Conan O’Brien Reveals Why He Has This ‘Complaint’ With Tina Fey

Tina Fey, the first female Saturday Night Live head writer and creator of the iconic comedy series 30 Rock, sat down with Conan O’Brien in October to record an episode of his interview podcast, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend. O’Brien, also an SNL alum, made a few cameo appearances on 30 Rock back when the show was on the air. He told Fey on his podcast that these appearances, now several years ago, caused him to have a bit of an issue with her.

Tina Fey and Conan O'Brien
Tina Fey and Conan O’Brien | Meghan Sinclair/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

O’Brien interviewed Fey on his podcast ‘Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend’

Immediately upon starting his interview with writer and performer Tina Fey, O’Brien told Fey he had a “little bit of a complaint with” her.

“It’s to your credit,” he quickly clarified. He said it had to do with Fey’s workplace sitcom 30 Rock, which ran for seven seasons on NBC.

“When I walk through life, many times,” he explained, “I’ve had people come up to me, get excited, and say, ‘You’re just so great on 30 Rock.'”

Of course, O’Brien has made countless appearances in film and television, not to mention all the years he’s been hosting his late-night talk show. But oddly, it’s Fey’s show that fans name-drop when they spot O’Brien.

Conan O'Brien
Conan O’Brien | Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for TBS

“If you added all the time that I’ve been in 30 Rock it comes to about … three and a half minutes,” he explained, and then joked at his own expense: “maybe one of those minutes is good.” Yet still, for many comedy fans, 30 Rock is the reference–even for O’Brien.

“You’re like the Judi Dench of TV,” Fey told the fellow SNL alum on the podcast. She joked O’Brien would “win an Oscar for those three and a half minutes.”

Fey told O’Brien how she kept ’30 Rock’ on air in an age of dying network television

Fey and O’Brien also talked about the trajectory of 30 Rock as a network sitcom, and how Fey kept the ship afloat amid poor ratings.

O’Brien remarked that on 30 Rock, there are “jokes coming so fast I need to watch again.”

“How do you do that?” he asked.

The cast of '30 Rock'
Actors Tracy Morgan, Tina Fey, Judah Friedlander, Grizz Chapman, John Lutz, and Katrina Bowden | Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

Fey explained that because Aaron Sorkin’s very buzzy Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip aired at the same time as 30 Rock, it allowed the 30 Rock writers to use their relative invisibility to take bigger swings comedically.

“No one’s paying attention to us … because everyone’s paying attention to Studio 60,” Fey said. “We can just keep putting too many jokes in a five-pound bag.” She also gave a large share of the credit to her co-star Alec Baldwin.

“Thank God we had Alec,” she told O’Brien. “If we didn’t have Alec,” she said the network told her it was “not even picking up this pilot.” Baldwin also gave Fey a master class in acting just by being on the show.

“Anything I learned about real acting I learned from watching Alec Baldwin,” Fey wrote in her book Bossypants.

Fey also admitted to O’Brien that they worked hard and long hours on the show. She joked that the whole 30 Rock crew “ran away as fast as possible” after filming.

“We broke a lot of people,” Fey said, hopefully joking. “We did a lot of good work but a lot of people never wanna see us again.”

Luckily, Conan O’Brien is one of them–although perhaps that’s because, by his own admission, he only filmed about three and a half minutes on 30 Rock.