BWW Review: OPRAH'S 2020 VISION: YOUR LIFE IN FOCUS WITH TINA FEY at Xcel Energy Center
Like any good writer and comedian, Tina Fey came to the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn., prepared with a bunch of one-liners and jokes sure to bring the house down on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. She was the featured guest on Oprah's 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus tour at this second stop.
When asked by Oprah Winfrey what is exciting her most, Fey -- deadpan -- replied, "I don't know. I'm dead inside, Oprah." Cue the laugh track provided by the 15,000 attendees who gave up their entire Saturday, and a hefty chunk of change, to watch the queen of all things tell them how to create their vision for the coming year. More on that in a moment.
Fey, who all you good Broadway fans know well, created the hugely successful MEAN GIRLS on Broadway and the national tour that's criss-crossing the nation. You also know her as Liz Lemon on "30 Rock," and as the former head writer (and first female head writer) and performer on "Saturday Night Live (SNL)." What you may not know is Fey is a "lifetime member" of WW -- the new name for Weight Watchers, sponsor of this tour. Fey joined with a friend and fellow comedian, Paula Pell, when the two moved to New York City to write for "SNL," back at a time the famous points system were in books vs. an app.
"A banana is two points forever!" Fey exclaimed, as she explained she lost 30 pounds and that it's mostly stayed off. She credits the weight loss in helping her realize she could be on TV and not just write for TV. Now, she says, she maintains her weight and lurks on WW's Connect app, where she uses a different name so she can get positive vibes from other community members and occasionally impart knowledge like, "You can put Cool Whip on bananas, guys!"
Her reason for exercising? "I need to be able to get up off the floor." And later, "I want to be walking through town -- probably yelling at people -- when I'm 85."
Fey didn't talk much about her theater background or MEAN GIRLS but did note she stays in touch with her hometown summer theater friends, as well as her SNL friends, whom she's been close to for over 20 years now. This interview came on the heels of the announcement that Fey will join friend Amy Poehler as the Golden Globes hosts again in 2021. She and Poehler don't get to see one another much unless they work together, so she's happy to have this project ahead of them. "Work is my love language," she jokes.
Revisiting MEAN GIRLS and creating the stage version is something that came about because of the internet and the climate that she sees as allowing people to take punches anonymously online. In a moment that was not a joke, she said, "Calling someone ugly doesn't make you better looking." She told Winfrey that she felt it was a blessing (for her) not to be a pretty teenager because people would treat you differently and expect different things from you. Fey is not on Twitter because she calls it a toxic environment.
The environment of the current events of the day affects her comedy writing, and Fey said, "Speaking extemporaneously is the biggest hing to get us in trouble in 2020." She prefers to work from a script and avoid social media statements. Though she also noted it's harder to write jokes now. "Everyone can hear you," she said. "And may not like it." She and fellow writers will take more time now to make sure they're being funny without hurting anyone.
When asked if she would be willing to play any of the current presidential candidates on SNL if asked, she said just like any good improv person, she'd be willing to jump in when needed. She agreed she could play Nancy Pelosi, and someone in the audience yelled out, "Amy Klobuchar!" (Minnesota's senior senator and presidential candidate), to which she said she could but Rachel Dratch is doing it really well already.
"Who's funny?" Oprah asked. Fey listed Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, Kenan Thompson and David Sedaris.
Asked about her own wellness and vision for the year, Fey said she hoped to continue to eat well, move more and sleep. "I spent too many years sleep deprived," she said.
Oprah asked her about being raised Greek Orthodox and her current practice. Fey steered away from anything too serious by telling Oprah that the closest she's come to being spiritual is the love of Oprah, coming home every day after school, making Jiffy-Pop and watching the "Oprah" show. "You are my church!"
Certainly the room of Oprah fans felt similarly when many hands went up and then people stood up to proclaim they'd watched her show every day during its 25-year run. Oprah told the crowd those who did are all her children whom she raised.
The crowd spent the day with her doing workbook exercises to think through their wellness focus for the coming year by answering a series of wellness quotient questions, writing goals and signing a self-contract to be accountable to those goals throughout the year.
To get everyone started she supplied a series of guests who lead the full house in a meditation exercise (Jesse Israel, "The Big Quiet"), Angela Manuel Davis' exploration of "what's your why?" and Julianne Hough's KINRGY exercise program that had everyone on their feet working out with Oprah, who sat in the middle of crowd participating (with Tamron Hall seated behind her). Later in the program, Oprah called up audience member Suze Orman to talk briefly about financial wellness. WW CEO Mindy Grossman and Minneapolis resident and WW member, Jessica Goldade, also joined her on stage. It was very much like an all-day "Oprah" show -- live and in person.
Winfrey herself seemed as genuine as she does on anything you view her on. She can definitely inspire a crowd to join her on a path to wellness with well-planned inspirational quotes and catch phrases, honed over years of work and life. She told the audience many personal stories and even teared up a couple times as she shared stories of her life and how everything has lead her to this point in time. She sang the melody of "Amazing Grace," briefly and said that was her life's theme.
Her daily gratitude and vision plans that include not just wanting something and hoping for it, but intending it to happen, creating the vision and "name it to claim it." She urges everyone to claim their "more" -- whatever that is for each person.
"Own it. Claim it." she said. "You get clear -- it clears up."
For those who cannot attend one of the tour stops, Oprah's 2020 Vision Tour celebrity guest interviews are being replayed online: airing as part of WW's Wellness Wednesday Series on Oprah's Facebook channel, on the WW Now Facebook Channel, and with highlights on Instagram, @ww.now. Interviews will also be re-posted on Sundays.
The day before the interview, Oprah and Fey visited Minneapolis' famed Mary Tyler Moore statue at the corner of Nicollet and 7th Street, where the intro to the 1970s TV show was filmed. Read more about that and watch the video clip here: https://www.oprahmag.com/entertainment/a30475095/oprah-tina-fey-mary-tyler-moore-hat-toss/.
Photo: Credit WW/George Burns.