If Tina Fey wrote it, you know it’s going to be funny. She revived “Saturday Night Live” when she took over as head writer, created instant-cult-fave comedy “Mean Girls” from a self-help book, and killed on “Weekend Update” (with one hilarious recurring bit involving Gay Hitler).
Now, she’s the creator/executive producer/star — and, yes, writer — of “30 Rock,” one of the funniest sitcoms in years.And she doesn’t just look good on paper: Fey delivers in person. Her best work combines the scathing with the silly — the thinking person’s screwball. In a recent “30 Rock” episode, Fey’s character, Liz, is fixed up with Thomas by her boss (played by Alex Baldwin).
Turns out Thomas is a lesbian named Gretchen Thomas, and her boss assumed Liz was gay because of her shoes. But that’s not even the punchline: Liz developed a “straight crush” on Gretchen and desperately wanted to hang out with her, but Gretchen wasn’t into straight girls, so Liz got “dumped.”
Now, Tina Fey talks to Jenny Stewart about gay jokes, Rush Limbaugh, and why she’s so not into Angelina Jolie. Oh — she also plays “Who Would You Rather Sleep With?” and the results are interesting…
“30 Rock” is moving to Thursday nights, and you’re going to be up against “Grey’s Anatomy” and “CSI.” How do you feel about the move?
I actually feel pretty good about it. I’ve always wanted to be on with “The Office” and “Earl” and “Scrubs” — I just like the idea of a comedy block. And a really good one, too. I also think that content-wise, our show belongs on a little later at night like that. Also, it will be nice to have our asses handed to us by a better class of programming — now we can be creamed by “Grey’s Anatomy” instead of “Dancing with the Stars.”
There was an episode called “Blind Date” where Alec Baldwin’s character fixes you up with a lesbian. He thought you were a lesbian because of your shoes. It was really funny, and lesbians liked it because it was responsible. Is there any chance you’d bring (lesbian character) Gretchen back as a recurring character?
Well, we don’t have any plans for that now, but we definitely had a good time having (actress) Stephanie March on there, I wouldn’t write it off for the future. We don’t have any plans for Liz to change her mind or anything.
Yes, but see, Liz not being gay would be the funny part about it. It could be funny if Liz kept running into Gretchen and had the same kind of excited reaction you had every time you saw her on the “Blind Date” episode.
(Laughs), Well, I definitely could see her coming back at some point.Do you have lesbian friends? Yes, I do have lesbian friends. And the writer of the episode also has lesbian friends as well. So I do try to make sure that the details are approved by them. I mean, I didn’t actually go to them, but you know what I mean. I wanted to do it in a way that they knew it was responsible.
Speaking of “responsible.” When you took over “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live,” there suddenly were a lot of gay jokes. But it was a positive thing. Because the jokes were written and presented in such a nonhomophobic way, it ended up having a normalizing effect for gay people. Were you conscious of that during the process?
I think we were conscious in that we never wanted to make a joke that disagreed or conflicted with our own personal beliefs, whether it was a political joke or a gay joke. So any gay joke that Amy (Pollard) or Jimmy (Fallon) or I would make would never come from a homophobic place because none of us are homophobic. Also, when you write “Weekend Update,” you write a thousand jokes just to get 10 jokes. And there might be a version of a joke that’s almost the same but feels a little more homophobic or feels a little less responsible in some way. So there definitely were times when we would refine things to make sure they were a way we felt was acceptable.
Have you seen the new “Weekend Update?”
Can I just tell you I have not seen it! And now it’s becoming ridiculous because now I feel like I’m being rude to my friends or something! At the beginning, I felt like you know, like I’m not really ready to watch it. It’s like seeing someone else go out with your ex-boyfriend. You’re like, “I don’t necessarily want to not be with you any more, but I don’t want to see you with anyone else either.” So I haven’t watched it.
Is there a chance you’d do “Weekend Update” again?
I would be happy to do something as a guest spot, but I don’t think I’ll ever really have that job again.
The drag about you no longer doing “Update” is that people miss hearing your take on current events. That said — what do you think about Rush Limbaugh saying Michael J. Fox was faking his Parkinson’s symptoms on that recent commercial?
Well it’s so obviously appalling, but the other part of it that’s really interesting to me is that you expect that from Rush Limbaugh. But did you hear about Matt Lauer?
Matt Lauer was involved?
Yes! You expect it from Rush, but then the next day, Matt Lauer comes out and says, “Well, wait — wasn’t Rush Limbaugh just sort of saying what everyone was thinking?” It’s like, what?! Also, I know of people who have worked with Michael J. Fox, and for him to not shake on camera, he has to perfectly time his medicines and really plan it out so that for a teeny tiny part of his day, he can do something like a commercial and not show his symptoms. And so the fact that he taped this commercial without doing that, and then for them to portray that as manipulative? Uh — no. That is just a guy showing you what the other 22 hours of his life are like.
And there’s that “response” commercial to it on YouTube where you have Jim Caviezel speaking Aramaic and Patty Heaton saying, “Don’t vote for this person because women will start selling their eggs!” It’s pretty creepy. I mean, Patty Heaton. You’re selling me pro-life issues, and you’re selling the Albertson’s grocery store. Pick your cause, Patty.
