Tina Fey was born in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, a suburb of
Philadelphia, in what was a predominantly Greek-American and Italian American
neighborhood. Her brother Peter remembers a drawing she did when she was about
seven: it showed people holding hands, walking down the street with wedges of
Swiss cheese. The caption read, "What a friend we have in cheeses!"
Fey was exposed to comedy early, saying:
"I remember my parents sneaking me in to see Young Frankenstein. We would also watch Saturday Night Live, or Monty Python or old Marx Brothers movies. My dad would let us stay up late to watch The Honeymooners. We were not allowed to watch The Flintstones, though, which my dad hated because it ripped off The Honeymooners. I actually have a very low level of Flintstones knowledge for someone my age."
Tina Fey graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1988. She studied drama at the University of Virginia, graduating in 1992. After graduation, she moved to Chicago, getting a job at a residential YMCA by day so she could take classes at The Second City by night. She learned that the key to improvisation was to "focus entirely on your partner. You take what they're giving you and use it to build a scene."
By 1994 she was invited to join the cast of The Second City, where she performed in the Jeff Award-winning revue Paradigm Lost. She is also a veteran of The ImprovOlympic.
With then-head writer Adam McKay's help, Fey became a writer for NBC's Saturday Night Live (SNL) in 1997. In 1999, Fey became SNL's first female head writer, a milestone she downplays by pointing out how few head writers the show has had.
Now co-head writer, she won a 2001 Writers Guild of America Award for the show's 25th anniversary special; she and the rest of the writing staff won an Emmy Award in 2002 for their work on the show.
In September 2005, she went on maternity leave, having given birth to a daughter, Alice Zenobia Richmond. Her "Weekend Update" role was covered by Horatio Sanz for several weeks before her return to the show on October 22, 2005, noting:
"I had to get back to work. NBC has me under contract; the baby and I only have a verbal agreement."
In 2000 Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon became co-anchors of SNL's Weekend Update, a pairing that ended in May 2004 when Fallon made his last appearance as a cast member. She now helms the satirical newscast with Amy Poehler. Horatio Sanz briefly took Fey's position in October 2005 before Fey returned from giving birth to her first child the previous month.
Tina Fey's primary role on Weekend Update is as a performer, but she shares the duty of writing for the segment as well.
She partnered with fellow cast member Rachel Dratch in the critically acclaimed two-woman show Dratch & Fey at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City, the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado, and the Chicago Improv Festival. Lorne Michaels saw her at one of the performances, which led to her becoming the co-anchor of SNL's Weekend Update.
Tina Fey also appeared in Martin & Orloff, a surreal comedy which premiered at Austin's SXSW.
Fey wrote the script and co-starred in the 2004 movie Mean Girls. Characters and behaviors in the movie are based on Fey's high school life at Upper Darby High School and on the non-fiction book Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence (ISBN 0609609459) by Rosalind Wiseman. The cast includes other present and past cast members of SNL including Tim Meadows, Ana Gasteyer, and Amy Poehler.
As of 2005, she is also developing a sitcom for NBC and Broadway Video, with Lorne Michaels and two former producers of The Tracy Morgan Show, David Miner, who is also her manager at 3 Arts, and Joann Alfano. She'll write and star in the sitcom, said to be based on her experiences at SNL. It is tentatively entitled Friday Night Bits; a casting call for the pilot describe characters such as a network executive, segment producer, staff writer, Paris Hilton-like assistant, and a Clay Aiken-like page giving tours of the sets.
Tina Fey is married to Jeff Richmond, a composer on SNL. They met before their jobs on SNL and dated for seven years before marrying in a Greek Orthodox ceremony in 2001. They have a daughter, Alice Zenobia Richmond who was born on September 10, 2005.
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