You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

’30 Rock’ Finale: Tina Fey on Putting the Jokes First

'SNL' vet Beth McCarthy-Miller helmed Emmy-nominated series finale

Way back in 1995, Lorne Michaels took a chance on a young director and put Beth McCarthy-Miller in charge of “Saturday Night Live.” So it’s kismet that former “SNL” writers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock would ask her to helm the final episodes of “30 Rock.”

She was thrilled — but knew that great honor came with great responsibility.

“Directing the last episode of ‘30 Rock’ is like directing the last episode of ‘MASH’ or ‘Cheers,’ ” she says. “Then once you get it it’s like, ‘Oh god how are they going to do this?’ ”

Fey, however, was not worried.

“Because of her time at ‘SNL,’ Beth understands that the jokes are the priority,” Fey says. “Also, she is unflappable and incredibly flexible, which was great for ‘30 Rock,’ where the shooting schedule was often bananas.”

Most important, Fey and the other writers of the final two episodes needed someone they could trust to finish out their vision for the show.

“The biggest challenges were trying to wrap up these relationships in stories that let them have some emotion, while still trying to have the finale feel like a somewhat normal episode,” Fey says of the scripts. “It was important to us that wherever we left the characters at the end would be satisfying to longtime viewers.”

The choice of a woman director comes at a time when there is much debate over the lack of female helmers in the industry. However, this didn’t factor into the hiring decision.

“While it has been important to me over the years to have a diverse group of directors, having Beth direct the finale was less about gender and more about family,” says Fey. “She has been part of the show since season one … so it was fitting and comforting for her to help us finish.”

*Editor’s note: The “30 Rock” finale, nominated for both writing and directing, was a two-parter. Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield are credited for writing “Last Lunch,” while showrunner Robert Carlock and Jack Burditt are credited for writing “Hogcock.” Beth McCarthy-Miller directed both. Fey is speaking for all writers here.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Patria

    HBO Europe Unveils ‘Patria’ Footage to Captive San Sebastian Audience

    SAN SEBASTIAN — Amid large expectation, HBO Europe has revealed first footage giving a first sense of tone and pace of its Spanish original series “Patria.” A packed-to-overflowing press conference on Saturday morning at the San Sebastian Festival can be read as one sign of the potential popularity of the eight-part series. The panel sneak-peek [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • Peter Weber and Mike Johnson

    'The Bachelor's' Mike Johnson on Diversity and New Leading Man Peter Weber

    ABC named its newest star of “The Bachelor” this week, officially making Peter Weber the leading man for Season 24 of the long-running dating show. Social media backlash ensued following the announcement due to ABC’s selection lacking diversity, yet again. Since the dating franchise began in 2002, there has been only one “Bachelorette” of color [...]

  • ABC Studios Logo

    ABC Studios Head of Alternative Fernando Hernandez Exits

    ABC Studios’ head of alternative Fernando Hernandez has departed from his post at the Disney-owned television studio, a source familiar with the situation told Variety. The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news. Hernandez’s exit follows an executive shuffling at the top in recent months that has included the departure of Amy Hartwick, ABC Studio’s head [...]

  • Rob Cowan, Greg Silverman'The Conjuring 2'

    Greg Silverman’s Stampede, School of Rock Team for Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Greg Silverman is partnering with School of Rock through his content creation company Stampede. The collaboration with the music school will create exclusive content, starting with the development of an unscripted series.  School of Rock operates a network of performance-based education franchises that offer students of all ages guidance [...]

  • TV Roundup: Erica Durance Reprises 'Smallville'

    TV News Roundup: Erica Durance Reprises 'Smallville' Role in 'Arrowverse' Crossover

    In today’s TV news roundup, Erica Durance reprises her “Smallville” role in the CW’s annual “Arrowverse” crossover, and Showtime shares with Variety an exclusive sneak peek at the return of “The Circus.” FIRST LOOKS “2020 is the most important election of our lifetime,” Alex Wagner says in a new trailer for the fourth season of [...]

  • Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel WME

    Endeavor Targets Sept. 27 for Stock Debut, IPO Video Tells Company's Origin Story

    After years of preparation, Endeavor is set to make its formal Wall Street debut on Sept. 27, when its stock will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Endeavor has targeted Sept. 26 for the final pricing of its shares. The stock will trade publicly the following day. Earlier this week, Endeavor said its [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content