Tina Fey, star of the upcoming movie Mean Girls, shows Michael Hainey the surprisingly soft underbelly of SNL‘s sharpest wit
What do guys need to know about women?
You can really fuck above your station if you’re funny. You know what I mean? A man who is funny can go far with the ladies.
That’s the Dudley Moore effect.
You know, my husband is very much a Dudley Moore type.
**He’s a millionaire with a butler? **
He’s a millionaire with a butler…. He’s a drunk. No, really, he’s a gentleman of smaller stature, like Dudley Moore. He plays the piano, too.
**Can a woman fuck above her station? **
It does not work the other way. Especially when you’re younger, in high school, if you’re like the crazy, loudmouthed jokester girl—
Yes. Then boys will run for the hills. And then later on, it all becomes equal and fine. But I’ve known comedy writers, and they’re just big, sweaty, awful guys who get beautiful women because they’re funny. So, guys, try to be funny. I guess maybe this is my advice: If you have the choice between watching every Bill Murray and Marx Brothers movie or working out a lot, just watch the movies.
You’re filming a movie called Mean Girls, about teenage-girl cliques. So, who’s meaner: teenage boys or teenage girls?
Girls. Boys are more likely to fight and be done with it. Girls are more wily and subtle about the reason they’re mean. Girls have ways of hurting each other verbally and emotionally that are completely unseen by the naked eye.
They’re more conceptually evil than boys?
I think they are. It’s instinctive for them. They’re much more wicked. So maybe they should be put in charge of the Pentagon’s Psyops division? They should have 13-year-old girls in charge of the entire Pentagon.
I think we’re onto something. You’re sort of an evil genius.
I’m neither evil nor a genius. My thing was, in high school, if I had a boy that I liked and he mistakenly chose to date another, more attractive girl, then I would focus all of my rage and caustic comments on that girl. Behind her back, of course.
**And to her face you’d be very friendly? **
Yes. When I think of the hours and hours wasted just critiquing some girl…
Give me one of your purely satisfying mean moments.
The first thing that comes to mind is a more recent one, when Amy Poehler and I were in the airport last week in Toronto and we were getting hassled by this middle-aged businessman who was doing that thing that middle-aged businessmen do, being rude. And then Amy, in the middle of the airport, screamed, “Fuck you, you fuckin’ dick, you fuckin’ rich asshole.” And it was so satisfying—it was immediate release. She would probably be mortified that I told you.
**Back to movies. Why do so many SNL-derived movies go wrong? **
Sometimes SNL gets blamed for movies that they didn’t have anything to do with. Superstar and The Ladies Man and A Night at the Roury were the last ones where SNL characters were made into movies.
Roury is funny.
Roury is funny. Ladies Man too. I’m not going to go through them, because actually I’ve never seen Superstar. I think maybe what works in short form isn’t meant to be longer. You don’t want a giant bowl of candy bars; you want a candy bar. Which is why I feel good about my movie. It’s its own idea.
That’s what was so smart about Bill Murray’s choices. He never did a movie from an SNL sketch. He did movies with great, original characters.
What I love about Bill Murray is that he’s a very good actor and he’s a very warm presence in a movie. You feel like you know him. He’s not in giant-character, aggressive-performance mode. And he has a lovely light touch. For me, movies like Caddyshack and Meatballs and Stripes were hugely influential. They probably influenced my adult love life more than my comic life. It was like, That’s the kind of guy I want when I grow up: a cool, lovable, easygoing guy. There’s a tone in all of his characters, like the guy in Stripes who throws a basketball through the apartment window and then leans out and says, “Little help.& ” That kind of laid-back, cool guy that influenced everyone my age. Between that and early Letterman, there wasn’t a guy I met in college who wasn’t just doing Letterman all the time, that kind of laid-back midwestern—
—and everyone had memorized lines from Caddyshack.
See, you wanted to meet a guy like that, and then you met him and you were probably thinking, Shut up.
Yeah, well, in college you meet them and you’re like, Okay, this is the person imitating this persona, which is more the loser part and less the lovable part.
What else did you watch as a kid?
