Guest Blogger: Darryl and Tuezdae Littleton, authors of Comediennes: Laugh Be a Lady, contribute a little something for Tina Fey’s 43rd birthday today.
Despite SNL’s imperfections over the years, the show’s output of talent can’t be denied and no comedienne has been more impressive than Tina Fey. By sheer accomplishments and accolades alone she’s in a class all by herself – female or male. An alumni of Chicago’s Second City, the writer / actress / producer / author has managed, in a career spanning a mere 17 years, to amass 7 Emmys, 4 Screen Actor Guild, 3 Golden Globes and 4 Writer Guild of America Awards. Fey’s film, Mean Girls had a worldwide box office take of 129 million dollars. Baby Mama made 64 million and Megamind pulled down 321 million worldwide.
Her comedy virginity was broken by old Marx Brothers movies and Honeymooner episodes. Her father forbade the viewing of The Flintstones since he deemed them a Honeymooners rip-off. However, she was allowed to watch Second City TV and adopt Catherine O’Hara as the woman she wanted to be one day.
During middle school she did a project on the subject of comedy. Then Tina went to work on learning her chosen craft by studying playwriting and acting in college earning a degree in drama; next stop – Second City and total immersion in the religion of improvisation. She took a stab at stand-up, but realized her strength lied in improvisation.
Besides, being quick on her feet and a nimble wit, Fey was also a writer with a wicked pen. In 1997 she got her SNL gig by submitting scripts, which got the attention of then head writer Adam McKay, who suggested her for a paid writing slot. She took personal improvement to the next level and lost 30 pounds to make her physical package more TV friendly after seeing herself on camera. Following that version of scaling back she got approached to do a lot more sketches.
In 2000 she got the coveted co-anchor position on SNL’s ‘Weekend Update” along with Jimmy Fallon. Fey was now not only the first female head writer for the show, but according to alumni, Dennis Miller – the funniest “anchor” to ever sit at the Weekend Update desk.
30 Rock had already been green-lit be NBC by the time Fey left SNL at the end of the 2006 season. It had actually been a rejected pilot idea she presented in 2002 to a cable affiliate of NBC’s. In 2003 she signed a renewal contract for SNL that also allowed her to develop a sitcom. As soon as she left in 2006 30 Rock made its premiere in October of that year and ranked very poorly. Regardless, NBC stuck with it and the show became a critical darling if not a ratings blockbuster. Fey and the show won so many awards that you forgot there were other nominees.
On top of all the industry recognition Fey became a cultural phenomenon. Between September 2008 and March 2011 she impersonated Sarah Palin a half dozen times, with the September 13th maiden voyage holding the distinction of going viral to the tune of 5.7 million hits (a SNL record), and the October 18, 2008 sketch where Fey meets the real Sarah Palin being the highest rated program since 1994. Fey’s debut as a screenwriter (Mean Girls) grossed 129 million worldwide and her follow-up, Baby Mama made 64 million at the box office. She’s been ranked as hot and beautiful by Maxim and People magazines respectively and voted one of the 50 most powerful women by the New York Post. And did we forget to mention that in 2011 Tina Fey was Forbes magazine’s highest paid TV actress.
Well, not every comedienne is going to be a Tina Fey, but she’s a yardstick; something to aspire to be and she’s just hitting stride.
It wasn’t until the 10th century that women were allowed to perform, and then only in rare incidences. Like many art forms, female comedy got its start in the church and expanded to stage, radio, film, and television. For the longest time, it has been believed that women aren’t funny. The stories within these pages will not only debunk that myth but will make you wonder how it ever got started in the first place. Women of all races have not only taken center stage in comedy, but in many cases, have dominated it.
This book thoroughly explores the genre. Comediennes: Laugh Be a Lady chronicles the evolution of the humor through the research of Darryl and Tuezdae Littleton and the scores of interviews they conducted with veteran female performers from all mediums, as well as Tuezdae’s own experiences as a comedienne. Startling facts are revealed and tributes are paid to the icons of yesteryear by the titans of today in their own words and sentiments.
Women have always made us laugh, from their outrageous characters, pratfall humor, cutting barbs, clever wit and unforgettable side-splitting moments. Their “herstory” has only just begun.