TV Guide: Tell us about landing the Sesame gig.
Tina Fey: You get that call and, of course, the answer is immediately "yes." It's such an institution. I think there are similarities between Saturday Night Live and Sesame Street — [both] are massively influential cultural institutions that are unique to New York and started close to the same time. There is lot of overlap in a weird way.
TV Guide: You sing on the show with Elmo — were you nervous?
Fey: I was only nervous because Elmo sings really high and so I had to sing up in Elmo's key, so I sounded really screechy. [Laughs] But I think I got it.
TV Guide: Has your 2-year-old daughter seen it?
Fey: She watched because Elmo was in it, but she didn't seem to notice or care that it was me.
TV Guide: Do you remember watching Sesame Street as a youngster?
Fey: I've become obsessed recently with the DVD set you can get of Sesame Street: Old School (shop Amazon.com) — it's fantastic, because it makes you realize that there are all these things implanted in your brain that you didn't even know were there, like "The Ladybug's Picnic" and "The Alligator King." It's just such an incredible show.
TV Guide: Who was your favorite character back then?
Fey: It's weird because I grew up pre-Elmo. I like Ernie and Bert — they're truly a comedy team — and also Grover was a big deal.
TV Guide: Did Sesame influence your comedy?
Fey: It probably did. It's genuinely funny. It doesn't patronize to kids.
TV Guide: So compared to working with actors, how was it working with Muppets?
Fey: We had the Muppeteers on SNL before and they are the most impressive performers — they lay on their table on their backs and they are better performers than regular humans. I've seen them improvise and cover for the regular actors — the regular actors mess up and the Muppets cover for them. They're fast on their feet — the people that do that are amazing!
TV Guide: A lot was made last year of NBC putting both Studio 60 and 30 Rock on the air at the same time, with both centering on sketch comedy shows.... And it's fair to say they got more ink, and had all these big TV-proven prime-time TV stars. And now they're dead meat and you're back! So... feel like gloating?
Fey: No. [Laughs] The real battle to be concerned about is trying to get people to watch our show. We survived by the skin of our teeth, so there's no time for gloating.
TV Guide: Why do you think the critical raves 30 Rock has gotten haven't translated into higher overall ratings?
Fey: I think some of it is that there are eight million channels now and it's hard for a lot of shows to get a huge rating. The better NBC does with each passing year, the better Thursday night will do. NBC had a good year last year, so hopefully things will continue to improve.
TV Guide: 30 Rock had so many great guest stars last season — and now you are going to have Jerry Seinfeld on the season premiere.
Fey: [I'm] very excited. It's the best of all worlds for us because not only is [he] a comedian that we all look up to and [he] created one of the funniest television shows ever. But [he's] also a guy with giant commercial appeal who can maybe help people find out about our show.
TV Guide: And now you are shooting Baby Mama.
Fey: Yeah, we finished. I play sort of a wealthy businesswoman who waited too long to have a baby and I try to do it on my own and I can't. Amy [Poehler] is the white-trash, disreputable surrogate that I hire to carry the baby for me, and Dax Shepard plays her common-law husband.
TV Guide: When does this come out?
Fey: I'm not sure, but maybe sometime next spring.
TV Guide: This year you were named among Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World — just who are you influencing?
Fey: It's funny when that came out, I couldn't even get my daughter to let me change her diaper. I'm not sure who I'm influencing, but I'll try to proceed with caution as if I am influencing anybody.
TV Guide: Who makes you laugh?
Fey: I really like The Office — I think everyone on that show is brilliant. The Larry Sanders Show [is] the funniest show... ever. All my friends on SNL. Arrested Development made me laugh.
TV Guide: Well, we hope 30 Rock goes the route of The Office and not Arrested Development.
Fey: [Laughs] I know. It's hard to say because some days I think, "Well, if we go the route of Arrested Development I can raise my kid because I won't be at work so much." But it would be nice to be The Office, too — it remains to be seen.
The Aug. 13 issue of TV Guide features exclusive High School Musical 2 scoop — and a CD-ROM! — plus other family-friendly programming previews. Try four risk-free issues now!
Send your comments on this Q&A to firstname.lastname@example.org.