An Interview with Tina Fey

Tina Fey has a few surprising facts that many people are unaware of. Among them is that in her office she has a painting of Blaze Starr in the nude.

She is passionate about television shows that entail “transformation”, from makeover shows to house renovations. In contrast to her public persona, when interacting one-on-one she is remarkably muted. Additionally, an extraordinary amount of her admirers are authors.

Fey’s devoted fan base among literary circles is not due to the usual reasons one might think. It is not because of her noteworthy work with places like Second City or Saturday Night Live, _nor due to being the first female head writer of _SNL. The true origin of her devotion comes from her basing her initial screenplay, Mean Girls, on a_ New York Times _article rather than a comedic sketch like many of her contemporaries.

Writers everywhere look up to Tina Fey as an example of what could be achieved if given the opportunity.

Her sudden rise to fame as a co-anchor for SNL ‘s “Weekend Update” was unexpected and served as a reminder that with the right platform, any writer can demonstrate their attractiveness and wit

. Fey has proven that what we imagine ourselves to be is not entirely a delusion, as few authors are as charming in person as they are on the page.

She often appears on “Weekend Update,” and if you pay attention you can sense the luck that came her way.

There’s a slight pause in her voice, and a look of amazement when a joke gets an unexpected response. It’s not that she feels she doesn’t deserve her success, it’s just that she’s astonished that anyone took notice.

This interview was conducted via telephone while Fey was staying with her family in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. She had come back to her hometown to conclude revising her Mean Girls screenplay.

It is quite plausible that this entire conversation occurred while Fey was occupying her childhood room; the room in which she wrote her initial joke, or first fantasized about becoming a comedy star

. However, the interviewer felt somewhat awkward inquiring about such details. It was all too feasible that this inquiry would lead to queries such as, “Do your sheets have unicorns on them?” Some matters are better left unknown.

— Eric Spitznagel

Eric Spitznagel highlights that, in our modern world, the idea of enjoying life and taking the time to appreciate the little things is becoming more and more important.

He states that we should make an effort to take pleasure in the small moments, events and experiences that life offers us.


The majority of individuals who enter into the field of comedy have experienced difficult, strained upbringings. Was this the same for you? Were you a despondent, uncertain child?

TINA FEY mentions that she was a mostly content youngster, though her teenage years were difficult. She perceives that growing up as a female is always tough, particularly when one experiences greasy skin and early breast development. Despite this, she believes that going through such experiences is beneficial in forming character.

At what age did you become aware of your proclivity for humor?

Around fifth or seventh grade I realized that I could win people over by making them laugh. Initially, it was to make them like me, but eventually it became a fundamental part of my identity.

For instance, at the end of the 8th grade year in Algebra class, I wrote a note to my teacher that said something like, “I know I joke around a lot, but it’s because I’m not great at math.” I was already trying to label myself as “the jokester”.

One time I was talking to a classmate and said, “When you’re funny like I am…” and he interrupted me, “Wait, you think you’re funny? Where did you get that idea?”

BLVR: In your high school yearbook, you predicted that in a decade you would be significantly overweight. Was this an indication of your incipient wit as a comedian or a pessimistic outlook of your future that a young girl had?

TF: I was taking precautions. If I happened to be an overweight loser, I could point out that I had predicted it. Nobody wants to be taken by surprise.

The YMCA’s cast-off males contrasted with Polish cleaning women.

When I moved to Chicago in the early nineties, I lived in an apartment near the Morse el stop, which was a rather less than desirable neighborhood.

To make ends meet, I took a job at the Evanston YMCA, where I was assigned to the early morning shift, from five-thirty a.m. to two p.m., giving me the rest of the day to take classes at Second City.

Each morning when I took the el to work, I was surrounded by a group of Polish cleaning ladies who were coming home from their own respective jobs. I never said a word to them, but their presence alone made me feel secure and protected.

I was certain that they were looking out for me.

BLVR: Visiting the YMCA during the morning hours likely provided a bizarre spectacle. Did you encounter a lot of unusual personalities?

TF recalled working at a residential YMCA with a great deal of fascination. He encountered a host of men who had been abandoned by wives, had grown too old to have a family or were affected by mental health issues.

