Tina Fey as Liz Lemon in cupcake pajamas – a gal after my own heart. [Source]
I thought it would be more appropriate and less creepy to write a love letter to Tina Fey here on my blog. I mean “less” creepy because I had this overwhelming urge to write you an actual letter, an email, a tweet, I don’t know, something to express how much I appreciate your perspective and craft. I’ve written exactly one letter to someone famous, Diablo Cody, actually, after I read her memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper
, but I felt straight-up stalker when I wrote her a private message on Myspace years ago. (Myspace! I know!) Partly because she probably gets an exorbitant amount of creepers telling her inappropriate things based on the subject matter, but regardless, I loved it and wanted to tell her.
My admiration for you came years ago when you were the head writer on Saturday Night Live. I thought you were smart, funny, self-depricating, and sweet. But most of all, I thought you were a strong-ass b-tch. You could hang with the funny guys and made friends – actual friends – with the funny gals. I love that you had such strong feminist views that SNL became a ladies club where it wasn’t a competition for who would play the secretary, the doting wife, or the mother characters. Over your almost-decade-long stint writing and acting on the show, you helped cultivate an environment where female characters and humor were both explored and celebrated, held with equal importance to the male-dominated leanings of that and almost every other show on television.
I watched a little bit of 30 Rock when it was on the air, but I got behind. Hubs and I marathoned season 1 but we stalled out because we were watching it together. If I really want to get in a show-coma, I’ve got to got at my own harried pace. I devour episodes when left to my own devices. Basically, I watch in the wee hours of the night on my iPhone while nursing my 13-month-old, Ans, because one can only play so many games of Candy Crush or scroll up to new stories on one’s Facebook feed. I breezed through Orange is the New Black, am watching Parks and Recreation with Hubs so I have to wait for him before moving on (I’m actually 3 episodes ahead but don’t tell him), and needed my next fix. Because once I get hooked on a tv show in a marathon, it’s hard to come off of it and back to reality. So I picked back up on 30 Rock about a month ago and plowed through the other 6 seasons. I loved it. I giggled to myself in the dark of the girls’ room in the rocking chair, occasionally startling Ans awake for a few minutes. The show’s dialogue started seeping into my sub-conscious and I relayed things like, “Never follow a hippie to a second location” or told some Tracy Jordan anecdote to Hubs the next day, like he was my own crazy co-worker and I had to figure out how to reign in the crazy somehow. You gave useful tidbits on being a boss in a male-dominated workplace, actually. But most of all, you stood up for yourself. You, as Liz Lemon, didn’t let others stomp all over you, empowering while allowing for the inevitable flaws.
When I went to NYC during the second leg of my vacation in late October, I just had to go to 30 Rockefeller. It was funny – I’ve been before, I’m sure of it, but it meant nothing to me. Just a famous name and building, a stop on the subway that I happened to come out of on an earlier trip to New York. But I felt such a kinship to the show that I was actually giddy going inside to get my birthday chocolate. Let’s say I was giddy for several reasons then.
30 Rockefeller Plaza – Hubs and me in the shot from the opening credits
When Bossypants came out in 2011, I bought it the very first day. I read it in one night. The book is filled with your stories, your background, told in your punchy delivery delivery specific to only your voice. I could hear Liz Lemon telling the story of climbing Old Rag Mountain in college, where you just wanted to get an over-the-jeans make out with a boy who also brought another boy along, who probably wanted the exact same thing. You have so many ridiculous tidbits, and you know just what built you and why those stories would be interesting to a reader. You gloss over your scar, calling it a litmus test for people based on how and when they ask you about it, or if it comes up in normal conversation. I had been wanting to re-read it, having leant it to my MIL and seeing it on the book shelves out in the Texas hill country, just whispering my name for another good laugh curled up in bed, reading when I should be sleeping. Because even though it would be a second read, I know it would make me stay up all night, devouring each tasty chapter, as good as the first time. On the extra-long ride home from my cousin Jamie’s baby shower in Denton this weekend, my MIL bought the audio version of the book and, let me tell you, it reads better than stand-up. It’s like you were there, telling us your stories! It made those extra two hours of construction-induced traffic of what should have been a four hour drive feel like nothing.
You and Amy Poehler, who deserves her own open (love) letter, hosted the Golden Globes in January of 2013 and I didn’t watch it live (because I forgot, or it was bedtime for the kids probably). But I knew the next morning my gossip sites would have clips for me to watch without all of the boring awards. Every time you were on stage together, it was gold. Now you have a well-deserved deal to host for the next two years.
It was gold because you were both funny without pandering to the A-list celebs, didn’t make predictable jokes, and everyone likes to watch best friends at the top of their game. You are the straight one, and Amy is the wild card. You know what works and give it the same level of enthusiasm (unlike James Franco and Anne Hathaway on stage together – no wonder she over-compensated – he was he Franco’d the whole thing!). I’m beyond excited to watch the next couple of GG’s, simply to watch your Midas touch, and proud that two women get to be smart on tv, instead of being hot stereotypes.
I attribute the success of Bridesmaids to your paving the way on SNL, Baby Mama, and then on 30 Rock. It turns out that audiences did want to see women on screen, being funny. The Heat, which I haven’t seen yet but really want to, is another example of a movie about female friendship, without the love interest being the ultimate plot line.
Finally! I’m absolutely certain that it wouldn’t have been greenlit without your influence. I can’t help but think that Keenan Thompson wouldn’t have made the comment about there not being enough funny black women to be cast on SNL
if you were still on the show, because that concept seems impossible. In the whole world, there are none funny enough to be sought out for an audition? None? To this, I’ll refer to a quote of yours from Bossypants:
…Whenever someone says to me, ‘Jerry Lewis says women aren’t funny,’ or ‘Christopher Hitchens says women aren’t funny,’ or ‘Rick Fenderman says women aren’t funny… Do you have anything to say to that?’
Yes. We don’t f-cking care if you like it.
I don’t say it out loud, of course, because Jerry Lewis is a great philanthropist, Hitchens is very sick, and the third guy I made up.
I just felt the need to send an “attagirl” out into the ether to you, Tina. You’ve warmed this little feminist heart, and rest assured I’m raising my own hilarious, perceptive feminists in the school of Tina Fey. They will be confident enough to make statements and never end their sentences apologetically, in a question. They won’t tear other women down out of jealousy, instead, EB and Ans will have female friends that mutually build each other up. And they totally wouldn’t mind a play date with your daughters, Alice and Penelope.
EB and Ans in cupcake costumes for Halloween 2013