Given that Tina Fey has conquered television—first on Saturday Night Live, then with 30 Rock —and continues to make slow but steady headway on the big screen as well (the Tina trifecta consists of Mean Girls, Baby Mama and Date Night), it was only a matter of time before she decided to stake her claim in the print world as well. On the occasion of Fey’s Bossypants hitting the shelves, we take a look back at 10 moments that helped her earn that multimillion-dollar book deal in the first place.
1. Saturday Night Live: “Weekend Update” (2000-06): Although Fey joined the SNL writing staff in 1997, it took a few seasons before she finally found her way to the anchor desk. Once there, however, she spent six years sparring with co-anchors Jimmy Fallon (2000–04) and Amy Poehler (2004–06). Trying to pick Fey’s finest moment from this era would be a fool’s errand, but we do remain partial to her one-liner on the Brad Pitt/Jennifer Aniston breakup: “If these two are tired of having sex with each other, what hope is there for the rest of us?”
2. Mean Girls (2004): After spending several years as the co-anchor of “Weekend Update,” Fey stepped out on Saturday Night Live to write the script for a teen comedy so funny that even all of the subsequent shenanigans by Lindsay Lohan haven’t tarnished its reputation. In addition to her screenwriting duties, Fey also took on the role of math teacher Ms. Norbury, who, like most of her students at North Shore High School, has her reputation sullied by a “Burn Book” filled with secrets, rumors, and gossip.
3. 30 Rock: “The Break-Up” (Episode 1.8, airdate Dec. 14, 2006): If there’s one constant in the life of Liz Lemon (Fey), head writer for TGS with Tracy Jordan, it’s her utter inability to find a decent boyfriend. After calling it quits with ever-undependable Dennis Duffy (you may remember him as the Beeper King), Liz meets Jenna (Jane Krakowski) for drinks, where she reveals both skepticism toward guys in bars and a profound love for fried cheese.
4. 30 Rock: “Succession” (Episode 2.13, airdate April 24, 2008): Liz Lemon generally seems to be more or less content with her rung on the ladder of success, but when her boss, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), passes her a slip of paper containing the salary for her proposed new position, the idea of “going corporate” literally makes Liz slap-happy.
5. Saturday Night Live: The Sarah Palin Years (2008–10): One can only imagine the glee in the SNL writers’ room when it was discovered that the Republican Party’s 2008 nominee for vice president looked almost identical to someone already on their speed dial. Fey’s exhaustion from playing Palin on Saturday nights while also holding down her day job at 30 Rock may have risen to the surface on occasion (backstage at the 2008 Emmy Awards, she quipped, "If anybody can help me be done playing this lady Nov. 5, that would be good for me”), but impressions of political figures don’t get much more spot-on than this.
6. 30 Rock: “Reunion” (Episode 3.5, airdate Dec. 4, 2008): When travel tribulations result in Jack accompanying Liz to her high school reunion, he bears witness as she’s repeatedly told how horrible she used to be. When Jack attempts to diagnose the situation, however, Liz goes on the attack, giving viewers the chance to see just how deliciously despicable she can be.
7. 30 Rock: “"Dealbreakers Talk Show #0001" (Episode 4.7, airdate Dec. 3, 2009): The runaway success of a throwaway line from a TGS sketch (“That's a Dealbreaker, ladies!”) earns Liz a chance at her own talk show, but when she steps in front of the camera, it doesn’t take long to confirm that she should’ve stayed behind it.
8. Date Night (2010): Fey teamed with fellow NBC sitcom star Steve Carell to play a married couple whose romantic evening turns into more of an adventure than they ever bargained for. Although not necessarily a classic, Fey and Carell shine here as they surreptitiously attempt to obtain a phone number from an upscale restaurant.
9. Saturday Night Live , “Teaching Justin Bieber” (Episode 35.18, airdate April 10, 2010): Setting aside the inevitable Sarah Palin impression, the highlight of Fey’s 2010 SNL hosting gig came courtesy of her role as a teacher who falls victim to an age-inappropriate attack of Bieber fever.
10. 30 Rock: “Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning" (Episode 5.11, airdate Jan. 27, 2011): After a poor fashion decision by Liz finds her accidentally married to Jack, the far-from-happy couple are forced to deal with the Human Resources repercussions of their accidental nuptials. What the resulting discussion reveals about their relationship is that they might as well have already been married.
Will Harris is a staff writer with Popdose.com, as well as a regular contributor to The Virginian-Pilot, in Norfolk, Va., and an associate editor for the web magazine Bullz-Eye.com. He loves his wife, cherishes his daughter and now accepts PayPal.