Friday, March 1, 2013


Tina Fey at the Paley Center

Tina Fey and I chose the exact same instant to arrive at the Paley Center for "Hey Dummies: An Evening With the 30 Rock Writers," but she had a much better ride and smoother hair. Lest she make eye contact and catch me in a The-Queen-and-Hilary-Mantel moment of naked, cannibalistic gawpery, I instinctively whipped around and started pretending to text as a small throng of kind, nervous young women in fingerless gloves pressed forward with their smartphones, saying Tina, Tina! as loudly as they dared, which was never as loud as the voice you would ideally use in a business meeting, were you to find yourself in one.

Tina Fey is not Liz Lemon, did you know? Probably! Everyone does. Acting, etc. Before we go any further, Tina Fey was polite and completely together and encouraged dialogue and was the single scariest person in the room, possibly in the city. Emily Nussbaum, The New Yorker's superb and highly opinionated television critic, moderated and did so skillfully, and her hands were visibly shaking as she introduced Tina Fey.

There were four other panelists. They seemed nice and funny and smart. One was a young woman, one physically resembled Craig Finn, one physically resembled Akiva Schaffer, and one was a fully grown man who looked like himself and only flashed his eyes to gauge her reaction to what he was saying 40% of the time instead of 100% of the time.

There's a moment in the recent documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi in which one of Jiro's former apprentices, who has not worked for him in 25 years and has his own, successful restaurant, says "I don't sleep with my feet in his direction." I mean, obviously he didn't say that, he said something in Japanese that makes substantially more sense, but Tina Fey is no longer the boss of any of the four other panelists, and they still do not sleep with their feet in her direction.

Roughly Accurate Question for Panel: Are there any plot arcs you seriously considered, but decided not to pursue for whatever reason?

Roughly Accurate Panel Answer: I ... I don't ... there's one, but I don't know if we can ... can we?

(glance to Tina Fey)

Roughly Accurate Tina Fey Answer: No, not that one.

Tina Fey then talked about a different, less mysterious abandoned plot arc in which Cathy Geiss' old-person-hugging-machine was a runaway success, resulting in Jenna eventually playing Cathy Geiss in a feature film, resulting in Jenna and Cathy making round after round of public appearances and award shows like an amped-up Claire Danes and Temple Grandin. With, as Tina Fey said, the understanding that Jenna is not as fully-formed a human being as Claire Danes, and the obvious consequences. As the story landed with the crowd, you could see people suddenly figuring out, in real time, that 30 Rock was over. You are not going to see Cathy Geiss popping up behind Jenna with a unicorn poster. They are never going to be accidentally booked into a single hotel room with two twin beds. It's over.

Tina Fey liked filming the fictional phone sex operator ad she did back in Chicago. She liked filming herself as the fictionally grotesque, gym-bag-stank-wielding old woman who terrorizes New York. She hated filming any of the show's semi-romantic scenes. When the clip of Liz Lemon wearing Hulk hands and finally professing love to Criss was shown, Tina Fey wanted to talk about letting the camera continue to roll on the puking St. Patrick's Day reveller. Tina Fey remembered the number of every single episode until the fifth or sixth season. Tina Fey did not allow people to interrupt each other in the real writers' room. No one spoke over each other all night.

One of the last questions (the last question?) was about the music for the show. Tina Fey was happy to be asked about it. Tina Fey was funny. She suspected the audience member of being her husband (the show's musical genius Jeff Richmond, for those who have not devoted their life to the pursuit of television) in a wig. Richmond was home, sick.

Everyone was thanked for their attendance, and Tina Fey and the other panelists were blessedly ushered offstage before they could be swarmed. I think Tina Fey was glad it was over, and I do not say that in a negative way. I don't think it was necessarily what Tina Fey wanted to be doing on that particular Wednesday night. We went home.

The next morning I turned on the television and saw that she had been on Letterman that night. It would have taped just before she arrived at the Paley Center. She was wearing a different dress. She looked incredible. She probably looked incredible when she got home and took off her earrings and kicked off her shoes, and I still don't know a thing about who she is, and it isn't remotely my business anyway.

