Have you ever noticed how many jokes about beauty there are on 30 Rock?
Last week, I binge-watched first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Tina Fey’s new Netflix sitcom. Kimmy Schmidt and 30 Rock have a lot in common. Both shows feature awkward female protagonists, weird rich people, and general surreal silliness.
Also: there are a lot of plastic surgery jokes. Thirty Rock has Dr. Leo Spaceman, and Kimmy Schmidt has Sid Grant, a grotesque, taut-faced gnome who offers to fix Kimmy’s “scream lines.”
30 Rock made a lot of jokes about beauty, and they came from all directions. Jack’s jokes were all about male entitlement. Liz’s jokes stem from the indignity of being a slob in a world that punishes women for being human (and, you know, aging). While Liz resists the world’s unreasonable demands, Jenna throws herself headlong into the pursuit of beauty and fame.
Some of these jokes are elaborate set pieces that use effects, other are just quick little one-liners that stayed with me. I couldn’t possibly list them all, so instead I’m going to offer five of my favorites.
NBC is pretty vigilant about taking full episodes off of YouTube, so you’ll have to head to Netflix or another streaming service to watch some of these. They’re all worth it, though, I promise.
Season 3, episode 5: Reunion (02:33)
Jack, giddy with joy, kisses Liz Lemon on the forehead. “What’s that flavor?” he asks. “It’s Dove age-fighting acne cream,” she replies.
Was this a real product? I always thought it was made-up, because it’s tragically funny. But 30 Rock did do Dove product placement...and the Dove anti-aging line is also mentioned in an earlier episode, as a sponsor of “shower confessionals” in NBC’s reality TV show, MILF Island (20 MILFS, 50 eighth grade boys, no rules!).
Season 1, episode 10: The Rural Juror (19:18)
Liz and Jenna’s friendship hits a rocky patch because Liz dislikes Jenna’s new movie, The Rural Juror. When Liz finally concedes that she’s jealous of Jenna’s growing fame, Jenna accepts the apology, but is confused. “Yeah, but you couldn’t have been serious about acting for a living. You have brown hair.”
Blonde hair is very meaningful to Jenna.
Season 3, episode 15: The Bubble (whole episode)
The horrifying thing is that this joke is real.
Season 2, episode 11: MILF Island (07:23)
This is a quick little joke, but I love it. When Tracy wants to miss work, Liz Lemon calls him “the cause of my jawline acne.” It’s essentially an in-joke between the writers of the show and women with hormonal breakouts.
Season 4, episode 7: Dealbreakers Talk Show #0001 (whole episode)
High definition cameras changed the way we do make-up. Suddenly, actresses needed seamlessly airbrushed foundation to survive the camera’s unflattering gaze. In this scene, the camera savages poor Liz before it peers into the souls of Pete, Kenneth, and Jack.
As the host of a new talk show, Liz has to get pretty, fast. Jack encourages her to get “Lasig” surgery. (Dr. Leo Spaceman also offers her a “bone morph” or “mouth peal.”) When Liz finally breaks under the pressure, tears come pouring out of her mouth. “This is how I cry now! Ever since you made me get that off-brand eye surgery!”
- Seriously, does anyone remember if Dove anti-aging acne cream was real?
- How mad are you that I left “Muffin Top” off the list?
- What other gems have I missed?