Monty Python, which my parents used to let me watch in like ’76, ’77. And The Honeymooners.
Did you get SCTV reruns?
SCTV would come on after_ Saturday Night Live_ every other week or something. And then sometimes there would be wrestling, and I’d be so sad.
I loved Hogan’s Heroes.
You loved Hogan’s Heroes? Really?
Yes. It looked like a gas. At 12, I wanted to be an American POW.
** ** I was also a huge fan of Bosom Buddies because I had a crush on Peter Scolari. I bet the wrong horse on that one, didn’t I?
They had a lot of good jokes on that show. One time Tom Hanks had dropped off his dresses at the dry cleaner, and he’s on the phone with the dry cleaner complaining, “There’s a spot on my dress…. Yes, it’s my dress…. What?… No, I would not like to go see Evita with you.”
Can I ask a question?
In a recent interview, you said that you are in therapy and that you engage in something called psychodrama.
As someone who has done his time in the room, I was wondering how that works. Is it a one-on-one thing?
I do it one-on-one. It’s just…. it’s so nerdy and embarrassing…. Your doctor will say, Now, look at this empty chair and imagine your mother is there. What would you—
—say to your mother?
** **Right. Did you ever do that?
That’s all it is.
I imagined you doing skits or something.
It’s some of that. Did you ever go to a special room with mats and hit things?
There’s a special room? Jeez, I didn’t know that. I feel left out.
It’s kind of a padded room, really.
It’s called Bellevue.
It’s a lot of talking, and I really don’t want to use the word role-playing.
Is there a French-maid outfit involved?
My therapist takes a lot of pictures. Is that weird?
Makes sense to me.
And there’s a lot of anger-release and stuff.
It’s not like an Iron John drum circle, though?
No. It’s not a drum circle. I don’t look at my vagina in a mirror.
Whoa. Okay. Well. Time to change the topic. Let’s do this: Describe George W. Bush in three words.
The first one that comes to mind is cocky. Dullard is coming to mind also. And well-meaning.
Cocky. Well-meaning. Dullard. I think you should call Karl Rove, because that’s a great campaign slogan. How about Cheney?
Cheney? Businessman, businessman, businessman. He’s a guy that’s just barreling ahead, you know?
He’s the guy in the Toronto airport.
Yeah. I immediately felt bad for that guy because I envisioned some sort of Raymond Carver story, kind of sad, like—
**—the kid’s dead? But see, most people would say, “I can’t believe she’s a sympathetic person.” Because you have the opposite image. **
Come on, you like it.
I’ll take it. I’d rather have people intimidated than expecting to walk all over me.
That’s a good card to have. Do you intimidate people at SNL?
No, no, no. No. I’m very shy. But by nature I am a competitive person, although, I think, in a very healthy way.
Why do guys dislike Jimmy Fallon?
Well, you’ve heard it, right?
Let’s say that girls do like him, in that he’s cute, non-threatening. You know, he has the Davy Jones quality to him. But the thing I know beyond that is that he has good timing. He’s a really fantastic sketch player.
**But you’ve certainly heard there’s this clear breakdown. It’s almost like guys don’t understand Jimmy Fallon. I think guys my age, our nightmare is that whereas there was once a generation of women who thought Bill Murray was the comic ideal, now we live in fear that it’s Jimmy Fallon. **
But you know what? Don’t be worried about Jimmy Fallon. Be worried about Ashton Kutcher.
But how many times have you heard guys say, “Fuckin’ Jimmy Fallon!” “What’s with Jimmy Fallon?” “What’s with Jimmy Fallon’s hair?”
Yes, both our hairdos are ever changing and ever problematic.
**But you understand why guys are troubled by him? **
Sure, because it’s like, wait a minute, if the funny guys can be goofy looking, we can get these ladies. But if now there’s someone who’s a comedy guy and kind of a foxy guy, it’s going to knock everything out of proportion.
** **Right. But Jimmy is a regular guy. You know, put Jimmy next to Ashton Kutcher any day. My money’s on Fallon.
What else should guys know?
Clean feet. Keep your feet clean. Ladies like that.
No toenails that look like Fritos?