4:13pm

Fri April 15, 2011
Monkey See

Tina Fey: As Expected, a Totally Normal Person

Last night, outside of the old Jewish synagogue on Sixth and I Streets in Washington, DC, I had my best-yet up-close encounter with a madwoman. She was middle-aged, wearing a rainbow-print top that hurt my eyes, and tinted-blue glasses. As I ran past her toward the synagogue where I was running late to hear Tina Fey read, she yelled out, "Please take me with you!"

The woman was scream-crying this request (scrying?), and just as I ducked into the building, I saw three burly security guards descend upon her to escort her off the property. Later, I heard police sirens and the staff whispering on two-way radios about "the incident." I've seen crazy fans before — on TV, outside Justin Bieber shows, at ComicCon — but never just one lone woman at her berserk best, begging at the top of her lungs for a chance to see an author talk.

Not that I blame her, really. I'm happy to live in a world where the likes of Tina Fey can provoke insane fervor. The conversation sold out all of its 500-plus tickets in 12 minutes — a synagogue record — and as Fey marched up the aisle between two bodyguards, publicists flanking either side of her, I felt like I was at a bat mitzvah for Miley Cyrus. All of the women in the audience yelped, the men whooped, and Fey simply looked shy and somewhat embarassed by the attention.

This is the great, quiet power of the Fey — she is arguably one of our country's most famous comedians at the moment (Bossypants is a runaway bestseller, and shows no signs of slowing down), but she is so calm in public, so sweetly awkward and effortlessly funny. She's accessible, in a way that most stars aren't. Sure, actresses will talk about how they love to hang out in sweatpants and eat tacos in Self, but Fey is the kind of person you could not only imagine doing that with, but with whom that would likely be the activity of choice.

Fey was interviewed by NPR's Michel Martin, who asked the standard "tough questions" about race and gender, to which Fey gave the funny-but-stock answers that she has been giving on her whole radio/press tour thus far. Regarding 30 Rock, she said that she came up with the triangle relationship between Liz Lemon, Jack Donaghy, and Tracy Jordan to highlight issues of race, gender, and class in a constant, shifting, three-legged table structure. She said that between the three characters, there is always someone on the other side of an issue.

When asked the "How do you manage it all?" question, Fey understandably balked, explaining how it's not a question she thinks it's fair to receive. She noted that when she was doing the junket for Date Night, reporter after reporter would ask her about how she managed work and family, but no one posed the same question to her co-star Steve Carell.

Fey, who was high-energy and very quick, even when in throes of a second pregnancy, opened the floor to the audience, leading to the best moments of the night.

Some highlights from the Q&A:

--When asked what she would do if she could lobby congress on any issue, she joked, "I'd ask them to pass a law that would forbid Alec Baldwin from quitting."

--A young girl asked this zinger: "If you could party anywhere in the world with Beyonce and Jay-Z...could I come?" Fey responded with "You'd have to come because I would be so nervous around Beyonce. Also, it would be at Stonehenge."

--An audience member remarked that the glue that seems to tie together all of Fey's many pursuits is her ubiquitous ladyblazer — and suggested she might want to start a clothing line on QVC. Fey suggested she simply chose a wardrobe that would allow her to never have to show her arms.

--Another girl asked if Fey had any advice for young actors. She responded, "I tell people not to go straight to L.A ... unless they are very attractive. So you should probably go to L.A. immediately."

--Lastly, when asked how women can use the techniques of comedy to get ahead in the workplace, Fey suggested learning a few comebacks to hecklers. "You could say, 'Do I come over to your cubicle and boo you, sir?'"

Fey was humble, funny, and not at all bossypants. And, I am happy to report, there were no crazy ladies in the building. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.