As part of our Tribute Series, FF2 Media celebrates the work of female filmmakers. Be sure to click on the film titles for full reviews & see where you can stream on JustWatch.com.
Tina Fey is one of the most down-to-earth but hugely successful and hardworking comedy writers and actors in television. As an actress, writer, producer, and playwright, her smart, humorous scripts and acting appearances have received recognition in the form of 49 wins, 131 nominations, and a solid fan base.
The highly acclaimed comedian-writer started her career in improvisational comedy in Chicago where she took classes at The Second City in Chicago. She worked as a writer for Saturday Night Live and fought her way through the male-dominated comedy industry, becoming the first female lead writer at SNL in 1999. As the head writer, she led the creation of 127 episodes.
She appears on David Letterman’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, and if you have Netflix, it’s definitely worth a watch! Tina Fey shares about her experiences on SNL, how she was always careful about how she created comedy out of current politics so as to be both funny, but also stay truthful to herself. She also talks about how she met her husband in Chicago, and about her father being a “real Renaissance man” who painted, wrote poetry, served in Korea, and was a fireman. After his passing, Fey, her mother and her brother set up a scholarship at Temple University where he had studied previously.
In 2004, she wrote the screenplay for Mean Girls based on Rosalind Wiseman’s book, “Queen Bees and Wannabees” (The film had an original budget of $17 million and managed to reach box office numbers of $130 million). Back in middle school and high school, this was a go-to movie during any sort of girls’ night in or end-of-year celebrations—I’m fairly sure all of my friends not only know the movie, but have watched it multiple times. There is something about the way that Fey has written the dialogue that feels true to each age group. The teenagers converse among themselves in a way that delivers both their personalities and their culture. The way that the adults in a high school awkwardly navigate amidst this youth culture is also shown very clearly in the writing. Fey stars as the likable mathematics teacher “Ms. Norbury”. She seems like the most “normal” character and she would be the character through which adults experience this movie. It’s encouraging to see how she is able to play relatable and intellectual characters throughout her career.
She then went on to create 30 Rock. She is most easily remembered for her performance as the network producer “Liz Lemon”, which was nominated or awarded for Best Performance in a Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes every year between 2008 and 2013. For her, this show was a reflection of her work life at the time.
In 2010, Fey received the Mark Twain prize for comedy in D.C. She is the third woman to have received this award after Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg. When asked about women in comedy, she explains how important it is to have women in the writers’ room—because this is the only way that women’s jokes will get approved to go on the screen. She explains that it is not through ill intent that men reject women’s jokes; it’s more that they may not understand why a joke about, for example, a tampon is funny.
The year after the Mark Twain prize, Tina Fey wrote a fantastic biographical book, “Bossypants.” I listened to the audiobook and remember laughing a lot throughout. The book was on the bestseller list for a very long time. Since its release in 2014, it sold more than 2.5 million copies, and the audiobook sold 150,000 copies. Her performance as the narrator was even nominated for a Grammy.
Among many other films, she starred in Baby Mama, The Invention of Lying, and Date Night. In 2013, she portrayed an admissions officer at Princeton in the romantic comedy feature, Admission, with Paul Rudd. She also acted in This is Where I Leave You in 2014, and Sisters in 2015, which was another collaboration with Amy Poehler, as was their 2019 film Wine Country.
Even though she has already proven her success in the film, television, and book-writing, in 2017 she decided to revisit the world of theater by writing an adaptation of Mean Girls for Broadway.
Nowadays, many will probably know Fey for her work as the creator of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a Netflix show that premiered in 2015 and is running its fifth season in 2020. During the same year, she voiced the character “22” in Soul, an animation about a music teacher who dreams about performing jazz on stage. The film is slated to release at the end of 2020.
Tina Fey is an inspiring professional woman to many because of her perseverance and her endless hard work, which results in so many creative outputs. Yet, even as she involves herself with so many different projects, she is still able to make it seem like she doesn’t take life too seriously. The way she climbed her way up this industry while poking fun at herself in a friendly way is something to look up to for any woman who wants to work in comedy.
© Katusha Jin (05/15/2020) FF2 Media
Featured Photo: Tina Fey (Credit: ROSALIND O’CONNOR/NBC)
Middle Photo: Tina Fey and Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls
Bottom Photo: Tina Fey
Photo Credits: IMDb, Michael Gibson, Focus Pictures