Tina Fey, 2011
Little, Brown & Co.
Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.
She has seen both these dreams come true.
At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon—from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.
Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.
(Includes Special, Never-Before-Solicited Opinions on Breastfeeding, Princesses, Photoshop, the Electoral Process, and Italian Rum Cake!). (From the publisher.)
• Birth—May 18, 1970
• Where—Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, USA
• Education—University of Virginia
• Awards—for TV and entertainment (below)
• Currently—lives in New York City, New York
Elizabeth Stamatina "Tina" Fey is an American actress, comedian, writer and producer, known for her work on the NBC sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live (SNL), the NBC comedy series 30 Rock, and films such as Mean Girls (2004) and Baby Mama (2008).
Fey first broke into comedy as a featured player in the Chicago-based improvisational comedy group The Second City. She then joined SNL as a writer, later becoming head writer and a performer, known for her position as co-anchor in the "Weekend Update" segment. In 2004 she adapted the screenplay Mean Girls in which she also co-starred. After leaving SNL in 2006, she created the television series 30 Rock, a situation comedy loosely based on her experiences at SNL. In the series, Fey portrays the head writer of a fictional sketch comedy series. In 2008, she starred in the comedy film Baby Mama, alongside former SNL co-star Amy Poehler. Fey next appeared in the 2010 comedy films Date Night and Megamind.
She has received seven Emmy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, four Screen Actors Guild Awards, and four Writers Guild of America Awards. She was singled out as the performer who had the greatest impact on culture and entertainment in 2008 by the Associated Press, which gave her its AP Entertainer of the Year award for her satirical portrayal of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in a guest appearance on SNL. In 2010, Fey was the recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the youngest-ever winner of the award.
Fey was born in Upper Darby, PA a township just west of Philadelphia. She is the daughter of Zenobia "Jeanne" (nee Xenakes), a brokerage employee of Greek descent, and Donald Fey, a university grant proposal-writer of German and Scottish descent. She has a brother, who is eight years older, named Peter.
Fey was exposed to comedy early. She recalls:
I remember my parents sneaking me in to see Young Frankenstein. We would also watch Saturday Night Live, or Monty Python, or old Marx Brothers movies. My dad would let us stay up late to watch The Honeymooners. We were not allowed to watch The Flintstones though: my dad hated it because it ripped off The Honeymooners.
She also grew up watching Second City Television (SCTV) and cites Catherine O'Hara as a role model.
Fey enrolled at the University of Virginia, where she studied playwriting and acting, graduating in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama.
After graduating, Fey originally had plans to do graduate work in drama at DePaul University in Chicago, but she moved instead to Chicago, knowing about the improvisational comedy troupe, The Second City. She took night classes at Second City, immersing herself in the "cult of improvisation" and becoming, as she described it later...
like one of those athletes trying to get into the Olympics. It was all about blind focus. I was so sure that I was doing exactly what I'd been put on this earth to do, and I would have done anything to make it onto that stage. Not because of SNL, but because I wanted to devote my life to improv. I would have been perfectly happy to stay at Second City forever.
In 1994, she joined the cast of The Second City, where she performed eight shows a week, for two years. Improvisation became an important influence on her initial understanding of what it means to be an actress, as she noted in an interview for The Believer in November 2003:
When I started, improv had the biggest impact on my acting. I studied the usual acting methods at college—Stanislavsky and whatnot. But none of it really clicked for me. My problem with the traditional acting method was that I never understood what you were supposed to be thinking about when you're onstage.
But at Second City, I learned that your focus should be entirely on your partner. You take what they're giving you and use it to build a scene. That opened it up for me. Suddenly it all made sense. It's about your partner. Not what you're going to say, not finding the perfect mannerisms or tics for your character, not what you're going to eat later.
Improv helped to distract me from my usual stage bullshit and put my focus somewhere else so that I could stop acting. I guess that's what method acting is supposed to accomplish anyway. It distracts you so that your body and emotions can work freely. Improv is just a version of method acting that works for me.
Saturday Night Live (1997–2006)
While performing shows with the Second City in 1997, Fey submitted several scripts to NBC's variety show Saturday Night Live (SNL), at the request of its head writer Adam McKay, a former performer at Second City. She was hired as a writer for SNL following a meeting with SNL creator Lorne Michaels, and moved to New York. She went on to write a series of parodies, including one of ABC's morning talk show The View. She co-wrote the "Sully and Denise" sketches with Rachel Dratch, who plays one of the teens.
Fey played an extra in one of the episodes in 1998, and after watching herself, decided to diet and lost 30 pounds. She told The New York Times, "I was a completely normal weight. But I was here in New York City, I had money and I couldn't buy any clothes. After I lost weight, there was interest in putting me on camera." In 1999, McKay stepped down as head writer, which led Michaels to approach Fey for the position. She became SNL's first female head writer, a milestone she downplays.
