What I Learned from Tina Fey

Tina Fey is my lady heroine and I don’t mean I want to smoke her and listen to jazz. I recently got to attend a Q&A with Tina Fey at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, talking about her new book, Bossypants, and discussing her creative processes. She’s an amazing lady—funny, smart, and she’s not afraid to be a nerd. Between her talk and her new book, I’ve learned a few things.

A writer is a writer. During her Q&A, the moderator asked her what it’s like working with mostly male writers at SNL and then 30 Rock. Her response, “Have you seen male comedy writers? They’re not strong,” made me laugh out loud, because it’s true (ahem, I am married to one.). The lesson? Don’t be intimated by other writers. Even if they’re dudes.

Negative comments about you are only fodder for comedy. Fey dedicates a whole chapter of her book called “Dear Internet” to writing back to commenters online who called her an ugly troll, said she wasn’t funny, or made fun of her scar. She “writes” back to them in with such wit and humor, it totally disarms these negative comments. I love it. So often, there are crazy negative comments online from Facebook, blogs, Twitter, it can make you sick. But by making fun of it, it makes it more hilarious.

Make statements. She has a great section in her book about using what she learned in improv comedy and using it in real life. For instance, Make Statements in improv are when you speak in statements rather than apologetic questions. She writes, “Make statements, with your actions and your voice.” So instead of saying, I think I’m a writer?”, say “I am a writer.” Get it?

Lastly, when having a bad day, watch some 30 Rock. Tina didn’t say this, but this is exactly what I do. Whether I’m feeling ill or just need a pick-me-up, I throw on my DVD set of any season of 30 Rock, and hit Play All. Bad day, be gone.

If you haven’t picked up a copy of Bossypants yet, go now!

8 Comments on “What I Learned from Tina Fey

  1. Yes! I love your solution to fixing a bad day. On another note, I have had to learn how to speak in declarative sentences over the past year. When we answer a question with a question in our voices, our professors almost always say, “Are you asking me or telling me? I’m the only one asking questions here, Ms. So and So.” It’s good advice.

  2. Great post and, yes, Tina Fey was amazing at that Q & A. However, I’m not sure I like her shattering the stereotype of muscular, macho comedy writers.

    • Ah! You’re both crackin me up! Now I’m thinking about all the guy writers I’ve sat with & wondering if the quantity of their muscle & machismo is related to the mass of their funny bone… Yep, afraid so. Lucky for them they’ve got those Peter Parker superpowers to get them through.

      Looking forward to Tina’s book. Thx, Jen!

      • Hi Kirstie! I just finished reading her book and it is just as funny as it started. It’s a great realistic peek into a writer’s room so you should enjoy that!

  3. Great stuff Jen! I was lucky enough to attend her “Conversation with Steve Martin” thing last week. Steve read some “Dear Internet” passages and even though I’ve read ’em a dozen times, I cried laughing.

    Also, I must say that going from a writing staff of 3 girls and 1 guy to 5 guys and 1 girl…there’s definitely a difference 😛 One thing I notice some male writers do (BHay excluded!) is when writing for a girl, they write for a girl. They think “what would a girl do in this situation” versus “what would a funny person do in this situation,” which results in female characters that aren’t as funny as they could be.

    Another difference: our male-dominated writers room always smells like Thai food. Doesn’t matter what we eat.

    • Kristine! Thanks so much for chiming in. What a good point. Funny is funny, despite gender, and writers should write the best jokes, not “girl” jokes. Though I can’t explain the Thai-food smell. Maybe they’re making sun tea? I just finished the chapter in BOSSYPANTS about what guys leave in jars around the writer’s room. So that’s all I can add.

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