I am in 30 Rock — the building, not the show — trying to find Tina Fey, whom I'm supposed to interview. It's taken hours. After giving three passwords, I finally spot her surrounded by a phalanx of hip-hop dancers and bodyguards. Eventually Fey breaks from the group, mounts a Pilates Cadillac, and starts working out. I pull up a chair next to the machine and begin.
AMY POEHLER: I have a couple of things I want to ask you about. You were homeschooled, correct?
TINA FEY: Um, no. I was school-schooled.
AP: And you grew up in the North Pole?
TF: Pennsylvania. Did you Google me? Is that how you got your information?
AP: Yeah. Is your name Karen Felcher?
TF: Um, no, although I can see why you're confused, because that is my porn name.
AP: Okay, then I'm going to start again. We're in a movie together coming out this month called Baby Mama. Tell everyone what it's about. And please, do it right.
TF: It's about a lady — a business lady — who wants to have a baby, but her junk is broken, so she calls upon the services of another, healthier lady to be her surrogate. You play that lady, and your character is a little bit of a charming dirtbag, so complications and delights ensue.
AP: And we have some very great actors in this film with us. Who are they?
TF: Sigourney Weaver. Steve Martin. Gregorias Kinnear. This is going to sound like a lie and a fib, but those people actually are in this movie.
AP: Tell us about the fashion shoot you had to do for Marie Claire. How did that go?
TF: I was very unhappy with the clothing selections they had for me, so I ended up making most of the clothes myself.
AP: Amazing. There are a lot of stories about you peeing in corners when you go on a photo shoot to mark your territory. Is that right?
TF: Yes. Yes, it is.
AP: What are your beauty rituals?
TF: Some people work with a trainer, some people work with a stylist. I work with a celebrity fecalist. A fecalist is basically a person who comes and collects my stools, and then examines them to see if I'm eating right and if I should be drinking more water and what my moods should be.
AP: And you're producing your fecalist's reality show, right?
TF: Yes. It's called Eric Gurian: The Turd Whisperer.
AP: Okay, let's talk about when we first met — in Chicago, in 1993. What were we doing?
TF: We were probably eating Italian beef sandwiches and getting our hair permed.
AP: Actually, we met in class at the ImprovOlympic Theater. You taught me my first real beauty lesson.
TF: I was 22 or 23, and I had only recently learned that you can pluck your eyebrows or have a lady put hot wax on them and remove portions of them and shape them. So this was a big thing that happened to me, and I passed that information on to you.
AP: Back then, I used to get my hair dyed at a place called Big Hair. It cost $15. They just used straight bleach, so my hair was the color of white lined paper, and my eyebrows looked like they were done with a thick black marker. So tell us a little bit about a play you wrote while in Chicago in the early '90s, about Catherine the Great.
TF: Yes, yes. I used to take playwriting classes, and I wrote a one-act play — I can't remember the name of it, but it was really about the way women are perceived as leaders. In the play, Catherine the Great would say things like, "You know, John F. Kennedy had extramarital affairs and no one says anything. But I bang one horse and now I'm a horse banger for all eternity? That's it? That's what I am?" I think Hillary Clinton's got to be able to relate to that.
AP: Being a tough, capable broad has never been easy — look at us. Although we did have a lot of fun on Baby Mama. Boy, did we play a lot of pranks on each other.
TF: We love pranks. I mean, we're kind of like Cloons and Damon that way, doing a lot of, like, $250,000 pranks. I did a really funny prank where I got my assistant to paint all the cars in your neighborhood white so you would wake up and think it was snowing. That was a good one.
AP: I had an assistant fill your trailer with rats on Christmas Eve, and we laughed. Oh, the pranks.
TF: So much pranking.
AP: When you work, you are very intense. You wouldn't let anybody make eye contact with you; you were super-serious; you had a trainer; you had a dialect coach . . .
I played a woman from Philadelphia, and I am from Philadelphia, but I had a dialect coach anyway, because when you get stuff like that in your contract, the studio has to pay for it. And I did insist that people refer to me as Andy Kaufman on the set, which is not my character name, but, you know, I believe in process. I believe that having a really difficult process is more valuable than a good outcome.
AP: To all you young actors out there, remember, the more difficult you are early in your career, the less you will work and the better the work will be.
