by Julian Spivey
“30 Rock,” one of television’s greatest and already most influential sitcoms of all time, ends its seven season run this Thursday night with a one hour series finale on NBC at 7 p.m. The series has spawned some of the funniest, wittiest and absurdist comedy in television history thanks to Tina Fey and company and has birthed some of the American lexicon’s greatest catchphrases. Here are my 15 favorite ‘30 Rock’isms.
Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon character has become synonymous with her great catchphrases, like the one at number three on this list and “What the what?!?,” which just missed the list. One of her most notable catchphrases that has really caught on among the American public is “blerg!” “Blerg!” is used as an exclamation of frustration in replacement of more serious obscenities. It’s really the way that Fey uses and says the term that makes it stick out in the mind of “30 Rock” fans as an all time great moment.
14. Black Crusaders
The Black Crusaders are a group of upstanding and influential African American icons who meet quarterly throughout the year in the skull of the Statue of Liberty and basically uphold the image of their race. The Black Crusaders are led by Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey and early on in the series are out to “get” Tracy Morgan’s Tracy Jordan because he perpetrates a negative black stereotype. Tracy Jordan is deathly scared of the Black Crusaders, as he should be.
Yet another classic Liz Lemon-ism that’s become popular in the American lexicon is “dealbreaker,” which is a catchphrase Lemon used to point out weaknesses in men, which effectively prove detrimental to relationships. Examples include: “If your man is over 30 and still wears a nametag to work... that’s a dealbreaker, ladies!” and “If your man has to sneak you inside his house to avoid his mother... that’s a dealbreaker, ladies!” Lemon temporarily left ‘TGS’ as head writer to host a “Dealbreakers” talk show until it was shut down by Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghey.
12. Kidney Now
“Kidney Now” is really a testament to how great “30 Rock” was at bringing in massive superstars for guest appearances. It’s also one of the funniest mockings of television telethons ever seen on television. The episode “Kidney Now” aired late in season three when Jack Donaghey’s long lost father Milton (played by notable guest star Alan Alda) shows up in desperate need of a kidney replacement. After Jack finds out that his kidney isn’t suitable he uses his connections to enlist over a dozen musicians to take part in a benefit show in which they perform a “We Are the World” like song about Milton needing a new kidney. The star power taking part in the performance includes Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Adam Levine, Cyndi Lauper, Mary J. Blige, Steve Earle, Clay Aiken, Wyclef Jean, Norah Jones, Michael McDonald and more.
11. The Rural Juror
Jane Krakowski’s fame whore Jenna Maroney has worked on many truly preposterous projects in the seven season run of “30 Rock,” but the most famous of these projects came very early on in the series in its first season. Jenna’s anticipated independent film is about to come out, but the running gag throughout is that nobody can understand what Jenna is saying whenever she tells them the name of the film: the very tongue-twisting “The Rural Juror” … go on, try to say it out loud. “The Rural Juror” is a film based on a novel by Kevin Grisham, John’s lesser known (and completely made up) brother. Among other projects Maroney was attached to during the series are a Janis Joplin biopic titled “Jackie Jormp-Jomp,” because Joplin’s name and music can’t be used for legal reasons, and “Take My Hand,” a rom-com that becomes a torture porn film after numerous re-writes; however, none of these projects prove to be as memorable as “The Rural Juror.”
10. “I miscounted the men!”
The “Gavin Volure” episode from the third season of “30 Rock” is one of my favorite overall episodes of the series and if I remember correctly was one of the first episodes I ever saw (I was a latecomer to this wonderful show). It includes a guest starring performance by the great Steve Martin in the title role, which might be the greatest guest starring performance of the entire series, which is saying a lot considering how many fantastic guests have appeared on the show. The zany, absurd and witty humor of “30 Rock” plays perfectly into Martin’s comedic style. The thing about the episode that stood out the most to me was Martin’s “I miscounted the men” line, which really only makes sense if you watch the episode, but is perfect in the moment and has become one of my favorite one-liners from a series filled with hundreds of hilarious one-liners. I look for every opportunity in life to use the “I miscounted the men” line, but unfortunately opportunities for such a thing rarely, if ever, come up.
