing partner, Allan McKeown) and the diversity of her craft which, now three seasons into Tracey Ullman’s Show on top of earlier sketch comedy series like Tracey Takes On… and The Tracey Ullman Show, has taken on a singular, uncommon approach to contemporary politics in Europe and America.
“I don’t want to [be like] those late-night shows that just hate Trump the most and the best…. it’s like, enough already, there’s only so much we can take,” Ullman admitted. True to its creator’s word, Tracey‘s season 3 opener takes a refreshingly practical, human approach to lampooning political figures like Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron. Though Ullman revealed some of the material was recorded specifically for American audiences in addition to the bits she shot in the U.K., sometimes working on two-day deadlines from the BBC to incorporate recent headlines. “I’ve always looked for the empathy, humanity, and the sadness. Theresa May is not my politics…. I never come at it like, ‘I want to have a go at you, I’m so angry at you because you’re not my politics!’ I just see her as an awkward vicar’s daughter.”
“We’re so lucky that you have that generative imagination, desire, heart, and soul, and you put it all up there and marry it with politics, man. We need you to run for president,” Streep joked. “I just think your pores and your skin are permeable…. You have an amazing team, you have great makeup people…. but I also think you have absorbed these people in a way. I’ve seen you do impressions of people and it’s all there, it’s all coming from the inside out.”
The 2018 Tribeca TV Festival runs through Sunday, Sept. 23. Watch Ullman playfully skewer Streep in the video above.