One of them, who TF likened to a R. Crumb drawing, was particularly striking. He was skinny, gawky and had a very visible Adam’s apple. This man was usually quite amiable but one day, upon seeing a woman in workout clothes, he suddenly began screaming at her with words of a sexually explicit nature. It was necessary to take him away from the premises.

A large individual used to lug a tote bag with him. He wore a wig and mumbled incoherently, making it hard to comprehend what he was saying.

This person seemed to be infatuated with the lady who was working at the counter before I was employed there. He made a couple of clumsy attempts at flirting with her, even going as far as to present her with a rotisserie chicken from Jewel.

She accepted it, though she certainly wasn’t going to eat it, leaving the dead bird to rest on the counter while she completed her shift.

BLVR: Have you ever considered crafting a story about these characters? Perhaps, transforming them into a theatrical production?

I did, indeed, spend time at the YMCA, but nothing came of it. [Laughs] It’s been so long since I’ve thought about that place. It was a strange experience for me, with memories that are still vivid.

There was this white guy who said he was there to scout locations for a movie. He’d bring me boxes of miscellaneous items such as a block of wood, a cassette from Linda Ronstadt without its case, and some dead AA batteries.

Once he asked if I spoke French, and I said, “Yes, a bit.” He gave me this weirdly seductive glance, then said [in a smarmy voice] “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?” Yeah, no thank you! That’s why I’m here, because I’m crazy.

The practice of improvising is held in high esteem by many. This way of creating art and entertainment is often seen as a form of expression and is celebrated by many.

BLVR: Did you decide to attend the Second City to pursue a true interest in improvisation, or was it more of a logical step to reach Saturday Night Live?

Initially, my motivation stemmed from programs such as SCTV and Saturday Night Live, leading me to Chicago and a Second City show. I was astonished, wishing to imitate Gilda Radner who had once treaded on the same stage.

However, upon entering the training center, my attitude changed drastically. I was determined to fully commit to improvisation, religiously dedicated like an athlete aiming for the Olympics.

My goal was to make it onto that stage not for SNL, but for the desire to dedicate my life to this craft

. I wanted to spend my days at Second City, and become an experienced improvisation teacher similar to Del Close or Martin de Maat. To me, this felt like the ideal life.

BLVR: What drew you to improvisation?

When I began my acting career, improvisation had the most significant effect. Although I had learned the usual approaches, such as Stanislavsky, none of them truly worked for me.

The issue I had with the conventional acting technique was that I never grasped what I was supposed to be considering while performing.

However, at Second City, I discovered that the focus should be solely on the partner. You take what they are giving you and use it to construct a scene.

This made it much simpler for me.

It is about the partner, not what to say, not finding the ideal gestures or traits for the character, or what to eat later. Improv enabled me to divert my attention from my typical stage worries and direct my focus somewhere else so I could cease acting.

I suppose that is what method acting is meant to achieve anyway. It distracts you so your body and emotions can act freely. Improv is just a form of method acting that works for me.

BLVR: I have never seen improv as a very helpful tool for me as a writer. Although I am a fan of the concept of spontaneous storytelling, the regulations of improv just don’t seem to be suitable for a single individual.

After all, who am I going to “yes and” myself? Writing is a solo endeavor. Even though I have now shifted more towards writing, I have still often stated that improv was a major asset to my inventive process. Could you provide some illustrations of this?

TF: One of the most interesting aspects of improv is the spontaneous nature of it. When two people enter a scene with different perspectives and ideas, it can lead to something unique and creative that would have been impossible to come up with alone

. This concept has been beneficial to me as a writer, as it reminds me to take chances and explore unexpected paths that arise in my writing.

BLVR: You began your career at Second City as an actor and writer. Subsequently, Saturday Night Live hired you as a writer and a few years later they invited you to act. Do you consider yourself more of an actor or a writer, or do you accept any job that is offered to you?

For me, writing is more my thing than acting. Though I haven’t done it in a while, I used to consider myself an improviser. Every Sunday I’d attend ASSSCAT shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade

Theater in New York. It was a great social scene since all of my pals from Chicago were usually there, but it was also a great way to work out creatively.