TF: Exactly. Always show up trying to win the scene. And always have a lot of questions about the writing. Acting is really about showing up that day and telling the writers what you feel like saying.
AP: That's great advice. What are some songs that you play to pump yourself up before a scene?
TF: I like to listen to 911 tapes from the show COPS—just people calling in saying, "I need a bamb-a-lance," that kind of thing. Also, just a lot of Joan Baez.
AP: What did you do during the writers' strike?
TF: I worked out three times. Well, I went to the gym three times, but I only worked out two of the times. One other time I used the bathroom. Actually, I spent the whole time with my kid, which was nice. It was like the maternity leave that I never got. She is now able to pick me out of a lineup of four or five women.
AP: What's her favorite show?
TF: Her favorite show right now is Wonder Pets. [sings] "Wonder Pets, Wonder Pets, we're on our way to help the baby dinosaurs and save the day. We're not too big, and we're not too tough, but when we work together, we've got the right stuff."
AP: You did a version of that for Baby Mamafeaturing Ghostface Killah—it's basically the song with Ghostface rapping in the middle. It's pretty badass, actually. Scott Storch produced it. What's some good advice your mother gave you?
TF: Always wear a bra. Whether you think you need it or not, just wear one. You're not going to look back and regret that.
TF: I also remember her telling me one time in middle school that if a boy ever asked me on a date and I didn't want to go, I should make sure I was polite about it, which was hilarious because she gave me that advice about 15 years too early. I was like, "Mom, it's not coming up, it's fine." She was like, "Just make sure you're kind."
AP: There are a lot of girls who look at you as a role model. Maybe they're really smart and funny but aren't quite getting a lot of boy attention, and they're stressed out about it. What would you say to them?
TF: You know what? Let the boys practice on other girls. Let them treat other girls like crud, let them learn how to French kiss for, like, 10 years, let them give some other girl a bunch of crappy Valentine's Day gifts, and then you just move in when they're fully formed.
AP: That's the charity you're working with, right? You're opening up these French-kissing schools all over Europe?
TF: I am. I am starting a charity that's teaching boys how to French kiss better. So far, it's just me and Helen Mirren and . . .
AP: And Zac Efron. If you could be in anyone's music video, whose would it be?
TF: I would like to be in an Amy Winehouse video, and halfway through, I'd just pop out of her hair. And then I'd put her on a cracker, and I'd eat her.
AP: How many hours does it take you to get ready in the morning?
TF: Three hours.
AP: Three hours every day?
TF: Three hours every day. At least half of that time is spent taping down my penis.
AP: Have you ever had eyelash extensions?
TF: I had them years ago, and I regret it. Show up with really long eyelashes, and all of a sudden everyone thinks you're a whore.
AP: How many years have you been doing Gyrotonics?
TF: I've been doing it on my own for four years and teaching for six months.
AP: Do you sleep with makeup on?
TF: Yes, but not mine.
AP: How many plastic surgeries have you had? And be honest.
TF: I had my boobs moved farther apart. And I had this thing where they take what is basically a medical version of a grapefruit knife, and they loosen the skin on your whole body, and they pull it up over your head, and then basically tie it like a bread bag. Also, I had a diamond surgically implanted in my toe.
AP: I bet that gives you a lot of trouble at airports.
TF: I almost forgot—I also had spinal implants to make my spine look fatter.
AP:Fat spines are very in. The fatter the spine, the more beautiful the back. Good luck with Baby Mama…
TF: I'm addressing women—w-o-m-y-n—directly now: You're going to say to your male lover or husband, "Hey, I wanna go see this movie," and he's going to say, "Maybe, but I wanna go see that movie where Jessica Alba plays the blind surgeon and the cars blow up," and you know what you need to say? "No. We're going to
The Essential Tina Fey
Name: Elizabeth Stamatina Fey
Age: 38ish (her birthday is May 18)
Schooled . . . at UVA, before heading to Chicago and joining The Second City comedy troupe.
Geek revenge: Fey's first movie, Mean Girls, is based in part on her life as an AP nerd at Pennsylvania's Upper Darby High School.
Ceiling smasher: In 1999, became SNL's first female head writer.
Domestic goddess: In 2001, married SNL composer (and current 30 Rock producer/composer) Jeff Richmond. They have a 2-year-old daughter, Alice Zenobia.
Hardware haul: A Golden Globe, a SAG award, a Writers Guild Award, and two Emmys.