Tina Fey, or as I refer to her, Queen Tina has to be one of the most influential writers and comedians of our time. As the screenwriter of the 2004 hit film "Mean Girls" and creator of the critically acclaimed and award-winning television comedy "30 Rock" (which has won 14 Emmy's and six Golden Globes), Fey has proven herself to be an auteur of comedy. With that in mind, her unforgettable Sarah Palin impression on "Saturday Night Live" has made her the bankable performer and writer that she is today. A winner of seven Emmy's, two Golden Globes, four Writers Guild of America awards, her success caused a positive ripple effect, shattering the seemingly unbreakable glass that most of her successors were limited by (Weingarten).
As an admirer of her art, Fey remains her own toughest critic. While she commends Steve Carell on his comedic prowess, saying ‘he was everyone’s idol and everyone knew he’d do well’ at the Chicago-based improvisational troupe Second City, where both Fey and Carell got their comedy training, she sells herself short by saying, ‘me doing well was more unexpected. I was chunky with short hair… I’m glad I live in New York, because I think Hollywood would be tough. I mean I go to the awards ceremonies and even though I’m not big, I’ll still be the heaviest person there. But that’s OK. My looks aren’t what I bring to the table’ (Das). Not only does she go through life unaware of how GORGEOUS she is, but she lives with this humbling attitude that drives her to be better. Fey is mostly known for is her sharp wit that transcends itself in comedy and her highly developed work ethic; attributes that she obtained in her formative years.
Born in Philadelphia in Upper Darby, Elizabeth Stamatina Fey was known for her quiet and shy demeanor as a child. She describes herself as 'a sarcastic say-things-under-your-breath kind of kid. I think humor was a defense growing up, especially around the ages of 12 and 13 when I wasn’t the cutest kid in class.’ Her father, Donald Henry Fey, of German descent, 'wrote grant proposals for the University of Pennsylvania' and her Greek mother Zenobia “Jeanne” Fey was a broker. From a very ripe age, Fey and her brother, Peter were immersed into the world of comedy, as they indulged their humble family with entertainment, setting her on her path that she is on today (Das).
Fey’s comedy is such a significant part of her life. She believes that everyon needs ‘some other kind of coping mechanism,' and thinks that 'humour was the way I got around things – that need to joke about yourself and put it out there before anyone else can say it about you. It was definitely a self-protecting device’(The Paley Center for Media) She seizes the power of her flaws before anyone can use that power against her. Those insecurities are shared by her audience, illustrating that comedy, in itself, is an honest portrayal of our own imperfections-- imperfections that show our humanity. With that power in mind, Fey has made herself an icon of truth, and in turn the Queen of Comedy.
Fey is no stranger to traumatic experiences. At the age of five, Fey was playing in the front yard of her family house in Upper Darby when a stranger slashed her across the left side of her face with a knife, leaving her with scar that she still carries around today. Fortunately, she doesn’t allow this incident to define or inhibit her in furthering her career. During her college years at the University of Virginia, Fey was more a hermit than a social butterfly. Instead of attending parties and dating, she ‘would have friends over to play party games like Celebrity’--not unlike myself. Fey grew up to be a woman who furthered her career in comedy with a strong work ethic, grounded personality and deadpan humor (Bio.com).
When Fey joined "Saturday Night Live" in 1997, it was ‘an environment often describes as a frat house in which women are relegated to supporting roles. Tina Fey has risen above crushed beer cans to become one of the comedy stalwart’s most popular players and it’s first female head writer’ (Weingarten). Not only is Fey notorious for her comedy, but in doing so, she has opened doors for other women in the business behind and in front of the camera. With her role as head writer on "Saturday Night Live" (1999-2006), she developed a multiplicity of female characters in procedural sketches such as “Sully and Denise” and satirical parodies of the women from The View, all the while giving female writers more power and opportunity. For instance, when Amy Poehler replaced Jimmy Fallon as co-anchor of the segment “Weekend Update” in 2004, Fey and Poehler became the first all female news anchor team, both in pretend and real news. Furthermore, as head writer of "Saturday Night Live", not only did she enter a male world and kicked ass representing her sex, but made a mark by boosting up the shows ratings, higher than it had ever been in the past decade (Das).
Her iconic and intelligent combination of politics and comedy have put her up there with the best comedians of our time, despite the sexist objections of critics like the undeserving Christopher Hitchens who believes that 'women aren’t funny'. Fey, in her book Bossypants, wrote in response to Hitchens and to all who support his chauvinist argument, ‘It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don't like something, it is empirically not good.’ Even Time magazine editor at large Belinda Luscomb supported Fey and claimed that, ‘There was this myth going around for a while that women couldn't be smart and funny, and she has completely exploded that myth,’ she argues that Fey has “opened the door for dozens of other funny women to step forward.’ In 2010, Fey was awarded the distinguished Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, to which producer of the Twain Prize television program, Peter Kaminsky explains that ‘What Tina has done has come to define humor in our culture today,’ he said to the Washington Post, ‘It’s for a person whose body of work is defining our time’ (Washington Post).
Tina Fey is on this continual path of greatness, no where near her career’s climactic moment. She’s a rising star that has paved the way for her successors. With hard work, she defied the norms and fights against gender stereotypes with her sharp witted jokes such as, ‘What’s the difference between female and male comedy writers? The men urinate in cups. And sometimes jars,’ she observes in Bossypants. No matter what, Fey remains a feminist writer and comedian, who teaches women lessons about perseverance and defying the discriminatory social order. “Do your thing,” she says, ‘and don’t care if they like it. Don’t dwell on the dogma of non-believers like Hitchens… work so hard that even Oprah questions your schedule’(Slate Magazine). You might have people who’ll try and push you off that horse, but you get right back up and prove them wrong. Don’t let anyone keep you from your path. Those are the lessons that Fey teaches admirers such as myself. This woman is my role model, and I believe should be the role model of all women of my generation. I’m here writing this article with the hope that I may one day get the chance to meet her, learn from her and collaborate with her. Here’s to hopin’ and here’s to Queen Tina.