Did y’all hear about SNL on Saturday night? No not the (quite funny) repeat with (the surprisingly funny) Brian Williams. It was the live version that was done in a basement in Chelsea. Michael Cera (George Michael) hosted, Yo La Tengo performed, and Fred Armisen had “fake hair applied to his buttocks.” Must have been real.
Last night, a lucky few got to see 30 Rock Live! in the same venue for $20, though scalpers soon took over and some people paid at much as $300. I am very sad I missed it, because who wouldn’t want to have the opportunity to see a “basketball-themed spot for tampons [that] had [Alec] Baldwin laughing so hard he turned crimson.”
Call it a strike-com: On Nov. 19, over 200 wildly excited fans crammed into an underground improv theater in New York City to witness 30 Rock Live!, a benefit performance of NBC’s cult comedy. Getting into the show—staged to raise money for 30 Rock‘s production staff, who’ve been laid off due to the writers’ strike—proved nearly impossible, and star Tina Fey opened the evening by thanking those who had been lucky enough to score the $20 ticket. “If you paid more than that on Craig’s List, you are a sucker,” she told the crowd. “This is going to be on TV for free in a few weeks.”
All of the stars—including Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer, and Jane Krakowski (whose parents were in the audience)—were on hand to perform “Secrets and Lies,” a pre-strike episode set to air Dec. 6. While Fey asked the audience to keep plot details in-house (“Our show is kind of like Heroes,” she explained), what we can tell you is that “Secrets” involves the romance between Jack Donaghy (Baldwin) and Democratic congresswoman C.C. (the absent Edie Falco; her role was performed by SNL writer Paula Pell), GE’s “bros before ho’s policy,” and a popular Japanese street prank called the “shark attack.”
Confining 30 Rock‘s often frenetic, flashback-heavy comedy to a stage the size of walk-in closet is tricky, but the gang managed to make it work, thanks in part to director Don Scardino, who set the scene by reading stage directions from the script. When not reading their dialogue, the cast sat in chairs around the edge of the stage, holding their scripts and stifling giggles. If the pacing was a bit off, it’s only because Fey and company had to pause between each line, as the audience—which filled every available space including the aisles and the floor in front of the stage—howled with glee. Even the commercials, in the form of improvised bits by McBrayer and fellow castmate John Lutz, killed. (The duo’s basketball-themed spot for tampons had Baldwin laughing so hard he turned crimson.)
“It was really fun,” a relieved Fey told EW after the show. But the star hopes the upcoming negotiations between writers and producers will render 30 Rock Live! a one-night-only event. “It’s such a solvable issue and the two sides need to get back to the table and solve it. Not only would I prefer to be working, but I would really like our crew to be working.” Preferably, she added, in a theater that’s not packed to safety-hazard proportions: “I did the maternal thing to make a mental note of where my fire escape route was.”