When I got the job as a SNL writer, I was relieved to take a break from performing. I had been doing eight shows a week at Second City for over two years and my energy was drained. Eventually I began to miss the thrill of being on stage. The further I stayed away from improvising, the more quickly my creative skills decreased.

If I stayed away too long, I was practically desperate to perform in front of an audience. You can find many Second City alumni in New York at night, searching for an improvisation opportunity.


BLVR: I think I’m not alone when I say that I have an idealised idea of what it’s like to be part of the Saturday Night Live writing team.

I have a vision in my head of a messy office filled with Emmys, broken bottles, and the heavy scent of cannabis. The writers, deprived of sleep and high on drugs, are madly crafting their pieces for the week.

Maybe Michael O’Donoghue (who, as we all suspected, never really died) is snorting cocaine from an intern’s bum. Is that a fairly accurate representation?

TF: It is my understanding that it was once a madhouse.

Now, although it is not usual, it is by no means a standard office environment. Late at night, it is usually very busy, with plenty of chatter and jokes, and it is not strange to hear screaming at three o’clock.

Additionally, one may see writers pushing Chris Kattan around in a cardboard box. To put the cherry on top, people often engage in faux-rape to de-stress after a long session of sketch writing.

Recalling the experience of being a newbie writer for SNL, is there an initiation process which must be completed before being classified as a veteran?

At the Wednesday read-through, a room full of writers, performers, producers, designers and NBC legal have heard a lot of comedy. Getting a laugh in that room is a great feeling, but it is also very nerve-wracking and intimidating.

It is especially bad when a joke that was setup on page three doesn’t get a laugh, as there is still six more pages to go. However, once you become callous to it, you become a much stronger person.

BLVR: Have you ever felt frustrated with the restrictions that come with being a SNL writer? You have a fairly low position in terms of creativity. Writers are there to attend to the needs of the performers rather than the other way around.

TF: It is true in some cases, however, many of these writers also act. Will Ferrell was an extraordinary writer. It can be tricky for those that have a performance background to give away their material to someone else. Of course, it is much more comfortable when you are writing for someone better than you, which I have come across often. I made the mistake of writing characters too similar to the ones I would have liked to portray. When we just hired Jason Sudeikis as a writer, I talked to him about this.

My advice was to concentrate on the actor for whom you are writing; think about how to use their strengths. Don’t give away your own pieces, because eventually you would want them back.

Bob Odenkirk is an example of this from the late eighties; he gave away some of his best pieces to Dana Carvey, like the grumpy old man bit, which eventually became associated with Dana and not Bob anymore.



BLVR: Do you ever feel the need to entertain from the comfort of your own home, with both you performing and Jeff [an SNL musician] directing and playing the piano?

TF: I think that’s a splendid plan. All we’d require is a stage and a permit for alcohol. That’s what destroys many marriages, isn’t it? When they don’t have a liquor license, it can lead to the relationship falling apart.

BLVR: From what I’ve been told by numerous authors, writing can be likened to childbirth. Since I don’t possess the same reproductive organs, it makes me feel uneasy to draw similarities between the two.

Do you have any opinion on this comparison?

TF: Even though I can’t speak from experience, I’m assuming that what they say is true. The process of writing can be very difficult, yet upon completion brings a sense of accomplishment, just like having a child.

BLVR: Once released, it is almost impossible to alter it.

TF: That’s right.

Let’s explore how much we can expand this analogy.

TF: Alright. Ultimately, your child will likely want to borrow the car and go out with guys.

BLVR: You’ll remain awake, agonizing over the thought. But will you receive a response?

Never even once.

BLVR: The individual departs their home and causes disappointment when they fail to complete college.

TF: Ultimately, it returns to your house and resides in your basement.


BLVR: Did you feel as though writing for Saturday Night Live would be limiting compared to the freedom you had at Second City? Pi ñata Full of Bees contained scenes regarding racism, Noam Chomsky, wealth corruption and the massacre of Native Americans.

The opening of the show featured Uncle Sam being put on trial by protesters in gas masks. It appears this type of comedic viewpoint is not one that SNL would usually be open to.

TF commented that Second City has a certain protection due to its long history. Del Close, a past teacher, taught that the truth of a scene was more important than making an audience laugh.

