The Untold Truth Of Tina Fey
Actor and writer Tina Fey has excelled in nearly every entertainment medium. Most people first saw Fey as a longtime member on Saturday Night Live. Among her numerous sketches and performances, she “may have changed the course of American politics with her deadly impersonation of Sarah Palin,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. She transitioned to scripted comedy on TV — first with the beloved 30 Rock and later the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Fey starred in the 2010 comedy Date Night with Steve Carell and joined her real-life friend for two more. Amy Poehler and Fey were together in the films Baby Mama and Sisters, plus multiple runs as co-hosts of the Emmys. She wrote a best-selling memoir called Bossypants about her experiences and continues to find new ways to delight fans of all generations.
When she’s not performing or lending her voice for animated features, Fey is proud of where she came from, despite a frightening experience. Fey’s personal growth is amazing, as well as the inside secrets of the shows that helped make her famous.
What’s your favorite Fey character from SNL? And what do you think she’ll create next? No improv needed — it’s time for the untold truth of Tina Fey.
Tina Fey's roots are strong
Throughout her career, Tina Fey has been near the biggest cities in the United States. She’s lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, and before that? She grew up near Philadelphia. Originally from the suburb of Upper Darby, Fey often finds ways to show her hometown pride. For instance, she partially used her experiences at Upper Darby High School to help write the script for Mean Girls. “I definitely looked back on the way I behaved. The way I saw others behave,” she told a local NBC affiliate about the creative process. When she was on SNL, one of her characters was a woman with a Philadelphia accent. She tried to teach the unique way of talking to her castmate Jimmy Fallon with little success. “He didn’t get it,” Fey recalled. But his attempts along with her accurate portrayal always drew laughs from the audience.
With all her success, Philly loves her right back. When Gritty, the hockey mascot for the Philadelphia Flyers, posed as famous people from Philadelphia for an Instagram photoshoot, the orange mascot paid homage to Fey’s Bossypants book cover. “This is the best thing that’s ever happened,” Fey said about the recognition from Gritty.
She also used 30 Rock to make a sly reference to Philadelphia. In the series, a recurring mention is a cable company based in Philadelphia called Kabletown—not unlike Comcast, the communication giant based in the City of Brotherly Love, via The Philadelphia Inquirer.
How did Tina Fey come up with the idea for Mean Girls?
Tina Fey was doing well for herself starring in 30 Rock. Despite her writing credits on the series and previously on SNL — she was still unproven in film. Fey drafted her first movie about the gossip and drama of high school students, called Mean Girls. The movie was “partly based on a sociology book that came out — Queen Bees and Wannabes. It was a book for parents and for young girls to figure out kind of relational aggression,” she told Philadelphia’s NBC station.
Fey found her match with Sherry Lansing, who at the time was the head of Paramount Pictures. The former actor-turned-executive took a hands-off approach to Fey’s first script, which the comedian was grateful for. “She never took that screenplay away and said, ‘Now let’s give a two-week pass to some guys that we’ll pay $500,000 to fix it,'” Fey told The Hollywood Reporter. “She just let me keep plugging at it,” Fey added. Mean Girls launched the careers of several actors and became a cult classic.
More than a decade later, Fey reprised the premise and created a Broadway musical of the same name. The show was a hit and with it came another movie deal. In 2020, Fey announced a motion picture based on the Mean Girls musical. “I’ve spent sixteen years with these characters now. They are my Marvel Universe and I love them dearly,” she said in a statement, via Variety.
Inside the life of Tina Fey as a kid
As a kid growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Tina Fey spent a lot of time in front of the television. In an interview for The A.V. Club, she considered her younger self as a “TV junkie” who watched a lot of the series The Honeymooners. This was partly because she wasn’t allowed to watch The Flintstones — her dad felt it was a “rip-off of The Honeymooners.”
Fey’s love for comedy started in middle school. For an “independent study” project, she decided to research comedians. Except according to Fey, the only information she could find in her local library was called Joe Franklin’s Encyclopedia of Comedians. The actor remembered this compendium only contained comedians up until the 1950s, “so I read up on guys like Joe E. Brown.”
Outside of school Fey stayed active with her father. He showed his daughter culture with regular visits to “art museums and historical sites,” Fey remembered to The Philadelphia Inquirer. She also remembered her dad teaching her how to throw a baseball. Fey recalled he told her, “If you throw like a girl again, we’re going in.” But she made sure to clarify, “I took it in the spirit it was intended.”