But, the thing is, I guess, that none of us can identify with Tina Fey, because Tina Fey, in the words of Tracy Jordan's wife, is a queen, and the rest of us are trash. We're not Tina Fey, most of us aren't even Liz Lemon. No one can possibly know what it takes to be Tina Fey, or what people want from Tina Fey every day, or what it's like to be Tina Fey in any aspect of her life. What it's like to have to negotiate 80 interactions a day with women who want to find some way to express in under 30 seconds that they truly understand what you are doing with your work and are your ideal audience and would really like to have coffee with you. Or what sort of choices you wind up making about how you present yourself to the world or your peers in order to get shit done in a working environment filled with people who grew up interrupting their teachers and now try to show you YouTube clips when you're eating dinner. Tina Fey is Galadriel. Tina Fey has responsibilities. Tina Fey has more money than many people with responsibilities and makes television and not drone strikes. No one is trying to tell you to feel sorry for Tina Fey, certainly not me. Tina Fey has decided to do something instead of not doing something. Tina Fey is sitting on top of Maslow's hierarchy with her legs crossed. Maybe being Tina Fey every day is like being Oprah talking to Liz Lemon on the plane ("this one time I kissed a girl at summer camp, but then she drowned!"), except Tina Fey is really Tina Fey and not a teenage girl who likes paisley and calypso music, and Oprah has more money to erect a slightly higher barrier between herself and the expectations of the people she meets.

Or not? How would any of us really know?

35 Comments / Post A Comment


You are not going to see Cathy Geiss popping up behind Jenna with a unicorn poster.

This makes me sad.

Anyway, there are millions of things I love this woman for, but I only have a few minutes so I will briefly point out how fucking much I loved the chapter in Bossypants entitled, "I Don't Care If You Like It (One In A Series Of Love Letters To Amy Poehler)". Seriously, these women <3<3<3


@katiemcgillicuddy Yessss that chapter. Love her so hard. SO HARD.


@katiemcgillicuddy "My friend is here! My friend is here!" I still get tears, chills remembering that part in the book. So moving, just--so much.


@Joey Here, I'll cheer you up. "You know who does have a funny bone in her body? Your mom, every night for a dollar."

A. Louise

@katiemcgillicuddy if you've read the book (or for those of you out there who haven't) I highly recommend the audio book version of this, because the only thing better than a book written by Tina Fey is a book written by Tina Fey that is then read by Tina Fey.

Funniest couple of work days I have had, although I had to have quiet time in between a few of the chapters, I was holding back laughter so agressively...


@katiemcgillicuddy I often think of that story she tells about how Amy Poehler was doing a scene, and taking it some place dark or sexual or weird and Jimmy Fallon started yelling at her to stop because he didn't like that a GIRL was doing that, and Amy just turned to him and hissed, "I don't give a FUCK if you don't like it." I aspire to that level of Amy Poehler-ness in my life at all times. And now I must buy the audiobook.


@sarrible Yup, that's the story she tells in the "Love Letter to Amy" chapter. Excellent stuff.


Love this piece. Adore Tina Fey. The end.


Awesome awesome@a


Pretty much exactly how I feel about all celebrities. I never want to meet any of them, even if I love them. What would we talk about?

Living My Best Life Far Away from the Hairpin!

@crisisalert YES. Talking to strangers is not something I do well or with ease, and I can't imagine seeing a celebrity I admire and going up to talk to them or (shudder) ask for a photo or something. (Not that I'm picking on people who would do such a thing; I just can't IMAGINE myself doing it.)

ETA this sidenote: Although they doubtlessly don't need my pity, I feel kind of bad for celebrities now that absolutely EVERYONE has a camera on them at all times and always wants to take a photo with them. It must be irritating to either have to take all these photos with people or decline the request and risk this "fan" having hard feelings.


@crisisalert I completely agree.