However, it is different at SNL; funny is still important, yet it is still possible to be subversive in the process.

BLVR: Of course, but there are still a good number of potential pitfalls.

One must consider the censors and be wary of possibly alienating the viewers, which consists mainly of Middle America folk who may not be wishing for more skits on Noam Chomsky. Moreover, you have to be careful not to displease the sponsors.

TF pointed out that while GE doesn’t explicitly tell them not to say anything negative, they do still worry about losing advertising.

As an example, he mentioned a funny commercial parody he wrote a few years ago called the Mercury Mistress. It only aired once and would never air again because Lincoln Mercury had just started advertising with NBC, and they didn’t want people “fucking their car”.

He was sad that the commercial parody was lost, as it was a great piece and a reflection of the strange relationship most Americans have with their cars. Ultimately, it can’t be blamed on NBC for wanting to save the money from one thirty-second commercial parody.

BLVR: It appears that you have a penchant for the word “cooter” when it comes to comedic purposes. I have observed its usage on Update at least five times in the last twelve months.

So why have you chosen this particular word to describe the female anatomy, when there are other possibilities such as pookie, hootchie pop, or stinky krinky? Is cooter just inherently funnier than these alternatives?

TF: [ Laughs ] I have an undeniable fondness for the term “cooter.” It’s probably my favorite way to refer to a woman’s private area because it’s not as explicit as some of the other options.

I remember a sketch from SNL written by Matt Piedmont that had an abundance of euphemisms for female genitals. I can’t recall the majority of them, apart from the one that really stood out to me – “meat drapes.” It’s very vivid and kind of disturbing when you think about it.

I believe I appreciate the term “cooter” because it is able to combine an element of cleanliness with a hint of naughtiness.

One could say that is accurate. And isn’t that the point of a cooter in the first place?


BLVR: People have often labeled you a “thinking man’s sex symbol.” Could you explain what that entails? Is it the glasses that bring about this title?

TF: Absolutely. Wearing glasses can make someone appear more intelligent. Take Woody Harrelson in Indecent Proposal for example; with glasses on, he was transformed into an architect. Similarly, with a pair of glasses, Denise Richards was transformed into a paleontologist.

Do your glasses make you feel like a prisoner? Are they like Samson’s hair, preventing you from achieving success if you take them off?

TF: Absolutely. Even with my glasses, I’m still not really that well-known.

Rachel Dratch became a face that people recognized after her third year on the show, and Lorne Michaels once remarked that you have to appear on television for three years before anyone will take notice of you.

I’m now entering my fourth year, so it should be interesting to see if his theory holds up.

BLVR: How do you feel about being portrayed as a sex symbol? Does it match up with who you actually are?

TF: I try to take it in good humor. In my twenties, I didn’t have the experience of being seen as attractive. There’s only a short span of time when people write about you. If they say anything positive about how I look, I won’t complain.

I’m planning to store all of these magazines in the attic and bring them out for my daughter in the future. I’ll be able to say, “Look, there was a period when people thought your mom was a hottie.”

In 2002, Maxim magazine placed you as the 80th Sexiest Woman. The next year, People magazine included you in their list of the 50 Most Beautiful People, which resulted in a significant jump of your sexiness score by thirty points in a short period of time.

How does that make you feel?

TF: Indeed, I put in a lot of effort in my training. [ Laughs ] It was a funny experience with People magazine. When one of their reporters called me, I attempted to make a joke about it, however, it seemed my humour wasn’t printed.

BLVR: Would it be possible for you to divulge any of them here?

TF said that he hadn’t expected his jokes to be so well-received.

He had mentioned something along the lines of, “I’m used to seeing one person on the list of ’50 Most Beautiful People’ that makes me think ‘Give me a break!’ and I’m glad to say that this year I’m that person.”

The interviewer had further inquired about his soap preferences, and that was the question that made it to print.

What is your opinion on being featured in Maxim?

TF: It was rather strange when it came to Maxim. I had no idea it was happening until I heard about it from someone else who had seen it in the magazine.

The photo they used was actually one I had taken for Rolling Stone and I was wearing a short skirt and garters, making me look like a hoochie mama.