Comedy called to Tina Fey
In high school and then college, Tina Fey discovered her passion: comedy writing. After graduating college in 1992, she knew she only wanted to go to Chicago. While in the Windy City, Fey joined Second City. This sketch comedy group is one of the most famous in the US and boasts an incredible alumni list: According to the theater’s website, some of the past members include the Belushi Brothers, Steve Carell, and late-night host Stephen Colbert. She said the group was the perfect experience “because I was creating my own material and then performing it,” she told The A.V. Club. “I took a class there for a couple of years, then I toured for a little less than a year, and then I was on the main stage there for about a year and half before moving to SNL in ’97,” she remembered. But before moving to the East coast, she tried her hand at stand-up comedy.
Fey admitted to trying a few open-mic nights in Chicago. “More like coffeehouses than actual comedy clubs” she confessed. “But I really admire stand-up, and I think I would have loved to learn how to do it. I think it’s terrifying and thrilling. A really cool thing to do,” she said. And to help fund her comedic lifestyle, she worked a side job at the YMCA. In an interview for Oprah, Fey remembered her job as an “early-morning receptionist” at the youth organization.
Who is Tina Fey's husband?
While building her comedic writing and acting skills in Chicago, something unexpected came along: Tina Fey met her future husband, Jeff Richmond. The composer and producer was also involved in Second City at the same time as Fey, and the two clicked and started dating. In an interview for Vanity Fair, the couple remembered visiting the world-class museums in the city together. And on the opposite spectrum, almost visiting strip clubs. Richmond said in the ’90s, “When we were first dating, some of the guys at Second City said, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be a hoot if we go over”‘ to a strip club called the Doll House. Fey recalled she quickly shot down the idea for her boyfriend and other performers to “go to this strip club ironically.”
The two both left Second City and worked on Saturday Night Live. Fey as the writer and performer, Richmond as the music director — but not at the same time at first. As Thrillist noted, Fey landed her SNL role in 1997 but Richmond remained in Chicago. Then in 2001, Richmond earned his place on the comedy series. The two dated for seven years before getting married that same year, in 2001.
Alec Baldwin claimed that Fey referred to Richmond as “travel-size,” referencing the fact that she’s the taller one in the couple. And in the Vanity Fair interview, Richmond referred to himself as “‘the Joe Biden of husbands’ because he’s prone to ‘drop the bomb’ in interviews.”
The fashionable side of Saturday Night Live
While working on Saturday Night Live, Tina Fey became close with her castmates, especially Amy Poehler, who she knew from The Second City Touring Company. But she also spent time with the crew members off-screen, like in the costume department. She told Vogue that thanks to her costume designer friends, she started becoming more interested in proportions and styling. Tom Broecker, one of the designers, also helped Fey with styling her red-carpet looks. “She has subtly changed what women look like on a weird level: the acceptance of the dark-haired girl, the acceptance of the sexy librarian, the girl with the glasses who’s smart but can be pretty,” he said about the actor.
While Fey is known for her classy outfits at award shows, she also knows a thing or two about casual wear. Especially denim. As she recalled to Vogue, one day, she went to buy a pair of jeans but didn’t realize until she tried them on later how high the fit was. After sharing the ridiculous fit and “enormous rise” with co-star Maya Rudolph, the two actors “started singing a little Mom Jeans song.” The two helped create the “Mom Jeans” sketch on SNL and added an entry into the fashion lexicon. “To coin a phrase is something special. To name a fashion faux pas so that others may avoid it? That’s God’s work,” Fey said. And like many things fashion, what Fey once considered a joke turned into a high-waisted jean trend years later.
Tina Fey is more than a jokester
When she’s taking a break from making fans laugh and smile, Tina Fey is helping improve people’s lives through charitable work. After her father, Donald Fey, died, Tina and her brother started a scholarship at her father’s alma mater, Temple University, which is also close to her hometown of Upper Darby. Celebs, like her friend Jimmy Fallon, donated to the cause. The scholarship was “for returning vets,” in social media and communication studies she told Temple. According to the university, the scholarship was available for “military veterans that demonstrate financial need.”
In 2020, Tina hosted a fundraiser for COVID-19 relief in New York City, via NBC New York. At the end of the night, Tina had the honors to reveal the total. Learning live that the combined donations accounted for over $115 million brought the actor to tears. “It was incredible,” she remembered of the moment on Today. “People came through in an incredible way last night.”
Tina Fey is paving the way for powerful women
Tina Fey has empowered women through multiple means. She was the “first female head writer on Saturday Night Live,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Her movie Mean Girls, while of course providing laughs, took a deeper look at the relationships between women. Fey went even more in depth in her memoir Bossypants. The book was a mix of comedy and her real life experience as a famous woman. “Fey speaks for a generation of college-educated women who faced less sex discrimination than their mothers when they started working but grew frustrated as they began families and choices got harder,” The Washington Post noted in a review of the book.
