For years, Tina Fey has been the thinking person’s TV idol. But for most of that time, she remained vastly underappreciated. Sure, Fey was the (first female) head writer of “Saturday Night Live,” but the show’s dearth of acting talent (Horatio Sanz, Jimmy Fallon, I’m looking at both of you) often undermined her smart, subtle wit. Her savagely brilliant film “Mean Girls” has already become a classic, though it was originally dismissed as a disposable and empty-headed teen comedy. And a few years ago, Fey got her very own sitcom. While critics love “30 Rock,” the show continues to suffer from notoriously poor ratings.
But last month, everything changed. Tina Fey’s newfound mega-celebrity may be the only good thing to have come out of Sarah Palin’s V.P. nomination. When Fey returned to her old stomping grounds, “Saturday Night Live,” to skewer Palin, the show’s ratings shot up by 49 percent. And on Sept. 21, when she won no fewer than three Emmys, Fey gave the most inspiring acceptance speech I’ve ever heard.
You’d think, with so much going on, Fey would be tempted to rest on her laurels, at least for a month or two. Not so. This week comes word that she’s writing her first book, which the New York Post reports will be a Nora Ephron-style essay collection. While Fey’s representatives wouldn’t confirm numbers, the Post cites an anonymous source who puts the comedian’s advance at $6 million. (Really? That sounds awfully high.) And though I have been known to grumble over seven-figure book deals (no doubt out of my own naked writerly jealousy), I can’t begrudge Fey her well-deserved payday. Even if I were the eenciest, weenciest bit envious, I’d have to swoon a little bit over the part of the deal with publisher Little, Brown that includes a donation to the nonprofit organization Books for Kids to help build school libraries.
With all she’s got going for her, Fey would have made a great pick for Esquire’s “Sexiest Woman Alive.” I guess we can’t have everything, though, because the magazine has announced that Halle Berry is its 2008 pick. Yawn. Berry is undoubtedly a great-looking woman and a fantastic actress, but Esquire’s choice is so obvious it’s almost redundant. Considering all the noise the news media has made about Palin’s attractiveness, the so-called VPILF’s doppelganger could have been the perfect cover girl.