It was completely inappropriate for the context and it seemed like I had intentionally done the shoot for Maxim. Let me assure you, I would never have done something like that. My body isn’t fit for it, and I’m way too old.

BLVR: It’s unlikely that you would consider this to be a beneficial career choice.

TF: It may be seen as a successful career move, but it’s something that I don’t want to be a part of. You know that image which all the Maxim cover models seem to exhibit? It’s the pressure of conformity.

When you were on Weekend Update, you made a statement that was critical of the women featured in Playboy. Can you tell us what about the models in Playboy bothers you?

I’m in no way a prude but I don’t understand why Playboy has changed so much.

Women used to look more natural in the sixties and seventies, but now they all appear to have the same fake look.

It’s like they all have the same pencil-eraser nipples and tanned orange bodies after getting addicted to plastic surgery.

I’m not sure why people find this attractive. If they’re trying to be a “whore” they should at least be creative about it. Playboy used to be about the girl next door, but now it’s more about dressing up one for an Arab millionaire.


BLVR: After being appointed as the Weekend Update anchor, you were instantly praised by the public. Suddenly, people were enjoying the show once more and deeming it to be “smart” again. It is interesting how SNL is either highly appreciated or widely disliked, with no room in-between.

TF: That is true, indeed. It appears that people’s response to the show fluctuates unpredictably

. Every so often, a hack journalist will come up with an article with the headline “Saturday Night Dead” and then various lazy authors will follow suit. It’s as if it’s a given that the show is to be doomed.

I don’t think more credit should be given to me than anybody else who has done this job. I just got fortunate. I’m employed here during a period of growth, but I can assure you that the pendulum will swing in the opposite direction again. It always does.

Recently, an article in the New York Times was written stating that the majority of young people are obtaining their news from comedy programs.

As a person working in the same industry, how does this make you feel? Is it concerning that many youth are paying attention to Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show in stead of news networks like CNN?

TF: I personally didn’t watch the news when I was younger. I got all my news from comedy shows, like Letterman and SNL.

If you watch The Daily Show on a regular basis, you will have a good idea of what’s going on in the world. A lot of young people watch these shows not just to stay informed, but to be instructed on how they should feel.

We have a liberal bias, and that comes through on Update. Still, I know there are a lot of young Republicans who watch the show, and I don’t think we’re changing their minds.

I really enjoyed Will Ferrell’s Bush impression, but I can’t help but think it might have helped Bush win the election. Will was able to portray Bush as a lovable, endearing character. That’s not the best way to choose a leader.

BLVR: When the nation is in a state of unrest, satirists are able to find an outlet for their creativity. When everything is going smoothly, there is little to be made fun of.

Thus, it can be said that misfortune for the country can be a good opportunity for the comedy writer.

Have you ever found yourself perusing the news in anticipation of something that could be used to make a joke? Not on the level of a tragedy like 9/11, but something that is strange or upsetting enough to get the creative juices flowing.

TF: Absolutely not. Especially not now. I’m wishing for the dullest times imaginable in the news.

I want to hear stories of successful spelling bee participants and infant basketball players instead. It’s preferable to have no subject matter for jokes than to experience a terrible news day.

Read Full Biography
Back to previous

You May Also Like


President Biden Honors Renowned Figures with 2021 National Medals of Arts and Humanities

In a ceremony held at the East Room on Tuesday, President Joe Biden presented the prestigious 2021 National Medals of……


Social Media’s Impact on Teen Mental Health and Brain Development

The mental health of young social media users, especially young women, is increasingly becoming a topic of concern. With the……


Elden Ring’s First Anniversary: Over 9 Billion Deaths, 20 Million Copies Sold, and Anticipation for Upcoming DLC

Bandai Namco has recently shared an intriguing infographic in celebration of the first anniversary of Elden Ring, the tough-as-nails action/RPG……

related articles

An Interview with George Lakoff

Polish Movie Posters: One of the Great Secrets of Twentieth Century Pop Art

Avian: The Loggerhead Shrike

articles about Archive


March 20, 2023

An Interview with Doseone Copy

January 27, 2023


January 27, 2023

Hold On

March 7, 2022

Yellow Faces

March 7, 2022