First female head writer for Saturday Night Live
"Tina Fey is an American actress, comedian, writer, and producer. She is best known for her work on the NBC sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live (1997–2006) and for creating the acclaimed comedy series 30 Rock (2006–2013) and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015–present). Fey is also known for her work in film, with her most notable appearances including starring roles in Baby Mama (2008), Date Night (2010), Muppets Most Wanted (2014), Sisters (2015), and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016).
Fey broke into comedy as a featured player in the Chicago-based improvisational comedy group The Second City. She then joined SNL as a writer, later becoming head writer and a performer, known for her position as co-anchor in the Weekend Update segment and, later, for her satirical portrayal of 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in subsequent guest appearances. In 2004, she co-starred in and wrote the screenplay for Mean Girls, which was adapted from the 2002 self-help book Queen Bees and Wannabes. After leaving SNL in 2006, Fey created the television series 30 Rock for Broadway Video, a sitcom loosely based on her experiences at SNL. In the series, Fey starred as Liz Lemon, the head writer of a fictional sketch comedy series. In 2011, she released her memoir, Bossypants, which topped The New York Times Best Seller list for five weeks and garnered her a Grammy Award nomination. In 2015, she co-created the Netflix comedy series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Fey has received nine Primetime Emmy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, five Screen Actors Guild Awards, and four Writers Guild of America Awards. In 2008, the Associated Press gave Fey the AP Entertainer of the Year award for her Sarah Palin impression on SNL. In 2010, Fey was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, becoming the youngest-ever recipient of the award.
Fey is known for her deadpan humor and delivery; her "sardonic wit" has become a trademark of hers, upon which several critics have commented in their reviews of Fey's work. According to Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara, Fey "project[s] both oblivious security and hyper-alert insecurity with the same expression" in her performances, while The Chronicle's Dillon Fernando wrote that the actress specializes in "delectable, situational and ironic comedy". On Fey's comedic prowess, Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels enthused that his former employee "has a very clear take on things ... It always comes from a place of intelligence and there is just an edge to it." Michaels concluded, "It's not fearful. It's strong and confident and you recognise the voice and most of the time you agree with it." Writing for The Guardian, Christopher Goodwin believes that Fey "fashioned her comic persona around her glasses", which she has worn since 1995; Fey joked that "Glasses make anyone look smarter".
Seldom hesitating to use herself as the butt of her own jokes, Fey is also well known for practicing self-deprecating humor, as demonstrated throughout her performance as Liz Lemon in 30 Rock. In an article ranking Fey's six greatest jokes, David Renshaw of The Guardian wrote that the performer's work continues to feature her "trademark mix of snark, self-deprecation and pop-culture smarts." Fey's self-deprecating comedic style inspired Ashley Fetters of The Atlantic to recognize her as comedian Phyllis Diller's successor because of their similar humor. Critics have been divided in their opinions and discussions of Fey's use of self-deprecating humor, and its effect on women as a female comic; while blogger Kate Harding disapproved of Fey's performance in 30 Rock because "I'm torn between being sad that she apparently doesn't see [beauty] in herself and being pissed off that she's reinforcing the idea that having brown hair, glasses, and a figure that's maybe a size 2 instead of a 0 actually equals ugly", Jessica G. of Jezebel defended the actress, writing that Fey's performance is "supposed to be parodying precisely the kinds of media that reinforce ideas that unconventional women are unworthy." Writing that Harding misunderstood Fey's intentions, the author concluded that her self-deprecation "is precisely what makes her relatable", elaborating that "[women] have many moments of self-doubt, and seeing someone as successful as Tina Fey be self-deprecating gives us all permission to be imperfect." Sophie Caldecott of Verily defended Fey's modesty and tendency to downplay her own physical appearance: "She mocks her own appearance, sure, but she does so in a way that consistently shows up our culture for placing so much importance on how women look, as if that’s the most interesting thing about us ... Her comic persona on 30 Rock, Liz Lemon, can be laughed at for many things, but her career managerial style and ability is not one of them." Caldecott concluded, "In reality, self-deprecation is an art that comedians everywhere dabble in ... In fact, I defy you to find a good male comedian who isn’t a master of self-deprecation. Comedians make fun of themselves for many reasons, mostly because it is the most readily accessible source of inspiration but also because it is the most generous one." Observing that Fey's material lacks "whining", Gina Barreca of the Hartford Courant wrote that Fey's comedy "is not simply an iteration of self-deprecating femininity passing itself off as humor. In itself, this demarcates the current generation of female humorists from earlier generations of performers who were told, more or less, to use themselves not as a sounding board for ideas but as a punching bag for insults." Fey has also garnered criticism for being politically incorrect, but she defends her right to write borderline jokes, saying that she has chosen to "opt out" of the culture of demanding apologies.
As an actress, Fey has developed a reputation for portraying "the hilarious, self-deprecating unmarried career woman" in most of her films to-date. The Boston Globe's Janice Paige defended her limited filmography by writing that, unlike most film actors, Fey remains "realistic about her range as a leading lady and says she’s been deliberate about only taking on parts for which she actually seems suited." Fey explained that she approaches each role asking herself, "Would I be plausible in this role, in this job?" However, her role as Kate Ellis in 2015's Sisters provided Fey with an opportunity to stray from playing the type-A female characters for which she has become known. The New York Times film critic A. O. Scott wrote, "We’re used to seeing Ms. Fey ... as an anxious overthinker using her caustic sarcasm as a weapon against both her own insecurities and the flakes and train wrecks who surround her. This time, she gets to be the train wreck." In 30 Rock, Fey's comedic acting was heavily influenced by both physical and improvisational comedy while, as a writer, her "carefully written scripts" were often quirky and character-driven." (1)