6 Things You Might Not About Tina Fey’s Rise To Comedy Stardom
Today is Tina Fey’s 44th birthday, and while my natural reaction is to pull a Liz Lemon and stuff my face while watching 30 Rock reruns, I thought my time might be better put to use by digging up some odd facts. Granted, I’ll probably still pull a Lemon, but first, here are six things you might not know about Tina Fey’s rise to comedy goddess — one of them involving pinball voiceover work. Full tilt, baby!
1. She was hesitant about writing 30 Rock. When Fey got a development deal with NBC to write a sitcom her first pitch was about a network that was forced to produce the cable news show of a “blowhard right-wing pundit (Alec Baldwin).” NBC’s president of development suggested she try writing about something closer to her life, like working on a late night variety show. At first, Fey was hesitant about the idea:
“I was reluctant because it seemed self-indulgent to write about the show directly. I had liked the cable news pitch because I liked the idea of writing Alec Baldwin as a powerful conservative, having him articulate passionately the opposite of everything he believed in life. My husband suggested I just keep Alec’s character. Then I started thinking if it was a show business story, I could use Tracy Morgan, too.”
2. Her Sarah Palin impression helped bring SNL its highest ratings in over a decade. Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impression was the standout comedy moment for SNL in 2008 and brought the show its highest ratings since Nancy Kerrigan hosted in 1994. The peak of that season happened when Sarah Palin visited the show for a sketch with Fey, giving the show a ratings boost that was 76% higher than the previous season.
3. She first met Adam McKay when he taught her improv class. Tina Fey owes a lot to Lorne Michaels, but Adam McKay deserves just as much credit for grooming her into the comedy writer/performer she is today. McKay was her first improv teacher at Chicago’s Second City in 1992. Five years later he helped usher her in as an SNL writer, and in 1999, turned over the reigns as head writer to her when he left SNL.
4. Tina paid for her improv classes by working at the YMCA. “Young Men’s Christian Association” is one of the funniest/most depressing chapters in Fey’s autobiography, Bossypants. Fey worked the morning shift at the Evanston Y’s front desk where she got to know the residents who were friendly, but also a bit disturbed:
“I was always fascinated by the guys who lived there. They were these discarded men; some had been kicked out of the house by their wives, some were old men who didn’t have a family to stay with anymore. A few of them were obviously mentally disturbed.”
5. Her first week as a writer for SNL didn’t go so well. Fey’s first week as a writer for Saturday Night Live was September 27, 1997 — Sylvester Stallone was the host. Writers are expected to spend all night Tuesday writing with rough drafts of their sketches ready to turn in Wednesday morning. This is where things came to a halt for her:
“And that first week, I completely froze. I couldn’t think of anything. It was just too fast a gear shift. I had been – I was only at Second City a week before. That was only, you know, I left on a Friday – or left on a Monday, and was at SNL the following Monday. And so I’d found, you know, I had some pieces that I had written to try to get the job, and I ended up turning them in.”
So Tina Fey isn’t in this sketch, but it is one of the better ones from that episode.
6. She’s part of a pinball game. This just might be the one of the most bizarre facts I’ve learned about an SNL cast member, but Tina Fey is part of the Medieval Madness pinball game. Fey revealed to Vanity Fair, that in 1997 she did some voiceover work for Williams’ pinball game Medieval Madness, providing the voice of both the British and German princesses in the game. If you want to hear some outtakes from a mid-20s Tina that didn’t make it into the game, follow the link.