Tonight, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts awards the 13th-annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor to Tina Fey. (Her initial reaction: “I am truly thrilled to receive this honor. I assume Betty White was disqualified for steroid use.”) She’s only the third woman to nab the honor, and at 40, the youngest winner in the award’s history. To celebrate that fact, we’ve rounded up 40 things you probably don’t know about Tina Fey after the jump.
Old yearbook photos
1. Tina’s full name: Elizabeth Stamatina Fey.
2. She is half German (her dad’s side) and half Greek (her mom’s side).
3. When Tina was five, she was attacked by a stranger in her front yard. That’s why she has a scar on her left cheek and favors her other side when acting.
4. Tina was not allowed to watch The Flinstones as a kid because her dad said it was a rip off of The Honeymooners.
5. Tina attended Beverly Hills Middle School, which is in Upper Darby, a township outside of Philadelphia. There, she did an independent-study project on comedy in the 8th grade where she read up on guys like Joe E. Brown.
6. Tina didn’t really date in high school. “I really didn’t have very many dates at all. And that’s not an exaggeration. But also, I don’t think we should discount the fact that unplucked eyebrows and short hair with a perm may not have been the best offering, either,” she has said.
7. She had an anonymous satirical column in her high school paper, The Acorn, under the byline “The Colonel.”
8. Tina has said that she “remained a virgin well into my 20s.”
Tina’s Second City days
9. Tina’s brother Peter is eight years older than her. When she was still a kid, he competed in a Steve Martin impersonation contest in Philadelphia.
10. Tina — who says she hung out with the “art weirdos” in college —played the role of Sally Bowles in a student production of Cabaret at the University of Virginia. (She had previously played the role of Frenchie in her high school’s production of Grease.)
11. After graduating from UVA, Tina headed to Chicago, where she had planned to attend graduate school at DePaul University. She ended up enrolling in improv classes at Second City instead.
12. Adam McKay taught Tina’s first improv class in Chicago at Second City. He’s also the one who hired her at SNL when she was 27. She was made head writer two years later — a first for a female.
13. Tina paid for her classes at Second City by working at the Evanston YMCA, working at the front desk. “I was always fascinated by the guys who lived there. They were these discarded men; some had been kicked out of the house by their wives, some were old men who didn’t have a family to stay with anymore. A few of them were obviously mentally disturbed,” she has said.
14. Tina did some stand-up work while living in Chicago. “Very safe open-mic nights. More like coffeehouses than actual comedy clubs,” she has said.
15. In 1994, she joined the cast of The Second City, where she performed eight shows a week, for two years.
16. When she got the news about the SNL job, friends from Second City took Tina out for a celebratory dinner at Wishbone. She had to leave the table to vomit from nerves.
Tina and Amy Poehler on Weekend Update
17. As a writer for SNL, Tina was known for wearing a ski hat and her love of junk food.
18. Tina’s first sketch to air starred Chris Farley in a Sally Jessy Raphael satire where he played a giant baby.
19. After playing an extra in a skit in 1998, Tina was horrified by her appearance on-camera, and decided to go on a diet. She lost 30 pounds, and suddenly things changed: “I was a completely normal weight. But I was here in New York City, I had money and I couldn’t buy any clothes. After I lost weight, there was interest in putting me on camera,” she has said.
20. In 2000, after Lorne Michael approached her to audition for a role, Fey began performing in sketches and became a co-anchor of Weekend Update.
21. When Jimmy Fallon left SNL in May 2004, Amy Poehler — who first met Tina in Chicago back in 1993 and has described her as “monastic” — replaced him as Fey’s Weekend Update co-anchor. It was the first time that two women had helmed the segment.
22. In 2004, she made her feature debut as a writer and co-star of Mean Girls, which was largely based on her own high school experiences. It took over $120 million at the box office.
23. Tina has a daughter — Alice Zenobia Richmond — who was born on September 10, 2005.
24. After 2005–2006 season, Tina left SNL to develop 30 Rock.
Tina Fey as Liz Lemon in the pilot of 30 Rock
25. In 2002, she pitched NBC a comedy pilot about a cable news network. Kevin Reilly, president of NBC Entertainment, encouraged her to write about what she knew instead.
26. Tina wrote the pilot for 30 Rock by herself. While well-received by critics, the first episode, which aired in October 2006, finished third in its time slot.
27. Fey has won seven Emmys for her work on 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live.
28. Tina’s husband Jeff Richmond composed the 30 Rock theme music. They’ve also worked together in improv theater in Chicago and on Saturday Night Live.
29. In the fall of 2008, Tina made a series of guest appearances on SNL to parody Sarah Palin. The impression was so good that it scored her an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series and gave the show its best ratings in over a decade.
30. Tina has a nude photo of ’30s burlesque icon Blaze Starr hanging in her office.
31. She believes the two funniest words are “hamburger sandwich.”
32. Tina enjoys singing songs from Annie and has the entire soundtrack on her iPod.
Tina Fey photographed by Mario Testino forVogue, March 2010
33. She hates strip clubs in real life. “I love to play strippers and to imitate them,” Fey told Vanity Fair. “I love using that idea for comedy, but the idea of actually going there? I feel like we all need to be better than that. That industry needs to die, by all of us being a little bit better than that.”
34. Leni Riefenstahl’s autobiography — which chronicles her time as Hitler’s favorite filmmaker — is one of Fey’s favorite (cautionary) books.
35. She speaks what she calls “less than first-grade” German.
36. Tina has never taken drugs and finds her husband’s smoking habit “disgusting.”
37. Tina is not fond of her butt: “The most I’ve changed pictures out of vanity was to edit around any shot where you can see my butt. I like to look goofy, but I also don’t want to get canceled because of my big old butt,” she has said.
38. She would never have been interested in a dating a guy like Liz Lemon’s ex-boyfriend Dennis. “I don’t enjoy any kind of danger or volatility. I don’t have that kind of ‘I love the bad guys’ thing. No, no thank you. I like nice people.”
39. Her favorite of the Three Stooges is Larry. “I like the middleman. You can’t really like Moe because he’s always poking people in the eyes,” she has said.
40. Like Liz Lemon, Tina hates her feet, and feet in general.