Top 7: Greatest Moments (and Recurring Jokes) in ’30 Rock’ History

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by Kolby Solinsky

Editor, White Cover Magazine

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We must divert from sports from one second. That’s because one of the greatest comedies of all time — some would say the greatest, and it’s almost surely between this title, Arrested Development, and Seinfeld — ended on Thursday night. One last kick at the can for Baldwin, Fey, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer, et al.

At its best 30 Rock was picture-perfect social commentary. At its worst… well, there was no worst.

Fey has always been brilliant, but 30 Rock cemented her reputation as Hollywood’s greatest comedic mind. Alec Baldwin resurrected a career that was certain to have been judged on one speech from the movie Malice, a cameo appearance as a douchebag in Notting Hill, and a voicemail tirade directed at his daughter. Tracy Morgan usurped Tim Meadows to become the funniest black actor from the early 2000’s-era cast of Saturday Night Live. Jack McBrayer is now America’s choice to play every backwards hillbilly with a heart of gold. Scott Adsit turned baldness into a profitable characteristic. Katrina Bowden is almost certainly a permanent fixture in some 20-year-old’s Spank Bank.

The whole thing hit at a time when America sorely needed it. Bush was still in the White House. Comedy was dead. We were still used to 22-minute sitcoms that couldn’t go five seconds without hitting the laugh track button every time the brother from Yes, Dear entered the room. We were coming to the end of The Sopranos.

Suffice to say, we were desperate for laughs.

Oh, Hell. I’ll shut up. Just know this: it was a great show, and it will be sorely missed.

Here are the Top 7 Greatest Moments (and recurring moments) from 30 Rock (in no particular order):

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Jenna Maroney’s Crippling Self-Conscious Confidence

Grantland‘s Molly Lambert summed this up perfectly on Thursday morning, so I’ll refer you to her. Basically, Jane Krakowski embodied both the charm and the villainy of every bitch-who-shouldn’t-be and every actress-with-a-generous-mirror you’ve ever met, or could imagine meeting.

My personal favourite?

Season 1, when Liz and Jenna go to a full restaurant and are told they will have to wait. Jenna begins to reveal her breast to the waiter seductively and says, “Oh, will it?”

The disturbed and unimpressed waiter responds, “Uh, yeah. Yeah, it will.”

(All the following GIFs are from Lambert’s Grantland column, “Jenna Maroney: An Appreciation”.)

Jenna Maroney Grantland GIF 3 Jenna Maroney Grantland GIF 2 Jenna Maroney Grantland GIF 1

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Self-Loathing NBC Insults

Nobody makes fun of the network paying her contract better than Fey or her casts of writers. Every episode became a new opportunity for someone on 3o Rock to ruthlessly insult the National Broadcasting Corporation.

30 Rock constantly reminding its viewers it was the fourth-most watched network in the country (our of four).

The show spent almost all of its fourth and fifth seasons mocking the network’s acquisition by (fake company) Kabletown, including when one executive told Jack Donaghy they could buy NBC as a charitable donation and write it off as a tax deduction.

Or, there was Tracy Jordan asking Jimmy Fallon if he was a celebrity. Fallon responded, “Well, I have my own show on NBC.”

“No,” said Jordan, “Are you a celebrity?”

And, there was that beautiful moment at the end of Season 5 when — during a gas leak at NBC Studios — Liz meets Jack in an abandoned NBC Store.

“Did we close the NBC Store?” she asks.

“No,” he replies. “It’s just empty.”

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Devon Banks

Every show should have a quote of at least one appearance by Will Arnett as a guest star.

30 Rock gets a lot of credit for tackling race jokes with balance and a perfect mixture of humour and tenderness, but it’s done the same for gay issues and any jokes or sketches that may come from the topic. The show’s tone was never mocking, but it still certainly couldn’t go half-an-hour without at least one mention of Fire Island.

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Therapy, Jack Style

Jack Donaghy was a pillar of personality. When watching him, you couldn’t tell if he made you want to be Alec Baldwin or if he made you want to run NBC. Or, did you just want to drink brandy in an office above New York City for one day and maybe one night?

All I know is, I never truly fell in love with 30 Rock until I saw this three-minute tour de force from Season 2:

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Dr. Leo Spaceman

If Tina Fey knows anything, it’s how to appropriately and effectively use her former SNL cast mates, and that absolutely includes Chris Parnell. Spa-che-man (as it’s properly pronounced) was a staple of the show and a treat to see whenever he’d show up.

Hopefully, NBC will one day open up its ridiculously strict online video viewing regulations and we can see more of Spaceman on YouTube.

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Steve Buscemi’s Private Investigator

Who can forget Buscemi, while spying on someone at a park for Jack Donaghy, finishing his Diet Coke, putting the empty plastic can into his blazer pocket, and then riding off on his bike?

An absolutely perfect supporting character.

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Liz vs. Jack

This may be a bit of a cop out. A little lazy. Too easy, right?

Well, what the hell? It was too good to pass up, and we have to thank Fey for becoming the first show creator in TV history to resist the urge to have her two leads fall in love with each other and get married in the finale.