Tina Fey’s Rocky History With The New Yorker

97592862 Tina Feys Rocky History With The New YorkerYesterday, we reported on Tina Fey’s burgeoning career as an essayist–complete with book tour and publication in The New Yorker. The essay got press for being honest about the judgments women disproportionately face. Curiously, Fey has often been the subject of such judgment from The New Yorker itself; she’s the rare first-time writer for the magazine who’s been treated dismissively in its pages. A consequence of success: those who once criticized you now publish you!

In 2003, Virginia Heffernan profiled the then-Saturday Night Live head writer. The profile crystallized a perception of Fey as super-smart and observant, and more than a little cutting. Heffernan notes Fey’s history of mocking others in high school, and wrote that “nearly everyone I had spoken to,” including Lorne Michaels, had asked what Fey thought of them. Fey, per Heffernan, also finds it difficult to balance feminist instinct with the demands of comedy: “since she became a head writer the words ‘whore’ and ‘bitch’ have flourished on the show.”

On to 2008! After the launch of 30 Rock and the beginning, in earnest, of Fey’s film career, Anthony Lane wrote of Fey’s “curves” in a review of the film Baby Mama:
It’s possible that Fey, like other television stars, is unused to being framed in full length, and, though in complete command of her delivery—dry, spiky, but unthreatening—she hasn’t yet made up her mind how funny her body is meant to be. She isn’t big enough to make a joke of her ripeness, like Bette Midler, but she’s no Lily Tomlin, either.
He says little more about her acting, focusing on Steve Martin’s cameo role. Nancy Franklin, in a review that year of 30 Rock, wrote that she often fast-forwarded through scenes without Alec Baldwin or Jack McBrayer:
Fey has surrounded herself with a cast that has one spectacular member and a couple of really good ones, but that averages out to only fair. Her own performance falls into the not-so-great category.
Thank God for Sarah Palin! Fey’s Palin impersonation was reviewed positively by Kelefah Sanneh, and even Nancy Franklin called it “killer”! By late last year, she was popping up as the living embodiment of what hip filmmaker Lena Dunham hopes to achieve, in a profile of Dunham; now she’s been fully accepted into The New Yorker fold. It’s amazing what an impersonation of a hated political figure can do, and not just for one’s bank account–once unable to impress the cognoscenti of New York, she’s now one of them.
ddaddario@observer.com :: @DPD_