30 Rock is an NBC Work Com starring Tina Fey (also a writer and executive producer for the series), Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan. The show was launched in 2006. Due to its lackluster Ratings, adoring critics feared it would be Too Good to Last. Nevertheless, the show has thus far managed to last six seasons and has made out like a bandit at three consecutive Emmy Award ceremonies.
The series follows the life of the supposedly homely Hollywood Nerd Liz Lemon (Tina Fey more-or-less playing herself), who is head writer of a fictional Show Within a Show based on Saturday Night Live. "30 Rock" refers to a nickname of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the address of NBC's New York headquarters where SNL is filmed, which is where the series takes place.
Liz Lemon is a Straight Woman who often crosses over into Deadpan Snarker territory and sometimes becomes an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist. This is pretty understandable considering that her job mainly involves dealing with:
- Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) - This guy may have started off as a Pointy Haired Tyrant fond of Executive Meddling, and while he may have become more obviously human over time, he's also become a true Magnificent Bastard. Don't cross him.
- Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) - Has a Big Name and an Even Bigger Ego. Tracy seems to live in his own world of stabbing robots and vampire golfers. He has Ultimate Job Security due to his celebrity status.
- Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) - Liz's best friend, Jenna is an actress/singer, living on the verge of White Dwarf Starletdom, who craves attention. She's not too bright, but she gets through life using her "sexuality".
- Pete Hornberger (Scott Adsit) - Implied to be a Jaded Washout with his mostly unseen family, at work he's the Only Sane Man and/or The Generic Guy.
- Kenneth Ellen Parcell (Jack McBrayer) - Dim-witted Pollyanna from the Deep South, he's quickly become a Breakout Character and often acts as a Morality Pet for the other characters. His age is not disclosed.
- Cerie Xerox (Katrina Bowden) - Air-headed Valley Girl type, Cerie is attractive, privileged, and frequently a bit insensitive, though that seems to be because she's too naïve to notice. As a gag, she occasionally shows flashes of intellect like having an argument with her fiance about the Greek Orthodox Church's stand on Cyprus, or knowing the exact speed of light. Her role has increased through the seasons, though her last name is known only through Word of God.
- Frank Rossitano (Judah Friedlander) - Tracy's biggest fan on the writing staff. A slovenly and prankish Man Child with a dose of kavorka workin'. Probably as much of a slacker as you can be while holding down a steady job. Has a passing resemblance with Garth Algar.
- Josh Girard (Lonny Ross) - A guileless, idiotic actor/writer/impressionist for TGS in the earlier seasons, often thought to have been based on Jimmy Fallon. He spent most of the third season Out of Focus, to the point of appearing in only four episodes out of 22, and was put on a Long Bus Trip in the fourth.
- Jack "Danny" Baker (Cheyenne Jackson) - Josh's replacement, more or less, and a walking Canada, Eh? joke. Meets the same Out of Focus fate as his predecessor.
- Jonathan (Maulik Pancholy) - Jack's worshipful assistant in the first five seasons. At times, he's hinted to have a gay crush on Jack. Between Seasons Five and Six, his actor became a regular on Whitney and Jonathan disappeared without explanation.
- Aborted Arc: Liz's plan to adopt. Lampshaded in Season 5's "Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning".
Kenneth: I couldn't put the memo in your mailbox because it's full of unread adoption materials.
Liz: [uninterested] Yeah.
- Absolute Cleavage: Prominently on display in the "Live Show" episode courtesy of Jenna.
- Accidental Marriage: Jack and Liz in "Mrs. Donaghy".
- Acid Reflux Nightmare: Liz dreams she gave birth to a Bland-Name Product version of the Cheetos mascot after overeating Cheesy Blasters in "Verna".
- Actually Pretty Funny: Liz has a habit of conceding that jabs against her are pretty good.
- After an exchange with Jack, who Liz has called old and compared to Tony Randal, she raves at his comeback comparing her to Jack Klugman:
Liz: Damn, I'm a writer, I'm messy, I'm a lovable curmudgeon; that is solid! Advantage Donaghy!
- Adam Westing: There is a certain element of this to Tracy Morgan's character.
- Most of the celebrity cameos also qualify, including one by the actual Adam West.
Adam West: I was promised a meal.
- Adored by the Network: The Biggest Loser, in-universe.
- Adult Child: Kathy Geiss, who is also The Ditz.
- Also Liz's brother, who due to a ski injury still thinks it's 1985.
- Jack and Devon's fights from Season Four started getting more and more childlike. In one episode, Devon bragged he was firing an imaginary laser gun at Jack. Jack pantomimed a laser shield the next time he fired it.
Jack: That wasn't supposed to be a public hearing.
Devon: Awwww, I guess somebody weaked it.
Jack: You did! You weaked it!
- Almost Kiss: "Black Tie" and "Do-Over".
