“It’s that time of year where we’re in the middle of writing and shooting,” Tina Fey said last week from the set of her show. “It’s pretty much eat, sleep, 30 Rock time.”
The Emmy-winning NBC comedy is now in its fourth season. “Being the new kid on the block is over,” Fey says. “I feel like we have these characters that we know a lot about now. We’ve endowed them with history that you then have to go back and revisit.”
Yes, let’s please revisit: Here, Tina Fey takes us through her 10 favorite moments from 30 Rock.
“That’s one of the first jokes I ever had repeated back to me. It was the first time I remember anyone saying, ‘I like that joke.’ It was a nice turning point. I felt like we were really on TV.”
Ep. 106, “Tracy Does Conan”
LIZ: Why are you wearing a tux?
JACK: It’s after six. What am I, a farmer?
“That’s from the first season, an episode I wrote where Tracy is going on the Conan O’Brien show and he’s off his medication. We’re trying to get him to be normal, and I go to Jack, but he’s not a lot of help. He’s wearing a tux. That’s one of the first jokes I ever had repeated back to me. It was the first time I remember anyone saying, ‘I like that joke.’ It was a nice turning point. I felt like we were really on TV. It was sort of a defining moment for the Jack character in terms of just his elegance and his priorities. His character has gotten a lot more three-dimensional as time’s gone on, and this is him in his ridiculous infancy."
Ep. 204, “Rosemary’s Baby”
LIZ: It was terrible. I went to her apartment. I don’t think she has a toilet. I saw my future, Jack.
JACK: Never go with a hippie to a second location.
“That was written by Jack Burditt, who’s a genius. Carrie Fisher played Rosemary, an idol of Liz’s, [and in this episode] she realizes, ‘Oh, [I hope] my life doesn’t turn out like my idol’s, or I’ll be a crazy, old wino.’ A good portion of this was rewritten late at night in my apartment…This was in Season 2, and a lot of times, the writers were in the writers room all day, and if I was shooting, I’d meet up with the writers at 9 or 10 o’clock in my apartment and we’d write until 2 or 3 in the morning to get things done. It was hard because I was turning around and shooting the next day. But I remember this being a joyful night… there was a lot of laughing that night.”
Ep. 208, “Secrets and Lies”
TRACY: I spent two days making that movie from my home and what did I get? A million dollars, a yellow Bentley and nothing.
“I like every time we get to make up some predicament that Tracy’s character was in. We showed an animated clip that Yvonne, on staff, was able to make—a fake, animated clip done on the super cheap, and the movie was supposedly done with Charles Barkley. The one thing I like is that Tracy has a way—he doesn’t say ‘a million dollars.’ He says, ‘a millah-dallahs,’ which always makes me laugh. Tracy may, at the time, have had a lime green Jaguar. That may have been an inspiration for the yellow Bentley.”
Ep. 208, “Secrets and Lies”
TRACY: Don’t want to disappoint my Japanese public. Especially Godzilla. I’m just kidding. I know he doesn’t care what humans do.
“It’s always nice to blend Tracy Morgan’s love of monster movies with Tracy Jordan’s character. Sometimes we take stuff from his act, but this is just the writers goofing around, doing their thing.”
Ep. 215, “Cooter”
LIZ: Oh, you’re the only person in the world allowed to make sex mistakes?! You had a three-way with Roseanne and Tom Arnold!
JENNA: That was two years ago!
“That’s an old-school joke: Just a jokey joke. There are jokes that come from characters or from situations, and that is just a joke. Like a set-up, punchline joke.”
Ep. 301, “Do-Over”
KENNETH: I think adoption is a wonderful thing. Three of my nine siblings were adopted. And someday I’m gonna find them.
“That has a nice, little sneaky structure that sneaks up on you a little bit. Kenneth is another character, who, if we wrote up all the details of his life, it would probably be pretty tragic. We could have a tragedy-off between him and Tracy and Jenna.”
Ep. 305, “Reunion”
LIZ: How is this even working? You’re 12 years older than everyone here.
JACK: Rich 50 is middle class 38, Lemon.
“This was Matt Hubbard’s script. He won an Emmy for this episode. This was one of the most intact scripts we ever had. Usually, writers turn in a script and everyone tries to add more jokes to it. This script, as Matt wrote it, was the most fully formed one we ever had. I remember one of my notes was, ‘Do we need a joke to justify how Jack is passing in this crowd?’ The writers very quickly sent this joke back up.”
Ep. 308, “Flu Shot”
DR. SPACEMAN: Liz, I believe doctor-patient confidentiality is a two-way street. I’m cheating on my wife.
“Any time we get to use Dr. Spaceman—which is pronounced ‘Dr. Spa-chee-man’ by everyone except Tracy—it’s another happy moment in the room. We’ve been lucky enough to have Chris Parnell appear on every season. The scenes that his character are in have a different tone than other scenes. They’re allowed to be sillier, funnier, they’re sort of my favorite scenes. Robert Carlock, in particular, is the Spaceman expert. Most of the jokes for him, as this one did, come from him.”
Ep. 316, “Apollo, Apollo”
JENNA: You asked me to house-sit. Dennis came over and, as I mentioned, we were both pretty torn up about Hurricane Katrina --
DENNIS: (emotional) What those people were doing to the Superdome...
“Dennis is played by Dean Winters, who was an amazing stroke of luck and a great find. Any time we get his idiot perspective on anything, it’s been successful for us. The idea that this guy is such a dummy that that day, the thing he was most upset about was the damage to the Superdome…”
Ep. 318, “Jackie Jormp-Jomp”
JENNA: Do you need a sex tape leaked? ‘Cause I’ve got a weird one. It’s night vision and you can see that his buddy is robbing me.
“Both of the jokes are dirty, sex things, and that’s kind of Jenna’s deal. I like this one because, not only is it sort of a pathetic and humiliating thing to admit to, but she’s so eager to use it to help her career and please her boss. I think that kind of sums up her character.”
Nicole LaPorte is a West Coast reporter for The Daily Beast. A former film reporter for Variety, she has also written for The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, The New York Times, The New York Observer, and W.