Tina Fey: a living, breathing GO FUCK YOURSELF to every misogynist asshole who thinks women aren't funny. Long may she reign.


@par_parenthese - A thing I love about Tina Fey...when I was a Senior in High School, doing a lot of sketch comedy stuff w/ friends, Tina Fey became the head writer on SNL. I had worshipped SNL, especially during the years when I was doing that kind of thing (albiet at the lowest level possible), and wanted to be her.

It wasn't until, like, years later, as an adult, I'd talk to dudes I know about who are heroes were when we were growing up...and known of them were women.

I mean, obviously one of the greatest 'bigger than herself' things that makes Tina Fey great is that she's a great role model for women. But I think it's under-appreciated that she helps break gender lines in more than just one way, and is a woman role model for boys too.


@leon s Completely. I love the idea of boys growing up and admiring PEOPLE for their skill and awesomeness, regardless of gender.


Oh yay! After I read the earlier article about diva cups I was like "Really, The Hairpin?" I mean it was funny but hasn't everything about menstrual cup love already been written?

Anyway, then I read Tina Fey is Galadriel. and I felt back at home. Because Tina Fey totally is Galadriel and I think that is pretty brilliant of her.


Just thinking about meeting her has me quietly hissing "Stop sweating, you stupid bitch!"

Living My Best Life Far Away from the Hairpin!

@JessicaLovejoy I literally gasped when I first saw that cutaway because I was like, "OMG THERE IS A HIDDEN CAMERA IN MY APARTMENT!"


Oh god, Tina Fey and Emily Nussbaum were in a room together? It's probably good I wasn't there. They have had to carry me out, sobbing.


oh man, i love that i live in a world that loves tina fey.

for now I'm just trying to be patient until till she does more writing, cause in the mean time i know I will be going to see whatever movie she happens to act in and that I will feel disappointed, and miss her commentary


Oh, man, Tina Fey went to my high school and supposedly Gretchen Weiners is based on a classmate of hers who later became a teacher there (and if it's true, that casting was UNCANNY, and is probably the question I would most want to ask her). She came back my junior year because she was being inducted into the Wall of Fame (or inducted onto?), and she was great. Just awesome. But, like, everything I've ever read about her makes me think that she would just absolutely hate me, which bums me out but doesn't stop me from loving her unconditionally. ...I am not a crackpot.

Faintly Macabre

@MoxyCrimeFighter I have been to your high school and the nearby cemetery (and other stuff, obviously)!


Two great writers here: Tina Fey and the one who wrote, "Tina Fey is sitting on top of Maslow's hierarchy with her legs crossed." Go, Nicole!


The "trick" of talking to celebrities—should one
accidentally be stuck with one in a stopped
elevator, say—is to ignore their assumed
otherworldliness, esp. of the aethery kind,
their recent screen/ stage/ catwalk/ perpwalk
fame, and strike up an equal-to-equal con-
versation on a topic they do not expect to be
asked about. This will partly relax and partly
scare the celeb-nomo, but, if done in an off-
hand fashion, will often bring out unexpected
regular-guy-friendly side to the fore. Been
there, done that, to… whatsisname? and, on
another occassion and not in an elevator either,
the Whatshername as well - not that she'd
necessarily remember it.

Miss Beans

I love Tina Fey but this article was painful. Paiiiiinful.


@Miss Beans Yeaaaah. I'm all about celebrating Tina Fey, because she's amazing, but I hate this creepy worship vibe. Seriously, what the hell?


@mystique What is wrong with a little bit of worship. It is Tina Fey... durex

279th District Court

I was recently talking to my sister who loves that age-old question of who would you invite to your perfect fantasy dinner party and has thus expended way more energy and thoughtfulness than anyone else I've ever had it with. Mainly, she's thought about not just who she'd like to meet but who would be a good active conversationalist and which great names would have a lot to talk to EACH OTHER about. Meaning that some of the people she most admires or would like to meet are left off for being more introverted or not fitting with the rest of the group's tone. But Tina Fey still gets a seat at the table.


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