- Alter Ego Acting: Both Jane Krakowski and Tracy Morgan's recent commercials for Florida orange juice and Wheat Thins (respectively) almost seem like they were intended to be played by Jenna and Tracy Jordan.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: The "Gay Bomb" was an actual Pentagon project that was abandoned in the mid-nineties.
- Amazing Freaking Grace: Sung by Jenna in "Don Geiss, America, and Hope", but cut off by the opening credits.
- Ambiguously Brown: Carmen Chao in "¡Qué Sorpresa!". The actress, Vanessa Minnillo, is an appropriate mix of Italian, Irish, and Filipina. Lampshaded by Jack:
Jack: She's very sneaky, which isn't racist since we don't know what she is.
Tracy: (dressed in drag) Do you think I'm sexy?
Frank: Tracy, I know it's you... and yeah
Liz: ... I genuinely don't know.
Tracy: That one's a puzzler.
- Jonathan, if only for Jack, not really that ambiguous, he seems to have combined hero worship and love.
Jack: Jonathan, I want you to cut off my pinkie.
Jonathan: But I can't do that, sir! Then you wouldn't be perfect anymore!
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle. Tracy's public service message about the importance of Japanese sex dolls.
Tracy's Sex Doll: You know a lot of people look down on sex dolls. But as you saw tonight they save lives and bring families together. How am I such an expert? I’m Tracy Jordan’s sex doll!
- Anguished Declaration of Love: Liz gives one to her boyfriend in "St. Patrick's Day", to which he responds, "I know."
Liz: You Soloed me!
- Anti-Advice: Jack prepares some videotapes for his expected child, in case of his demise. One piece of advice: "In the unlikely event that you encounter something that isn't covered here, find a woman named Elizabeth Lemon. Get her advice, and then do the opposite."
- Anything That Moves/Hermaphrodite: Jenna claims that her boyfriend Paul is a "gender-dysmorphic bigenitalian pansexualle".
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
- The Artifact:
- The initial concept was to have TGS with Tracy Jordan sketches figure more prominently. This was abandoned early in the first season, and the TGS sketches became 2-second cutaway jokes about how terrible they were, leaving characters such as Josh (especially Josh) little to do.
- As Jack was initially envisioned to be a recurring villainous executive (much like Will Arnett's eventual role), Pete was to be a stark contrast as the voice of reason, as well as Liz Lemon's confidante and support system. Once Jack, now a main character, evolved into the same function, Pete's role was reduced to getting stuck in vending machines and complaining about his sex life.
- Artifact Title: An in-show version. The TV show Liz writes for was originally called The Girlie Show, meant to be a sketch-comedy show "by women, for women." Jack ended that in the pilot episode, adding Tracy to the cast and giving him top billing in TGS With Tracy Jordan. Liz still has the original "Girlie Show" logo hanging in her office.
- Even more so in "TGS Hates Women".
- Artistic License: The portrayal of Stone Mountain, Georgia in the episode "Stone Mountain" and throughout the series. It is portrayed as a super white, super country rural town with people living in caves and "hill people". Stone Mountain is a real place, and is actually 69% black and mostly suburban, being about a half-hour's drive from Atlanta.
- Ascended Extra: In Season 3, Danny the "robot" street performer can be seen during a date montage with Jack and Elisa (Salma Hayek). In Season 4, Jack hires him as a regular cast member. Doubles as a Brick Joke.
- Sue was a nameless ("Girl Writer") non speaking extra for the first two years of the show.
- Ascended Fanboy: Kenneth.
- Aside Glance: "I love America."
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The German translated as “Yeah” in "Black Tie". The rest of the conversation is correct, though.
- Attention Whore: JENNA. Yeah, in all caps.
- Audience Murmurs: Parodied more than once--in "Let's Stay Together", Rob Reiner quite clearly says "Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb, peas-and-carrots rhubarb" at a Congressional hearing.
- Author Tract: An obvious parody of Studio 60 in an early episode, ending with Lemon confusing herself and saying that she needs to read more.
- Back-Alley Doctor: "Dr." Leo Spaceman. He has a medical degree from the Ho Chi Minh City School of Medicine, is only allowed to practice in seven states and is legally required to put quotation marks around his "doctor" title.
- Badass Boast: Jenna, of all people, gets one in when she finds out that Hazel had been trying to scare her off the show by staging dangerous accidents.
Jenna: Nice try, but you should have killed me when you had the chance.
Liz: I do love me them french-fried potaters!
Jenna: No you don't, Oprah!
- The first rule of improv, of course, being "no negation".
- Bald of Awesome: Pete.
- Ballad of X: Season 6 episode "The Ballad of Kenneth Parcell".
- The Beard: In "Klaus and Greta", Jenna is a Beard for James Franco and his love of a body pillow.
- In an early episode, Liz says that "If you're a gay guy looking for a beard, I don't do that anymore."
