Dec 4, 2008

The pain-free comedians

“I don’t enjoy any kind of danger or volatility. I don’t have that kind of ‘I love the bad guys’ thing. No, no thank you. I like nice people.” When I ask her if she ever gets the urge to straighten out Lindsay Lohan, who starred in Fey’s movie Mean Girls, or to counsel Tracy Morgan or Alec Baldwin when they hit tempestuous passages in their personal lives, she says, “I have no enabler bone in my body—not one. I’m sort of like, ‘Oh, are you going crazy? I’ll be back in an hour.’?” — Tina Fey, interviewed in Vanity Fair
Together with Jerry Seinfeld, Fey is part of a new super-breed of American entertainer: the entirely non-destructive comedian. There's pain there, but so expertly harvested, and turned into great gags so efficiently, that it takes you a while to work out what's missing, exactly. Nancy Franklin gets close when she calls Fey's style on 30 Rock "managerial" ("Fey’s intelligence comes across, of course, but it’s a kind of managerial intelligence, a high level of competence"). She indulges her female neuroses (age, kids, food) rather like the kid in class who joins in the ritualised moaning about exams only to ace every test. A fake self-depracator! With moderate to high self-esteem! Don't get me wrong. I love Fey on the show but I love her most when she's dealing with Alec Baldwin, behind whose gimlet eyes lie fathomless pools of pain.

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