You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

’30 Rock’ writers’ room echoes real-life

Sitcom's depiction exaggerates vices

Like the woman who is but isn’t Tina Fey on “TGS With Tracy Jordan,” the show-within-a-show on “30 Rock,” there are both similarities and differences between the actual NBC sitcom writers and their wild-and-crazy fictional counterparts.

For one, “30 Rock” brings about as much diversity to the writers’ room as the onscreen crew that scripts “TGS.” The real Emmy-winning staff consists of seven men and four women (compared with two or three women on the smaller “TGS” team), a high percentage of female talent by sitcom standards.

On the other hand, “30 Rock” lost its sole African-American writer, Donald Glover — who moved on to a co-starring role in new NBC sitcom “Community” and signed a writer-performer holding deal with Universal. So its only parallel with African-American and Harvard-educated “TGS” writer Toofer (Keith Powell) isn’t along racial lines.

“If you’re talking about the insufferable Harvard type, we actually have more in real life,” says co-exec producer Jack Burditt. “We had three from Harvard this past season — we have five now.”

Another major distinction is that the real-life writers don’t have time for staging gags, the way “TGS” writers do.

“We don’t have an organized group of practical jokers, but we get a lot of pleasure out of embarrassing each other,” Burditt notes. “We actually have a really good time. But we do work some really long hours.”

“They throw food at Liz (Fey’s character on ‘TGS’) a little bit more than we do,” exec producer Robert Carlock adds.

Carlock, a former “Saturday Night Live” scribe, says he imagines that “TGS” writers adhere to a looser schedule, somewhat similar to the workweek on “SNL,” which after all was Fey’s inspiration for “30 Rock.” On a sketch show, writers spend more time working alone, scripting in frenzied bursts, whereas sitcom writers like those on “30 Rock” spend more time writing as a group.

As far as similarities go, obsessions with food are one, though no actual writer binges like Judah Friedlander’s sandwich-shoveling Frank.

“We try not to be as disgusting as the stereotype of writers would suggest, including the one we tend to create,” Carlock says.

“We complain a lot about the food,” Burditt admits. “That’s one thing that’s similar to the show, people talking about food much more than any normal person should.”

What’s the most important element that translates room to room?

“The best thing about trying to write a writers’ room is that people come to writing and television from so many different places and educational and cultural backgrounds,” Carlock says.

“Liz and Frank and Toofer, it makes sense they’re in that room, just as it made sense back in the day that Tina and I and Frank Sebastiano and Tracy Morgan could all be in the writers’ room at ‘SNL.’ It creates a more interesting conversation.”

More TV

  • Jan Guillou's 'The Great Century' Being

    Jan Guillou's 'The Great Century' Being Adapted as Epic Drama Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    “The Great Century” is being adapted as an epic drama series by Dramacorp-Pampas Studios, which has landed the rights to Swedish author Jan Guillou’s book series. Guillou is known for his “Hamilton” spy-thriller novels, which Dramacorp-Pampas Studios has brought to TV as “Agent Hamilton.” That project had an international premiere at Mipcom and has presold [...]

  • Lilly Burns Tony Hernandez

    Variety to Honor Jax Media Chiefs Tony Hernandez, Lilly Burns at New Leaders Event

    Emmy Award-winning producer Tony Hernandez and Emmy-nominated producer Lilly Burns will receive the Creative Leadership Award on behalf of Jax Media at the Variety New Leaders event presented by City National Bank, taking place Nov. 14 in New York City. As founders of Jax Media, Hernandez and Burns have produced shows and specials such as [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Virginia Leith, Female Lead in Stanley Kubrick's First Film, Dies at 94

    Actress and model Virginia Leith, who starred in Stanley Kubrick’s first film “Fear and Desire,” which he later disavowed, has died. She was 94. According to family spokesperson Jane Chalmers, Leith died after a brief illness at her home in Palm Springs, Calif. on Nov. 4. Born on Oct. 15, 1925, Leith met Kubrick in [...]

  • Friends

    'Friends' Reunion Special in Early Planning Stages at HBO Max

    More “Friends” could well be there for you when the HBO Max rain starts to fall. An unscripted “Friends” reunion special is in the works at the forthcoming WarnerMedia streamer, Variety has confirmed with sources. Sources say original cast members Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer are in discussions [...]

  • TC3_SM_060718_238A4600.cr2

    'The Crown' New Season: Netflix to Offer Opening Episode for Free in the U.K.

    When Olivia Colman steps into the royal shoes of Queen Elizabeth II, viewers in the U.K. and Ireland will be able to watch for free as Netflix makes the eagerly awaited Season 3 curtain-raiser available gratis. The streaming giant will launch the series opener on a dedicated site for a limited period starting Sunday, making it [...]

  • T.R. Knight

    TV News Roundup: T.R. Knight Joins HBO Max's 'The Flight Attendant'

    In today’s TV news roundup, “Grey’s Anatomy” star T.R. Knight joins HBO Max’s “The Flight Attendant” and BET renewed “Games People Play.” CASTING T.R Knight has been cast in HBO Max‘s dark comedy “The Flight Attendant.“ Knight will play Cassie’s (Kaley Cuoco) older brother, Davey. When Cassie’s life starts to unravel, Davey deals with the [...]

  • Days of Our Lives Bill Hayes

    'Days of Our Lives' Cast Members Released From Contracts

    The entire cast of the NBC soap opera “Days of Our Lives” have been released from their contracts, Variety has confirmed. The daytime drama has run for over 13,000 episodes since first debuting in 1965. The show will go on hiatus at the end of November, though it has shot enough episodes to last through the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content