Fey explained to Variety that “Women are always asking themselves, ‘Should I act or am I just a writer?'” The actor added, “But I’m sure Ray Romano and Jerry Seinfeld aren’t questioning themselves.” Instead, she looks to other comedic women for inspiration. Fey revealed that her role model is Catherine O’Hara, the Canadian actor and Emmy-winning Schitt’s Creek star. Fey also appeared on stage at an event called “Power of Women” to explain the importance of women supporting other women. And she made sure to mention how her career path came as a result from similar help. “The community of women that I work with have always inspired me to do better,” Fey explained, according to Variety. “To be the best I can be, if not better.”
Tina Fey reveals a horrific childhood incident
Tina Fey grew up with her parents in a very typical suburban setting. And yet, when she was just five years old, the little girl faced a terrifying experience. While Fey was outside, a stranger attacked her with a knife across her face, leaving a scar on the left side of her cheek. Even as she grew older, a faint trace of the scar remains. “It was in, like, the front yard of her house, and somebody who just came up, and she just thought somebody marked her with a pen,” Fey’s husband, Jeff Richmond, told Vanity Fair. According to him, he thinks the incident helped shape Fey’s approach to life and comedy. After such an event, he believes “your comedy comes out in a different kind of way, and it also makes you feel for people.”
She revealed that even with a permanent mark, she grew up as a confident young girl. Fey told Vanity Fair that she was “kind of able to forget about it,” but that changed once she was on TV. She remembered at that point in her career, the discussion moved to, “I guess we should use this side’ or whatever. Everybody’s got a better side.” As time passes, Fey said she generally likes to avoid talking about the subject and would rather keep the childhood experience private. According to the comedian, “It’s impossible to talk about it without somehow seemingly exploiting it and glorifying it.”
Behind the 'very pilot-y' 30 Rock pilot
Despite a questionable pilot episode, Tina Fey’s comedy series 30 Rock went on to become one of the most beloved shows of its era. Thanks to fast-paced jokes and writing, this show-within-a-show picked up several Emmys during its run. But the series’ rough start can be attributed to several missteps. Fey originally called her friend and SNL castmate Rachel Dratch to appear in the series, but Fey decided to replace her in the series and use Jane Krakowski. Fey told The A.V. Club that she didn’t think of the decision as, “You had to replace your friend.” The 30 Rock creator simply said, “We made adjustments to a pilot.” Dratch told ABC that Fey wrote the role of Jenna specifically for her. “Then I got a call that I was being replaced,” she said. Dratch didn’t think it would be so bad, until she couldn’t find any opportunities after her SNL career. “Nothing was coming up for a really long time,” the actor remembered.
The pilot that eventually aired still was far from perfect. Fey admitted to Variety why she thought the pilot episode poorly performed. “There were things that were very pilot-y in there,” the writer said. “That one you write by yourself, but then you get the luxury of working with all these other great writers,” she added. Among these great writers was a young Donald Glover who was a part of the team before he moved on to other projects in entertainment.
Extreme makeover, Tina Fey edition
It was a dream come true for Tina Fey to earn her spot on the team at Saturday Night Live. And yet, she still wasn’t fulfilled. The comedian admitted that at the time, she was unhappy with her physical appearance. When she joined the series, she would often stay backstage. According to Vanity Fair, Fey “wore a ski hat, and gained weight writing sharp, funny jokes and eating junk food.” Adam McKay, the director and former head writer at SNL, remembered a story Fey told him about these early days. “Steve Martin walked right past her at the coffee table,” he recounted to the magazine.
Fey remembered the last straw was watching herself in a skit on a studio monitor. “I was starting to look unhealthy,” she confessed. “I looked like a behemoth, a little bit.” She set a goal to become what she referred to as “PBS pretty,” that is, “pretty for a smart writer.” After Fey joined Weight Watchers and lost 30 pounds, she picked up newfound confidence and an appreciation for her figure. “Because of the Greek-girl thing, I have, like, boobs and butt,” she explained.
After her “makeover,” other castmates took notice. According to McKay, Martin stopped this time when walking by Fey and asked, “Well, hel-looo — who are you?”
How much is Tina Fey worth?
During her time on Saturday Night Live, Tina Fey became one of the all-time legendary members of the long-running series. She successfully used her talents in TV, movies, and writing for years following. Fey continued to find ways to use her gift, like when she branched out to voice acting in Megamind and as soul number 22 in Pixar’s 2020 film Soul. With all her entertainment credits and various hosting roles, the multi-talented Fey has more than earned her big checks. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Fey was worth an estimated $75 million in 2020.
With all this money, Fey and her husband have used some of the funds for comfortable living arrangements. As Celebrity Net Worth noted, the couple purchased an apartment in New York City in 2005, which was towards the end of her career on SNL. The following year, when Fey transitioned from live sketch comedy to writing and acting on 30 Rock, the Feys expanded. She and her husband bought a nearby condo in New York for a reported $550,000, “which Tina uses as an office.”
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