Tina Fey’s Worst Day at ‘Saturday Night Live’
Does it seem like it would be a blast working on Saturday Night Live? Tina Fey might tell you differently. During a Playboy interview a few years back, she shared stories of the good times and a few about the super bad times as well. One day in particular stood out as the rock-bottom of her tenure on the show, but before we go there, let’s explore a few other candidates for Tina Fey’s Worst SNL Day Ever.
When Fey was promoted to co-head writer of the show, things didn’t start out so well. Fey says that after a string of lousy episodes, the other head writer, Tim Herlihy told her, "Okay, we have to tell the writers they’re not cutting it.”
A big meeting was called and Fey was on edge — she’d only been in her new position for a few weeks and she wasn’t used to being in charge. Once all were assembled, Herlihy turned to Fey and said, “All right, go ahead.”
“Me? Wait, what?”
Yep, Fey had to scold the writers, who had been her peers just a short time earlier.
This was also around the time that someone at SNL called her the C-word, an incident she later dramatized on 30 Rock. “That happened to me,” Fey said. “And my response was ‘No! My parents love me. I’m not some child of an alcoholic who will take that kind of verbal abuse!’ It was such a strong out-of-left-field reaction, so it was easy to turn that into comedy.”
The Paula Abdul Fiasco
Paula Abdul showed up for a guest spot in late 2005. “She was awful,” Fey told Playboy. “I was pregnant at the time and probably a little moody, but I remember thinking, She’s a disaster!”
When Playboy asked how Abdul was a disaster, Fey replied, “In the ways she generally appears to be. It was an American Idol sketch, and she wanted to change parts. So Amy Poehler had to play her.”
Fast forward a year and Fey ran into Abdul on a flight. They recognized each other in the same moment: “She was like, Uuuggh. I saw it register on her face that she had had a terrible time with us.”
The Will Ferrell Murder Attempt
“Will Ferrell tried to stab me once,” Fey revealed.
The SNL crew had been up all night writing sketches with Dawson’s Creek’s James Van Der Beek. It was late, “so we were all hopped up on goofballs, out of our minds on quaaludes and horse antibiotics,” Fey explained. “I foolishly made a disparaging joke about Will’s skit. I was like, ‘Really, dude? A hat salesman who’s afraid of hats? That’s the best you can come up with?’ And he lunged at me with a letter opener. I remember thinking, This guy’s a genius. It would be an honor to be killed by him.” (This story might be fake.)
Her Actual Worst Day at ‘SNL’
But none of those days measure up to a Friday night in late 2001. Fey was in her dressing room working on jokes for Weekend Update when Lester Holt popped up on the news reporting that anthrax had been discovered in 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
“I was in 30 Rockefeller Plaza,” Fey realized. “I stood up, got my stuff and walked out, right past Drew Barrymore, who was hosting. I didn’t even tell her there was anthrax in the building. I went to the elevator, walked up Sixth Avenue to Central Park West and went straight to my house, sobbing the whole way. Those were bad days. There was a palpable feeling that we were probably all going to die.”
There still weren’t many laughs later when Fey and the crew realized, “Oh, this is the kind of anthrax cats get.”