“Stride of Pride” is the 30 Rock episode that I have been simultaneously anticipating and dreading for the last seven years. The “women aren’t funny” argument is one of those touchy subjects that will often send me flying into a, well, nerd rage. Obviously it’s dead wrong and incredibly insulting, but it’s also just absurd that people actually still believe this. I’ve been known to get sucked in and spend entire afternoons arguing about this over and over while reading some recent article about women in comedy. Each side rehashes the same points and lists the same comedians as they did last time, no one succeeds in changing anyone’s minds, and we all pretty much just agree to meet back in a few weeks and do it again. It’s frustrating, particularly when you think about how you could have spent that time creating comedy instead of yelling about it on the internet, but sometimes, it’s hard to not take the bait. That’s usually all it is: bait to get people riled up for pageviews. We’re probably better off ignoring the subject until everyone stops bringing it up. So on the one hand, I’ve been waiting to see how Tina Fey would answer “Are women funny?” through Liz Lemon, but on the other hand, I was hoping she’d never find it necessary to do so.
The catalyst for this debate on 30 Rock is a tweet Tracy Jordan sent to Stephen Hawking saying that women have never and will never be funny. The scene where Liz confronts Tracy quickly calmed my earlier worries about the episode. Tracy’s two debate strategies—first, he challenges Liz to name one truly funny woman, and then he uses the “If women are so funny, do something funny right now” command —both rang true to life. Both strategies are usually the go-to response of anyone on the wrong end of this argument, but neither is effective, and the conversation always ends up spinning in circles. To her credit, Liz refuses to do either or to further engage Tracy in argument. She even keeps her cool when Tracy fails to convince her to book a monkey for TGS and essentially saying that, on the funny scale, he’d put monkeys over women. He brings the monkey to set anyway, much to the delight of the crew. As Liz watches everyone laugh uproariously at a monkey in a suit while Tracy rubs his bare belly and yells about how women aren’t funny, Liz finally engages. She angrily announces that she and Jenna will perform their Piven-nominated, two-woman show to finally prove that “women are just as funny as monkeys.” What a lovely coincidence that this episode aired the same day that NBC canceled Animal Practice, a show that basically revolved around the idea that people would tune in to watch a monkey do silly things every week.
Admittedly, there was a part of me that wanted to see Liz somehow stick to her guns throughout the entire episode and refuse to prove her comedic chops to Tracy but, at some point, everyone takes the bait. Fortunately, 30 Rock tackles the sketch with the kind of perfect meta-hilarity that it is known for. Aside from a quick setup (Liz is a plastic surgeon for toddlers, Jenna is the toddler) and about three lines of dialogue, we get virtually nothing from the sketch. Instead, there’s a montage set to a song informing us that “Women are funny / We can all agree” and “We don’t need to prove it to you.” There is a great contrast between Liz Lemon’s need to prove herself to her detractors while Tina Fey is basically calling bullshit on that very same need—through song! It only gets better when Tracy admits the sketch was hilarious for the wrong reason (for him, laughs came from the idea that a woman can be a doctor), but Liz takes the victory anyway. It would be easy to end the episode with Tracy changing his stance, but it wouldn’t be very true to 30 Rock or true to real life. “Stride of Pride” succeeded because it wasn’t trying to give viewers an answer to the “are women funny?” question; it was saying that it doesn’t owe anyone an answer in the first place.
The B and C plots both dealt with aging and, while slightly less engaging than normal, they still had enough laughs. Jack meets with Zarina’s other boyfriends to figure out exactly what role he plays in their relationship when he learns that he’s not the “sex idiot”—that title goes to Ryan Lochte who, thankfully, doesn’t overstay his welcome—only to realize that he’s now seen as the father figure. On the opposite end, Jenna has embraced aging so much so that she decides to skip over being middle-aged and go straight to being 56. The logic behind this is so ridiculous that it makes perfect sense for Jenna. She figures that if people think she’s much older, they’ll start complimenting her more on her youthful looks. The highlight was when the storylines came together for a surprisingly sweet moment between Jack and Jenna. Okay, and the Pokemon references were pretty great.
- Liz prefers to call a “walk of shame” a “stride of pride,” which is a phrase that I'm definitely going to steal.
- The curse of the middle-aged actress apparently includes playing “Kevin James’ mean wife who he’s sick of having sex with.”
- According to closed captioning, Ryan Lochte spells his name “RYUNLOKTEE” in his e-mail address.
- Still no Hazel, but a surprise appearance by Cerie and a shout-out to Ken Tremendous!