9. Bitch Hunter
“30 Rock” has done a fantastic job at mocking television over its seven year run, poking fun at TV fads, genres and occasionally making fun of actual shows. This had lead to the creation of some truly funny fake TV shows, most notably “MILF Island” and this season’s “Homonym.” However, the ridiculously fake show that always cracked me up the most was “Bitch Hunter,” a NBC show starring Will Ferrell as Shane Hunter, who hunts women with a gun. Seeing a gun toting Will Ferrell kicking down a door to a women’s restroom while proclaiming, “Happy birthday, bitches!” puts the offensive series at an over the top funny level.
8. “What am I a Farmer?”
Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghey gets many of the best punchlines and one-liners on “30 Rock,” but none of them stand out as much as this one from the “Tracy Does Conan” episode from the show's first season. Donaghey is your stereotypical conservative, rich head honcho who has an arrogant smugness about him. In this episode Donaghey is preparing to give a speech at the Waldorf-Astoria and asks Liz Lemon for a little help. When Lemon finds out that the speech isn’t for a few months she asks him bewilderedly, “why are you wearing a tux?” Donaghey’s response: “It’s after six, what am I, a farmer?” is the perfect Donaghey response and the line is read impeccably by Baldwin.
7. Mike Dexter
If you’re a fan of “30 Rock” then it shouldn’t have come to a surprise to you that Liz Lemon has an imaginary “perfect dream man.” That imaginary dream man is Mike Dexter. Mike Dexter comes up frequently in the early days of “30 Rock” and he is a handsome astronaut that Lemon compares all men to. In a 2010 episode Lemon finally realizes, “There's no such thing as astronaut Mike Dexter.” However, fans of the show always hoped Liz Lemon would find that right guy. In the current and final season Lemon actually gets married to her most recent boyfriend Criss Cross, played by James Marsden, although to be honest Criss is one of the least interesting boyfriends Lemon’s had over the show’s run … my favorite was always Michael Sheen’s Wesley Snipes.
Reaganing is essentially Jack Donaghey’s answer to baseball’s perfect game. It’s when he’s having a perfect day, a day where he has perfectly solved every problem and succeeded at everything that he has tried to do. In a season five episode of the same name, Jack tries to complete a successful 24 hours of Reaganing, named after his hero President Ronald Reagan. The act of Reaganing is one of those “30 Rock” creations that just so perfectly fits the character of Jack Donaghey and one of Alec Baldwin’s best moments is when he breaks out in a trot and exclaims, “Make way, I’m Reaganing!”
5. ''I love it so much I want to take it behind the middle school and get it pregnant!''
Tracy Morgan’s performance as Tracy Jordan on “30 Rock” doesn’t get all the attention and accolades that are given to Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, who’ve won a remarkable 18 Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards between them, but his character has probably spurred more laugh out loud moments from me than any other character throughout the series’ run. Morgan’s character has had maybe more hilarious one-liners than any other character on the show and two of the most memorable come in at numbers five and four on this list. The first one is a line that’s seemingly been in Morgan’s repertoire forever, but no matter how many times he’s used it (I don’t think that many on the show) it’s still hilarious. When his character finds something or talks about something he really likes he’ll exclaim, “I love it so much I want to take it behind the middle school and get it pregnant!” Among the things that Tracy Jordan would love to knock up behind the middle school are cornbread, “Halo” and fresh material.
4. ''Live every week like it's shark week!''
Tracy Morgan’s greatest line as Tracy Jordan on “30 Rock” has got to be “Live every week like it’s shark week,” which is a bit of philosophical advice that he gave to Jack McBrayer’s Kenneth Parcell, which appeared in the show’s fourth episode. Another great bit of advice that Tracy gave in that episode is: “Dress every day like you're going to get murdered in those clothes.” “Live every week like it’s shark week” really is a solid piece of advice. Everybody loves Shark Week and can’t wait each year for it to come around because it’s one of the greatest things known to mankind. If every week was lived like Shark Week this world would truly be a glorious place to live.
3. “I want to go to there”
“I want to go to there” will, in my opinion, be the one line or catchphrase that Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon is most known for years down the line, even more so than “blerg!.” The line was uttered twice in the “30 Rock” season three episode “Reunion” and represents her desire to go to someplace truly magical or special. The interesting phrase is one that was actually coined by Fey’s young daughter, Alice, who according to Jane Krakowski in an interview with the New York Daily News has come up with some of the greatest “30 Rock” catchphrases. I guess genius runs in the Fey genes. “I want to go there” is another “30 Rock” catchphrase that has entered the American lexicon and likely will be around long after the show is gone.
