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Tina Fey talks college, career with SMC students

She doled out advice before accepting this year’s Lew Klein Excellence in Media Award.

Tina Fey said her best advice for facing the “real world” post-graduation is to have a sense of humor and a monthly bus pass.

“You have a little bit of time to try things as long as you can make your rent,” Fey said. “I felt like moving away from home … helps you stand on your own and try things you might have been scared to try. So everybody, move away.”

Fey, known for her work in comedy and on the shows “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock,” accepted the 2016 Lew Klein Excellence in the Media Award and answered questions from students in the Temple Performing Arts Center on Friday morning.

About 1,000 students, faculty and alumni attended to talk college life, career advice and what it’s like to be the most famous Sarah Palin impersonator.

Fey, a native of Upper Darby, talked about her time studying drama at the University of Virginia, saying that 70 percent of what you learn in college is “living with roommates.” She added that it would be great if everyone could attend college for free because “it opens you up to different ways to look at the world and different ways of thinking.”

To the comfort of many students aspiring to follow in her footsteps, Fey said she didn’t appear on television until she was 30, working at a YMCA and attending improv classes in Chicago after graduating college.

“You learn how hard it is to have a real job,” she said. “When you get to a better situation, you appreciate it more. I think it’s good to have some regular jobs first before fancy jobs.”

Fey said her favorite project to date, is the movie “Mean Girls,” because of its positive message. She starred in and wrote the film, an adaptation of the book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” by Rosalind Wiseman.

A student asked if Fey’s work on shows like “The Daily Show” and “SNL” — where she played Palin, a former Republican candidate for vice president  — can affect viewers’ perceptions of presidential races or candidates.

“We’re just trying to find what’s funny and what’s true,” Fey said of her time impersonating Palin and writing for the show. “Because it’s only going to be funny to people if it rings true to them. … We don’t sway the election, but we hook into things people are already feeling.”

Alyssa Mancuso, a freshman communication studies major, asked Fey who she would switch bodies with for a day.

“Dom DeLuise,” Fey answered immediately. “He ate on film a lot and that’s one of my favorite things to do.”

“Everyone was asking these really tough questions, so I just Googled ‘funny questions’ to lighten the mood,” Mancuso, a self-proclaimed “major Tina fan,” said. “She’s incredibly talented, she’s so poised, but at the same time, she’s absolutely hysterical.”

Fey told the crowd the biggest “no” she’s experienced was when she auditioned for the “SNL” cast in Chicago and was passed over. She later realized that she was better suited for writing and started working for the show in 1995.

Alyssa Jerome, a senior media studies and production major who asked about getting over rejections like those, said Fey is an inspiration for women in media.

“She has worked her butt off,” Jerome said. “She’s produced, directed, written. She also started in theater, so I just feel like it proves you can be whatever you want, you can do whatever you want. There’s no set path.”

Fey attributed a lot of her attitude and perseverance to her late father, 1966 journalism alumnus Donald Fey, who died last year. Tina Fey and her brother, Peter, a 1984 radio, television and film alumnus, set up a scholarship in his honor for journalism majors who are military veterans.

“He worked nights and went to school during the day,” Peter Fey told The Temple News. “I honestly don’t know how he did it, but this scholarship is such a worthy thing to represent him.”

Senior communication studies major Ashley Rodriguez was named the first recipient.

“I’ve read her resume,” Peter Fey said, “and she’s the ‘right fit’ for the award.”

Paige Gross can be reached at paige.gross1@temple.edu.

This article has been updated from its original publication on October 7, 2016.

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