And what do you think of the whole Brad-and-Angelina-taking-over-the-world stuff?
I’m so bored by them. I’m so bored! It’s like, good — go do your good things, and God bless you, but I’m so bored. For some reason, I’m just not interested in those two. Maybe it’s when people are so good-looking it becomes nonhuman, that it’s ends up being a shut-off to my brain or something. I’m sure they are doing good things, but come on. I saw something on a Web site — I think it may have been DListed.com — where some guy was pointing out that the new biological Caucasian baby is being sheltered from the paparazzi more than the two adopted babies of other races. But I don’t know if that’s a fair hit.
Did you also not care about the Jennifer Aniston part of the equation?
I cared. Saying I felt sorry for her is probably too much because she’s got a great life and she’s got herself together. But if I were in her shoes, I’d be like, “Oh, really? You guys flew on an airplane again today? And I have to read about it again in the paper? Oh, that’s just great.”
And what about Madonna adopting a baby?
I get both sides of that issue. I have this sort of paralyzing ability to see both sides of things that leaves me sometimes for naught for an opinion. So like with Madonna, she’s trying to do a good thing. I mean, I saw her on Oprah, and this kid was in an orphanage and nobody had visited him for a long time and she wasn’t trying to buy a baby. And at the same time, like, I get it that they do have to be careful about letting people come into other countries and adopting babies because some of those people that will be adopting them will be doing it so they can do weird stuff to them. So I get both sides of it. But I don’t want to read any more about it.
This is out of left field, but I’m curious — did you have any celebrity crushes as a teen?
Yes! When I was like 14, I was super in love with Paul Young, the guy who sang “Every Time You Go Away.” And then when I was a little bit younger, my other crush was the blonde guy from “Chips,” Larry Wilcox. He was my preteen crush. I bought any magazine that had him in it, and I would buy those little paperback books that told you all the facts about TV stars. And like, I still knowthat he’s from Cheyenne, Wyoming. I think he’s 5’11” and I’m pretty sure his birthday is something like January 17.
See, I didn’t go for any of the standard-type teen idols, like Shaun Cassidy. And if I remember correctly, I think I also had a crush on the guy who replaced John Travolta on “Welcome Back, Kotter,” who played Beau.
Did you ever have a nongay crush on a female celeb?
Yes. When I was 14 I was also pretty into Dorothy Hamill. I thought she was rad. And I got my hair cut like hers and I had a Dorothy Hamill button that was like the size of a dinner plate and I wore it every day. I never would have guessed that.
By now you know you have a lot of lesbian fans. Why do you think they like you?
Hmmm. Maybe it’s because from what we were saying before that they can tell that I actually know some lesbians, and that it’s clear that I’m like, not afraid of them?
If you were a lesbian, what kind of girlfriend do you think you’d want, or see yourself as having?
I would probably want the female equivalent of my husband — which for a woman would probably be described as an “oven stuffer.” [Laughs] A little bit shorter, I don’t like anyone lanky — I don’t like lanky women. Which is probably why I’m so bored by Angelina. Lanky is just so not for me.
OK — sometimes in interviews, I get the people to play “who would you rather sleep with?” You don’t have to play, but —
Sure, I’ll play!
Great. Ok — Ann Coulter or Kevin Federline?
Ooh — K-fed. Listen, it would be impossible to find a pairing in which I would choose K-fed, but trust me on this — K-fed. For sure.
Julie Newmar or Barbara Feldon?
Hmm. I think Barbara Feldon. Because I think I would be a little intimidated by Julie Newmar. Isn’t she like, a big giant model? Like what I’m not? But I could share clothes with Barbara Feldon.
Cloris Leachman or Phyllis Diller?
Cloris Leachman. Because she is hilarious and an absolute genius.
Ellen DeGeneres or Gayle King?
[Laughs] God, that’s a hard one! [Thinks] I think Gayle King, because if it’s good enough for Oprah . . .
Oh no, Ellen’s going to be heartbroken.
Well, maybe it’s because I’ve met Ellen and I sort of know her. so it would just feel more awkward to say it. You know what I mean? Plus, I don’t need Portia de Rossi coming after me.
Alec Baldwin or Billy Baldwin?
[Laughs out loud] Oh that’s another tough one! It’s awkward, because I would say Alec, but then it would be embarrassing because then I have to see him every day. But I would have to say Alec. And I like ’em beefier, as I said earlier.
Jimmy Fallon or Angelina Jolie?
[Quickly] Oh — Jimmy Fallon.
Man, you really don’t like Angelina.
I just don’t like people who seem like they’re “acting sexy.” It’s like, all right, we get it, Angelina, you’re super sexy, now could you just RELAX?
Lucy Lawless or Gwyneth Paltrow?
[Quickly] Lucy Lawless. 100 percent. She hosted our show once. She’s fun, she’s GORGEOUS in person, and she also fits the mold of ladies more like my husband. And I’m not really into blondes.
Oh, that’s going to make blonde people really sad.
Oh well, what are you going to do? [Laughs]
Editor’s note: We contacted (a flattered) Larry Wilcox to fact-check Fey’s memory of her tweener crush. He was raised in Rawlins, Wyoming (a small town outside Cheyenne), but he was born in San Diego. His birthday is August 8, not January 17 — but he is, in fact, 5’11”.