In 2000, Fey began performing in sketches, and she and Jimmy Fallon became co-anchors of SNL's "Weekend Update" segment. Fey said she did not ask to audition, but that Michaels approached her, explaining that there was "chemistry" between Fey and Fallon. Michaels, however, revealed that choosing Fey was "kind of risky" at the time. Her role in "Weekend Update" was well-received by critics. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly wrote: "...Fey delivers such blow darts—poison filled jokes written in long, precisely parsed sentences unprecedented in Update history—with such a bright, sunny countenance makes her all the more devilishly delightful." Dennis Miller, a former cast member of SNL and anchor of "Weekend Update," wrote that "Fey might be the best "Weekend Update" anchor who ever did it. She writes the funniest jokes."
In 2001, Fey and the writing staff won a Writers Guild of America Award for SNL's 25th anniversary special. The following year at the 2002 Emmy Awards ceremony, she and the writing team won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program.
Amy Poehler replaced Fallon in 2004, which was the first time that two women co-anchored "Weekend Update". Fey revealed that she "hired" Poehler as her co-host for the segment. The reception to the teaming of Fey and Poehler was positive, with Rachel Sklar of the Chicago Tribune noting that the pairing "has been a hilarious, pitch-perfect success as they play off each other with quick one-liners and deadpan delivery."
The 2005–2006 season was her last; she thereafter departed to develop 30 Rock.
30 Rock (2006–present)
In 2002, Fey suggested a pilot episode for a situation comedy and eventually developed the pilot project under the working title Untitled Tina Fey Project. In October 2006, the pilot aired on NBC as 30 Rock.
In 2007, Fey received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series. The show itself won the 2007 Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. In 2008, she won the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and Emmy awards all in the category for Best Actress in a Comedy Series. The following year, Fey again won the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award in the same categories. In early 2010, Fey won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Lead Actress.
Fey made her debut as writer and co-star of the 2004 teen comedy Mean Girls. Characters and behaviors in the movie are based on Fey's high school life at Upper Darby High School and on the non-fiction book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman.
Fey and former SNL castmate Amy Poehler starred in the 2008 comedy Baby Mama, which received mixed reviews, though many critics enjoyed Fey's performance.
In 2009, she appeared in The Invention of Lying alongside Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, and Christopher Guest.
Fey will star in an upcoming comedy entitled Mommy & Me alongside Meryl Streep, who will play her mother. The film will be directed by Stanley Tucci.
Impersonation of Sarah Palin
From September to November 2008, Fey made frequent guest appearances on SNL to perform a series of parodies of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. On the 34th season premiere episode, aired September 13, 2008, Fey imitated Palin in a sketch, alongside Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton. Their repartee included Clinton needling Palin about her "Tina Fey glasses." The sketch quickly became NBC.com's most-watched viral video ever, with 5.7 million views by the following Wednesday. Fey reprised this role on the October 4 show and on the October 18 show when she was joined by the real Sarah Palin, and on the November 1 show where she was joined by John McCain and his wife Cindy. The October 18 show had the best ratings of any SNL show since 1994. The following year Fey won an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her impersonation of Palin. Fey returned to SNL in April 2010, and reprised her impression of Palin in one sketch titled "Sarah Palin Network." Fey once again did her impression of Palin when she hosted Saturday Night Live on May 8, 2011.
In December 2009, Entertainment Weekly put her impersonation on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, writing, "Fey's freakishly spot-on SNL impersonation of the wannabe VP (and her ability to strike a balance between comedy and cruelty) made for truly transcendent television."
In 2000, Fey partnered with fellow SNL cast member Rachel Dratch in the Off Broadway two-woman show Dratch & Fey at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City. The production was well received by critics, with The Wall Street Journal's Tim Townsend writing that production "isn't about two women being funny. [...] Dratch and Fey are just funny. Period."
She has appeared on PBS's Sesame Street, as a guest judge on the Food Network program Iron Chef America, in Disney's "Year of a Million Dreams" campaign as Tinker Bell, along with Mikhail Baryshnikov as Peter Pan and Gisele Bündchen as Wendy Darling. She has also done commercials for American Express credit card.
On February 23, 2008, Fey hosted the first episode of SNL after the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike. For this appearance, she was nominated for an Emmy in the category of Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. She later hosted SNL on April 10, 2010, and received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.
Her book, an autobiographical comedy entitled Bossypants, was released in 2011, receiving a positive review from the New York Times, though somewhat mixed reviews in other periodicals.
In the media
Fey was ranked in the Hot 100 List at number 80 on Maxim magazine in 2002. She was named one of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in 2003, and one of People magazine's 100 Most Beautiful People in 2007, 2008, and 2009. In 2007, she was included in People's 100 Most Beautiful issue.
In 2001, Entertainment Weekly named Fey as one of their Entertainers of the Year for her work on "Weekend Update." She again was named one of the magazine's Entertainers of the Year in 2007, and number two in 2008. In 2009, Fey was named as Entertainment Weekly's fifth individual in their 15 Entertainers of the 2000s list. The newspaper editors and broadcast producers of the Associated Press voted Fey the AP Entertainer of the Year as the performer who had the greatest impact on culture and entertainment in 2008, citing her impression of Sarah Palin on SNL. She has appeared on Forbes' annual Celebrity 100 list of the 100 most powerful celebrities in 2008, 2009, and 2010, at No. 99, No. 86, and No. 90 respectively.
