She puts the ha! in ha!-larious. But here she tells you what it takes to be seriously successful
You think you know Tina Fey, but you have no idea. Sure, she’s funny. But the 30 Rock star didn’t get to where she is just by making people laugh. She busted her butt all the way from Pennsylvania to Virginia to Chicago before landing in New York City and becoming, well, Tina Fey. With a theater degree from the University of Virginia, Tina took on odd jobs in Chicago so she could study improv at The Second City, where many Saturday Night Live cast members get their start. It paid off: She landed a writing job at SNL and soon became the first female head writer in the show’s history. (Oh, yeah, she starred on the show too!) Already well on her way to becoming a comic legend, she wrote the screenplay for Mean Girls. And now she’s producing and starring in 30 Rock — an Emmy-winning show it just so happens she created too. As an aspiring screenwriter at New York University, I know how much work goes into just one aspect of a show — and Tina does it all. Want to know her secrets? Live from New York, it’s … Tina Fey!
Go where your passion takes you. “After college, I knew I wanted to work in comedy, so the first thing I did was go to where the comedy was. I moved from Charlottesville to Chicago, because that’s where The Second City and Improv Olympics are. You have to go wherever you need to go to study what interests you.”
Do whatever it takes. “In Chicago, I worked a cruddy job folding towels at a YMCA from 5:30 in the morning until 2:30 in the afternoon. I’d nap, then go to improv class all night. I made, like, $7 an hour, and it was freezing in Chicago — but I was so happy. I was doing comedy with the best people in the world.”
Fail big; you’ll live. “For my first show at SNL, I wrote a Bill Clinton sketch, and during our read-through, it wasn’t getting any laughs. This weight of embarrassment came over me, and I felt like I was sweating from my spine out. But I realized, ‘Okay, that happened, and I did not die.’ You’ve got to experience failure to understand that you can survive it.”
Open your own doors. “If you’re an actor and you don’t get cast in stuff a lot, then put together a show, or hold play-reading nights at your apartment. Make your own opportunities.”
Immerse yourself in your field. “In college, I worked in the prop room and costume shop to learn what everyone did. If you want to be a screenwriter, take an acting class to get a sense of what you’re asking actors to do. Learning other skills will help you communicate with people and respect what they do.”