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Friday 15 December 2017

Rock Goddess

Thanks to 30 Rock, Tina Fey has been dubbed Queen of Comedy. The Date Night star tells Paul Byrne she’s now taking on the multiplex crowd

There aren't many funny girls who can bag the cover of both Vanity Fair and Vogue, especially one who declares herself to be "enormously plain". Such modesty though is, perhaps, the key to Tina Fey's success. Even if it is a claim that has more than a grain of truth.

She may scrub up darn well -- as those glossy magazine cover shoots prove -- but the strength of Tina Fey's comedy lies largely in the simple fact that she can be enormously plain, the proverbial everywoman. If, that is, everywoman likes to hang out in their pyjamas most evenings, watching bad TV and eating really unhealthy snacks straight from the family-size pack.

"There's a whole army of women out there who just don't have the time, the energy nor the DNA to be fabulous 24 hours a day," smiles Fey, "and that's where I dwell. I talk for all those single women out there who just aren't interested any more in dolling themselves up for four hours in the hope of meeting Mr All Right as the lights go up at four o'clock in the morning in some ridiculously expensive nightclub. I have better things to do; like sit on the couch in my pyjamas, watching bad TV and eating those big cheesy snacks."

The place you can regularly catch Tina Fey indulging in a magical evening of pillows, Pauly Shore movies and cheesy puffs is 30 Rock, arguably TV's finest sitcom to deal with behind the scenes of a fictional TV show -- since The Larry Sanders Show, that is.

"Yeah, I think I could live with that," laughs Fey. "I think everyone in TV comedy would happily bow to The Larry Sanders Show, as it was just about the most perfect piece of television comedy. It was certainly a big influence on me when it came to 30 Rock."

Just as Larry Sanders creator Garry Shandling used his years as a burgeoning chat show host (standing in occasionally for his mentor and idol Johnny Carson on The Late Show) for inspiration, Fey used her time as a Saturday Night Live regular as the foundation for 30 Rock and its show-within-a-show entitled The Girly Show. Or, to be more precise, TGS With Tracy Jordan, as it quickly became in its opening season, thanks to the arrival of the eponymous special guest movie star. A fallen -- and quite possibly flipped -- movie star.

A little bit Eddie Murphy, a little bit Martin Lawrence, and a whole lot of crazy, the character of Tracy Jordan wouldn't exist without the man who plays him, Tracy Morgan, one of Fey's fellow former SNL players.

"Tracy's very special," nods Fey. "He's unique, he's unpredictable, he's dedicated, he's smart, and he's very, very funny. I know 30 Rock would be a very different show without him. Indeed, any show that Tracy appears on -- breakfast TV, chat show, whatever -- would be very different without him."

They'd be normal.

"Exactly."

Despite her rapid rise over the past three years, Tina Fey has remained determined to have as normal a life as possible away from the lights. Living in Manhattan's Upper West Side with 49-year-old hubby Jeff Richmond and their four-year-old daughter Alice, Fey is a reluctant red carpet jockey.

"I just don't have the time," she shrugs, "or the inclination. By the time I've done my work on 30 Rock and had all that quality time with Jeff and Alice, I can barely find the time to do anything else. Including sleep.

"I am aware though of this golden opportunity I have right now to work with some great people and, hopefully, make some people laugh."

Fey's latest attempt is Date Night, a smart movie that's part Mr & Mrs Smith, part Dumb & Dumber. Fey and Steve Carell star as a married couple who, fearing the spark has gone out of their relationship, decide to get the babysitter in and treat themselves to a night in the big city. Where, after some good old-fashioned mistaken identity, they soon find themselves being chased by a pair of crooked cops. With big guns. It's After Hours with lots of laughs.

Having shared the Vanity Fair cover with fellow funny girls Amy Poehler and Sarah Silverman in March 2008, Fey's move to lone cover girl in January of last year signalled that this girl was now ready for her close-up. It came with the big screen outing Baby Mama - Fey starring as a professional singleton who unwisely tries the surrogate mother route with Poehler's white-trash nightmare.

Thankfully, Date Night boasts the kind of comic spark that was surprisingly lacking in Fey's previous big screen starring role.

"I certainly feel there's a pressure to deliver now when it comes to the big screen," she says. "I've got this chance to work with the big boys, and I feel that the general consensus might be, okay, I've done okay on the small screen, now all I have to do is convince the multiplex crowd.

"The great thing is, I'm not desperate to win anyone over," finishes Fey, "because I know I've got a wonderful man, a wonderful daughter, a comfy couch and that's about all I need in life." HQ

30 Rock is on TV3/Date Night hits Irish cinemas April 21st

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