In 2007, the New York Post included Fey in New York's 50 Most Powerful Women, ranking her at number 33. Fey was among the Time 100, a list of the 100 most influential people in the world, in 2007 and 2009, as selected annually by Time magazine. Fey's featured article for the 2009 list was written by 30 Rock co-star, Alec Baldwin. She was selected by Barbara Walters as one of America's 10 Most Fascinating People of 2008.
In 2011, Tina Fey landed at the top of the Forbes magazine’s list of the highest-paid TV actresses.
Fey is married to Jeff Richmond, composer on 30 Rock. They met at Chicago's Second City and dated for seven years before marrying in a Greek Orthodox ceremony in 2001. The couple have two daughters. In April 2009, Fey and Richmond purchased a $3.4 million apartment in the Upper West Side in New York City.
Her charity work includes support of Autism Speaks, an organization that sponsors autism research. In April 2008, she participated in "Night of Too Many Stars," a comedy show benefit for autism education.
Fey is also a supporter of Mercy Corps, a global relief and development organization, in their campaign to end world hunger. Fey narrated a video for Mercy Corps's Action Center in New York City, describing hunger as a symptom of many wider world problems. She also supports the Love Our Children USA organization, which fights violence against children, who named her among their Mothers Who Make a Difference in 2009. She was the 2009 national spokesperson for the Light the Night Walk, which benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. (From Wikipedia.)
[Fey's] dagger-sharp, extremely funny…Bossypants isn't a memoir. It's a spiky blend of humor, introspection, critical thinking and Nora Ephron-isms for a new generation.
Janet Maslin - New York Times,,
It’s probably unwise to expect soul-baring candor from a book with a made-up biographical note on the jacket flap. Those who hoped Tina Fey...would shed her comedic persona and play it straight are going to find her sort-of memoir, Bossypants, disappointing.... [Her memoir is] a collection of biographical essays and thematically related humor pieces rather than a straight chronological reminiscence.
Nicole Arthur - Washington Post
At first, Bossypants appears to be just more of the same...but inside lies a collection of autobiographical essays that should (but of course won't) prove once and for all that pretty is nowhere near as important as funny, and funny doesn't work without that rare balance of truth and heart.... In chapter after chapter, in a voice consistently recognizable as her own, Fey simply tells stories of her life.
Mary McNamara - Los Angeles Times
Oh Tina. I do slightly wish you hadn't.... Bossypants takes the interesting approach to memoir of remembering almost nothing, and providing "revelations" that might more accurately be called "concealments." Which isn't to say that it's unenjoyable. There are some hugely funny bits, and some inspiring bits, and some nerdishly interesting bits.... It's just the bookiness of it. Fey is out of her genre, and it shows.
Carole Cadwalladr - Guardian/Observer (UK)
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:
Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Bossypants:
1. Readers and reviewers are all over the map on Bossypants: some see it as a revealing memoir, others as an act of concealment, revealing very little of her personal life. Where do you stand on Fey's book? Is the book a memoir...or a comedy book filled with one-liners. Is it humorous...or insightful...or neither? Do you want more? Or does it leave you satisfied?
2. Speaking of one-liners, which ones do you find funny or, perhaps, insightful? Talk about the lines that tickled your funny bone...or others that struck the philosopher in you.
3. Fey has never been afraid to poke fun at female vulnerability...or to twist it. How does she do that here? Do you appreciate her take on the feminine? What matters most to Fey about being a woman? What matters most to you—whether you're a woman...or a man?
4. Which essay pieces do you find most engaging or provocative—the women's magazine parody, the "prayer" for her daughter, the pretend facts-of-life brochure, or the satirical "me time" for parents?
5. How have Fey's growing-up years shaped her? Does she devote time (and ink) telling us? If not, why not?
6. Fey takes issue with various comments, by males, that women are not funny. Here is Fey's own comment on that stance:
It's an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don't like something, it is empirically not good. I don't like Chinese food, but I don't write articles trying to prove that it doesn't exist.
Do you agree with her...or are men funnier than women? Is their humor different?
7. Artistically and philosophically speaking, authors tend to explore life's tragedies and the ways in which ordinary individuals cope with sorrow. Yet Fey finds that real life teaches her about comedy. What, then, is funny about life—is it funny? What kind of funny? Have you ever made observations—about people and situations—that could be turned into comedy skits or one-liners?
8. Talk about Fey's how-to advice on improv comedy. How did it prepare her for Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock?
9. What's with the book's cover? Why would Fey have given herself hairy, masculine arms?
10. What does Fey tell us about her personal life—her husband, for instance? What do we know about him?
11. What do you think of Tina Fey? Has reading Bossypants altered your view of her? Why or why not?
12. Is Fey really Liz Lemon...or is Liz really Tina Fey? Who wrote this book—Tina or Liz? In other words, are they one in the same?
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