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Leave Tina Fey alone

Humor columnist Emily Sumlin begs U.Va. to stop harassing their funniest alumna

I get that it’s hard to resist, after all, she has all the elements of a
desirable University alumna.
I get that it’s hard to resist, after all, she has all the elements of a desirable University alumna.

U.Va., my beautiful red-bricked burden, we have to talk. It’s about Tina Fey. I love her, you love her, but we gotta stop asking her for stuff. I know it is literally someone's job to wrangle celebrity alumni and politely force them to inspire the next generation of students, but please leave Tina Fey alone. I get that it’s hard to resist, after all, she has all the elements of a desirable University alumna. 

First, we knew her before she was famous, and though we did not give her the proper respect at the time, we will happily claim her now along with Poe, O’Keefe and all the other creatives who fought to crawl out from the rug we swept them under. Second, she embodies everything the University wants to be — fiercely intelligent, boundary-breaking, extravagantly funny but still someone you could take home to your parents. She and Pharrell’s giant hat would have KILLED at graduation last year and everyone knows it. But when someone’s in high demand you’ve got to play it cool to get their attention, and U.Va. decidedly has not. 

C’mon guys! Not only do we want her to come back, we want her to want to come back. And so far we’ve gone about it all wrong. Every time she appears for three seconds in a video you can smell the University’s desperation. We all see that edited white background, U.Va., she’s not up in the studio with y’all tossing around ideas and eating pizza. Besides, you keep inviting her to do especially un-Tina Feyish things. She does not want to participate in every aesthetically beautiful campaign to curb student behavior. That’s not her style. You will never find her in a Cirque du Soleil tent built to host donors (but more effectively to kill all the grass on the South Lawn)! You just won’t. Invite her to things that Tina Fey would want to go to — I don’t know exactly what those are — but have you even asked her? No, you only think about yourself.

Being a famous alumna sounds exhausting. Imagine every CIO listserv you’re on, then imagine all of them trying to contact you 20 years later. Sound fake? Every year, First Year Players saves tickets for Ms. Fey just in case she was really wanting to see a low-budget rendition of “Little Shop of Horrors” done in a glorified janitor’s closet. Just in case.

Imagine walking into the basement of 1515 and seeing your own face on the wall next to a sweaty first-year trying his hand at Dance Dance Revolution. It would be truly surreal. So, I propose we play the long game: U.Va., save up our Fey power for something truly great. Like maybe she’s the one to sign a law prohibiting banks from taking up any more PRIME restaurant space on the Corner. Or, we hire a soccer coach also named Tina Fey so that she has to introduce them at the next big campus-wide shindig (hey, it worked for Tony Bennett). 

Tragically, I propose the long game with full knowledge that I, as a fourth-year, will not even be around to witness it, but I consider it my ultimate sacrifice. It is because I love Tina Fey and “30 Rock” and “Bossypants” and everything she has ever created that I am willing to let her go if that means getting the University that prime Tina Time it doesn’t necessarily deserve. Because she truly does represent the best of U.Va. — the humor that makes a point, the talent coupled with humility and the knowledge that you are only more powerful when you share the podium with others. She shows us that authenticity and creativity still have merit in this crazy, chaotic ever-warming world. She’s a rare gem, and we are Adam Sandler trying to get our grubby hands on her and we, like him, will receive no awards for it.

So chill out for a second, U.Va., and give the lady her time. She does not owe us anything, and frankly, Katie Couric has given us unrealistic expectations for how much famous alumni really like to hang around. But if one day she decides to stop by, you will know it will be because of her love for the University and not the crybaby tears splattering her six refused invitations to run with Jim Ryan. And to Tina herself, I say only this, there will be two tickets to the final night of the drama department’s upcoming production of “Once Upon a Mattress” with your name on them.

Whether I am or am not in the show is completely inconsequential. I’ll leave them at the door.

Emily Sumlin is a Humor Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at