2. Werewolf Bar Mitzvah
Tracy Morgan’s absurdity, which I believe to be one of the greatest celebrity acts of all time (despite those that think it to be real), has always been one of my favorite things about “30 Rock.” In my opinion, his wackiness doesn’t get any better than his novelty song “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah.” “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” is a wacky play on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video and appeared during a season two episode as basically a throw away joke. However, the song, which only was a six second snippet in the episode, became such an online phenomenon that the complete version of the song was released. Every now and then to this day I’ll randomly burst out in tune to “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah/spooky, scary/ boys becoming men/men becoming wolves.” After all, it’s the second greatest werewolf song ever written and performed behind Warren Zevon’s classic “Werewolves in London.”
by Julian Spivey
Today would’ve been (if he’s actually dead) comedic genius Andy Kaufman’s 64th birthday. Kaufman might still be known today (and may always be mostly known) for playing the foreign mechanic Latka Gravas on the late ‘70s/early ‘80s ABC sitcom “Taxi,” but Kaufman should be mostly known as a one-of-a-kind performance artist who’s genuine wackiness made him one of the most important and most original comedians anybody has ever seen.
Today being Kaufman’s birthday reminded me of a conversation I had at work with two of my co-workers a few weeks back. I overheard these two co-workers talking about professional wrestling, which I don’t give a damn about, but something about the conversation made me think (and bring up) Andy Kaufman’s hoax feud with pro wrestler Jerry Lawler and his wrestling with women. The older co-worker knew what I was referencing, but the co-worker who was actually my age didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. This bothered me greatly. Kaufman is an American legend and despite being dead for almost 30 years, should still be a household name.
Now being the “Saturday Night Live” fanatic that I’ve always been I’ve always known the name Andy Kaufman for the iconic Mighty Mouse theme song bit he did on the show’s very first episode in 1975. To this day it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever witness and is one of the greatest ‘SNL’ bits of all time. I learned even more about Kaufman and developed a fascination with him after viewing the great Milos Forman 1999 bio-pic about Kaufman, “Man on the Moon,” which features Jim Carrey (who, by the way, shares a birthday with Kaufman) in maybe his finest film performance.
Kaufman was a comedic genius because he didn’t do comedy in the usual, typical way they most comedians do, in fact, Kaufman didn’t even like to be called a comedian, he preferred ‘performance artist’. Kaufman’s humor featured elaborate hoaxes and pranks and other oddities that had never been seen before and to my knowledge have never really been seen again.
My favorite Kaufman hoax was the wrestling one involving him and Lawler, which lead to the two getting into a brief altercation on “Late Night with David Letterman” in the early ‘80s. It wasn’t until years later that anybody knew it was indeed a hoax. But, Kaufman’s greatest hoax (if not faking his own death, which some fans believe he did) was his creation of Tony Clifton, an audience-abusing lounge singer that often opened for Kaufman. Many people believed Clifton to be a real, and really obnoxious, person, but he was actually played by a combination of Kaufman, Kaufman’s brother Michael and Kaufman’s friend Bob Zmuda. Another fantastic hoax perpetrated by Kaufman was that of the live on-set fight he started on the ABC variety series “Fridays” in 1981.
Kaufman famously disliked sitcoms, so it was a shock to many that he accepted a role on “Taxi,” but this led to one of the all time great Kaufman-esque moments, which (as with many of Kaufman’s great moments) are nicely portrayed in “Man on the Moon.” At his live show Kaufman would often be heckled by audience members expecting or hoping to see him perform as Latka in person. Instead of performing as Latka or doing any other comedic bits Kaufman would read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel “The Great Gatsby” to the audience, it would receive a laugh at first, but Kaufman would continue to read the book. After a while Kaufman would ask the audience if they would prefer to keep hearing him read or if they’d rather him put on a record. When the audience decided that they’d rather hear the record, Kaufman would oblige with a record cued to the point of him reading “The Great Gatsby” from where he had left off.
I always get the picture from reading up on Kaufman and from watching “Man on the Moon” that Kaufman always did things to entertain himself and make himself laugh more than he did for the audience, which I find fascinating and in a weird way admirable. His original kind of zaniness and wackiness is something that has had a profound effect on me and really is a type of humor that I try to give off when I’m around people. Am I doing it for them or am I doing it for me?
Andy Kaufman was one of the funniest guys the comedy world has ever seen and is one of the best hoaxsters this country has ever seen. He’s an original and for that he should be known to everyone out there. He’s honestly one of the most fascinating individuals ever in pop culture.