Fey makes way in funnyman's world

By Gary Levin, USA TODAY

Tina Fey is perching, birdlike, on her chair in a small windowed office on the 17th floor of Rockefeller Center, where she's gearing up for the most hectic week in Saturday Night Live's 26-year history. Subdued and petite, Fey, 30, is somewhat wistful about what appears to be a turning point in a year that's been turbulent in a good way for the show.

The extended election campaign and this month's two-week prime-time stint are both good and bad, she says.

"Good for our physical and mental health on the staff," and potentially bad because "the exciting time has ended."

But Fey is more in the limelight than she's ever been. Head writer since last season (she now shares those duties with Dennis McNicholas), Fey also made her on-air debut in October. She co-anchors news parody Weekend Update SNL's signature segment with Jimmy Fallon.

Fey, from Upper Darby, Pa., got her start as a performer in Chicago's Second City comedy group and was hired as an SNL writer for the 1997-98 season.

Last fall, she was drafted for Update when Colin Quinn left the show and Lorne Michaels chose Fey and Fallon to replace him.

And as the first female head writer on a show long dominated by men, she's grateful for good timing.

"I don't doubt that women have had a hard time here in the past, but people here are pretty evolved at this point. It's not that we're not outnumbered; there's still a lot more men than women on the writing staff. Things change slowly."