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7 Questions with Tina Fey

It’s hard to argue with the statement that everything Tina Fey touches turns to comedy gold. You don’t become the first female head writer at SNL after just two years on staff by writing bad jokes. You could safely call her a genius and few people would protest.

Her most recent contribution to popular culture is 30 Rock – a show loosely based on her days at SNL – and if you haven’t seen it, get thee to a the DVD store and rent season one. It’s irreverent, self-effacing, wickedly intelligent and filled with jokes that hit with all the subtly of a 2x4.

We caught up with Fey in Los Angeles to chat about her success.

Zimbio: You're playing a writer on a show that you write as well as star in, so will you be writing about the writer's strike at all now that it's over?
Tina Fey: We are not. We decided that the strike did not happen in our world because we sort of felt like for people viewing at home, the real strike was a big enough pain and that they probably didn’t really want to hear anymore about [it]. Before there was ever a strike, we had had sort of a writers’ strike story that we may just save for later down the road because it didn’t have anything to do with the actual strike.

Below are some sample 30 Rock highlights.

Zimbio: What other shows or writers do you take inspiration from?
Tina Fey: I mean, The Larry Sanders Show was just one of the greatest TV shows ever, especially in terms of being about a similar topic to this show. I’m a big fan of The Office, both the British and the American versions. I grew up on a lot of classic TV too: Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett Show, all that kind of stuff. I’m trying to think if there’s anybody I’m forgetting. I really like Christopher Guest movies.

Zimbio: 30 Rock has had some awesome guest stars. Is there anyone you're still gunning for?
Tina Fey: I still want Oprah to play my best friend. I want to spend time with Oprah and I don’t know what I need to do to make that happen. So far we’ve been super lucky... it was an amazing honor to work with Tim Conway. So things like that that are just people you idolized growing up, be it Paul Reubens or Tim Conway or Isabella Rosellini. We’ve just had a lot of luck so far. So just Oprah, really.

Zimbio: How about some hunk to play a new love interest for Liz?
Tina Fey: It’s funny because those are, for me, my least favorite stories to do and so there’s a certain contingency in our writers’ room. They’re always pitching them and I’m always saying, "No. No more love stories." So I don’t know what will be on the horizon for Liz. You know who would be good? Peter Dinklage. That would be good. That guy is awesome. Let me go in there and say we need to start working on that.

Zimbio: What about a cameo from your SNL boss Lorne Michaels?
Tina Fey: He would be good as a Rupert Murdoch type. He won’t be able to play himself because we realized if we use anyone from SNL as themselves, then our world kind of collapses because who is Tracy? I think even like referencing that Eddie Murphy exists is maybe the closest we can get to even acknowledging that Saturday Night Live exists. So if you see Lorne, he’ll be doing one of his world famous characters in a funny mustache and glasses.

Zimbio: You're on the cover of Vanity Fair and have sort of become the ultimate funny woman. Do you feel any pressure about that, and would that storyline make it into the show?
Tina Fey: No, it won’t be on the show because Liz Lemon is wholly a behind the scenes person. Liz Lemon never gets her hair done. I think the great thing about that Vanity Fair article was that it was talking about how many women are in comedy now. I mean, there are so many more women obviously than even [the ones] that are included in that article. I think that the thing that’s a nice change is, because there are more women doing it and succeeding in comedy, then it doesn’t put that individual pressure on anyone to be like the face of ladies in comedy.

Zimbio: You're also famous for wearing glasses. How many pair do you own?
Tina Fey: At home I probably have four or five that I can never find. Sometimes I bring ones home from the set and half of the ones on the set have prescription in them and half of them don’t because they’re just props that we only need sometimes. Especially at SNL, I really needed them to read cue cards and that’s not a thing over here, obviously. So I went and got an eye exam the other day and tested my glasses and he said, "You know these are props, right, that there’s no prescription?" I had been wearing them around thinking that they were helping my vision.

Q&A by Fred Topel
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