It's no surprise that Victoria Jackson watches "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," the latest slice-of-elite-life offering from Aaron "West Wing" Sorkin.
After all, one of the main characters in this drama set inside a late-night sketch comedy show -- a fictional West Coast version of "Saturday Night Live" -- is Harriet Hayes, a blonde, female, singing comedian who is a born-again Christian.
This got Jackson's attention real quick.
"I'm the only blonde, female, singing, born-again Christian comedian in the history of 'Saturday Night Live.' I'm pretty sure there's only one of me," said Jackson, in the high, child-like voice that is her trademark. After watching the pilot episode, she asked her husband, "What's going on? Was that me?" It was, she said, "Pretty strange. It hit close to home."
Jackson knows enough about the struggling NBC series to know that the pivotal romance between the Hayes character and the "East Coast liberal Jewish atheist" writer Matt Albie is based, in large part, on the real-life romance between Sorkin and the Tony Award-winning actress Kristin Chenoweth, an outspoken Christian.
"It's hard on a very private level," Chenoweth told the Toronto Star. "I once told Aaron, `Unless you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior, then get the hell out,' and he laughed for two minutes. Then I see it on the show in a different way. ... I went on The 700 Club to promote an album of Christian songs I had recorded and, yes, Aaron and I argued about that. But it doesn't mean I want to watch that disagreement flung up on the screen for all America to see."
Chenoweth stressed that the character "is literally me and some of it is not me at all."
Jackson feels the same way. She has seen scenes that appear to have been based on events -- on-stage and off -- during her SNL seasons from 1986-92, when the "Tonight Show" veteran worked with Dana Carvey, Julia Sweeney, Dennis Miller, Nora Dunn, Mike Myers, Jan Hooks, David Spade and others. Take, for example, that "Studio 60" pilot that focused on a comedy sketch entitled "Crazy Christians."
That was the name Jackson assigned to a sketch she was asked to perform, leading her to plead for relief from executive director Lorne Michaels. He heard her out and assigned another actress to do the part. The sketch bombed in dress rehearsal and vanished.
"It was a legitimate sketch that was making fun of what they called extreme Christians," said Jackson. "You know, there are Christians out there that make life rather embarrassing for other Christians. ...
"Now I can make fun of people who have a Jesus toaster and Jesus salt and pepper shakers and Jesus napkin holders. That's fair. But this time they wanted me to kneel down in a comedy show and pretend to pray -- to get a laugh. I just couldn't do it. I told Lorne that I thought I'd start crying or shaking. Prayer is real. I think prayer is talking to God."
Jackson said it's important that her colleagues worked with her and tried to respect her beliefs. Still, it was sometimes hard to do comedy when few -- if any -- of the writers truly understood her faith and, thus, her strengths as a comic.
"Studio 60" is doing a good job of showing this kind of tension, she said. It also helps that Harriet Hayes is not being portrayed as "one of those Christian clich