I attended last night’s live performance of “30 Rock” at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater — just another perk of being a member of the virtual media elite (or possibly just a nerd who bolted online and bought tickets the millisecond I heard the news) — and without resorting to exaggeration designed to provoke jealousy, I will say that you should definitely be jealous, because the show was ridiculously awesome.
UCB was as packed as I’ve ever seen it, and the like-minded crowd was palpably fired up to the point where anything that occurred on the stage was clearly going to receive roaring applause. However, what could have easily devolved into mutual indulgence between the performers and audience — memories of a college colleague’s “The Princess Bride LIVE” flashed through my head preemptively — was instead just a solid, hilarious staged reading in which all of the actors were clearly enjoying themselves, the crowd was genuinely and organically laughing out loud at every deserving line (i.e., all of them), and it became very clear to everyone in attendance that this television show has more than earned its own devoutly appreciative fanbase.
Tina Fey — who is as “am I the only one noticing that this human being is kind of hot?” in person as she is on tv — specifically requested us to not give away the plot on our blogs, adding “cause, you know, the show’s kind of like ‘Heroes’” I also didn’t take any pictures at the event, partially because the UCB mentioned a strict no-pics policy, but mostly because if I ever wake up and realize that I’ve become the blogger who’s holding his phone up at concerts instead of just looking at sh*t, I will literally commit suicide and attempt to liveblog my death (with pictures).
An additional highlight of the evening was three “NBC mandated” commercial breaks, in which Respecto Montelban-alum Jack McBrayer (Kenneth) and former SNL writer John Lutz (Lutz) took suggestions of products from the crowd and improvised really lame, really general fake commercials, including a commercial for tampons that involved two pals playing spastic, overly-mimed basketball. Later on, when a crowd member suggested a “flame thrower” commercial, the two performers immediately snapped right back into overly-mimed basketball, and the crowd reacted with appropriate appreciation.
The one major aspect of the performance that could not be overlooked was, to put it as underwhelmingly simply as possible, just how funny this show has become. Every single overly-specific, exaggerated to the Nth degree Tracy Morgan line was hilarious, Alec Baldwin’s amoral, neurotic neo-conservative Jack Donaghy continues to be impossibly likable, and the overwhelmingly evident connection between the writers (who performed the bit parts in the episode, Derrick’s uber-talented Donald Glover among them) and the performers could only be read as a legitimate enthusiasm for their weekly twenty-two minutes of inanity. I say this not just as a writer trying to make a superfluous larger point about the event’s significance, but as a fan of the show delighting to see Alec Baldwin crack up at the word ‘tampon’ and Tracy Morgan shaking his head laughing at a Jane Krakowski deaf joke, completely free of the forced, “we’re havin’ fun!” chemistry that might be exhibited by, say, the cast of “Stuck On You” hosting Comedy Central’s Friday Night Standup.
All in all, the evening was a wildly successful fundraiser for the out-of-work “30 Rock” production staff, even if I didn’t win the raffle for the “James Carville” t-shirt, a red shirt with the words “James Carville” printed in white on the front and back which was worn by a writer to indicate that he was standing in as a James Carville cameo. I’m sure the opportunity to win one will come up in the near future anyway.
Also, I should mention that I initially bought the tickets thinking it was an episode of “Roc Live,” but whatever. I had fun.