- Bedsheet Ghost: In "The Return of Avery Jessup", Jack throws Avery a party combining all the holidays she missed, including Halloween, and New York City Mayor Bloomberg wears this as his costume.
Tonight, I'm Mayor Boomberg!
- Berserk Button: You would do well never to steal Liz Lemon's food, or...
Liz: I'll cut your face up so bad, you'll have a chin. YOU'LL ALL HAVE CHINS!!
- Earlier in that episode in a flashback:
Liz: WHERE'S MY MAC AND CHEESE?!! *Flips writer's table over*
- Also, Jenna at the mention of anyone upstaging her.
Liz: Jack is hiring a new cast member.
Jenna: IF IT IS A BLONDE WOMAN, I WILL KILL MYSELF!
- On picket line:
Jenna: (picketing) Jenna is great! No new cast member!
Tracy: New cast member?! If it is a blonde woman, I will kill myself!
- Don't insult Ronald Reagan in front of Jack.
Jack: (to Liz) I appreciate it. Lemon, but if you ever speak ill of Reagan again, I'll smack those teeth straight.
- Better as Friends: Jack and Avery realize this at the end of Season 6.
- Betty and Veronica: Jack between Nancy and Avery. A very hard choice considering it's Julianne Moore and Elizabeth Banks.
- Lampshaded in the Season 4 finale when Nancy confronts him about loving two people at once. "Haven't you ever read Archie?"
- Ultimately subverted from the usual outcome when Jack ends up with Avery, the young career woman, instead of his childhood sweetheart.
- Big Applesauce: Actually filmed there, though.
- Big Beautiful Woman: Tracy's wife.
- Big Eater: Liz Lemon. And Jack Donaghy, a stress eater.
- Bikini Bar: Tracy drags Liz to one in the pilot.
- Bilingual Bonus:
- "Well, I don't know what to say to that except that in Puerto Rico a Mc Flurry is called a Senior Flurry."
- "Sabor de Soledad" (the name of the brand of Mexican cheese puffs that Liz Lemon is often seen eating) means "Flavor of Loneliness".
"Ahora con más semen de toro!"
- A Japanese man is shown singing a Japanese version of "I've Been Working on the Railroad" at a karaoke bar in Season 4. What he sings and what the prompt says are totally different, but they are both about railroads. What Jenna is doing on the screen is completely unrelated (from cavorting with a man in a field to strangling an old Japanese man, and so on).
- In Season 3 Episode 14 "The Funcooker", the original name for the new portable microwave was the Bite Nuker. Unfortunately, as Jack pointed out, in a combination of Dutch and French it means "Dick Fucker".
- Bi the Way: Sue (although the instances of this that we have seen may all have been If It's You It's Okay and/or Funny Foreigner).
"What lovely nostrils!"
- She also revealed she is a virgin... with white men.
- Biting the Hand Humor: A lot of it at NBC and GE's expense. When GE sold NBC to Comcast in real life, the show had a plot arc about being sold to "Kabletown". Cue disses to Philadelphia.
- Black Best Friend: After being repeatedly antagonized by Tracy for only granting freedom to white male land-owners, an actor playing John Hancock on Boston's Freedom Trail tries to pass off an actor playing Crispus Attics as this, though Tracy points out that Attics died six years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
- Black Like Me: Parodied: in one episode, Jenna and Tracy get into an argument whether it's harder to be black or be a woman. Let's just say the end results were less than convincing.
Tracy: Liz, it's Becky! Your college roommate!
Jenna: (singing) Ease on down, ease on down the road!
- Bland-Name Product: In "St. Patrick's Day", the writers (and later Jack) play a fantasy resource management board game called Colonizers of Malar.
- The Blank: On a show within a show episode, we see a manager whose face appeared to be blurred for the camera, but we learn he has "Blurry Face Syndrome".
- Blind Idiot Translation: Jack finds a Chinese knock-off of Liz's Dealbreaker book--Dealbreaker: The Book For You Man No Good. by Lesbian Yellow-Sour-Fruit.
- Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: Avery, Avery, Avery.
- Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Elisa loses all handling of English idioms after being in Puerto Rico and speaking no English for a while.
- Brain Bleach: Kenneth inspires a lot of this. In the episode "Floyd", Jenna and Tracy start having sex dreams about him.
Tracy: I had a dream that Kenneth and I got intimate in a portable Jacuzzi. It was crazy, glistening black and white skin. It looked like a close up of a killer whale being born.
- Later in the episode, Pete dreamed of Kenneth stripping into silver mylar underwear with the NBC logo emblazoned on his crotch and backside. Liz entered, and rubbed and spanked Kenneth while saying, in Jack Donaghy's voice, "Let's do this!" The screaming did not abate.
- Brainless Beauty: Dr. Drew, Liz's boyfriend for a few episodes. Played by Jon Hamm, one of the most strikingly handsome men on the planet, he's so hot that it takes Liz several episodes to realize that the poor sweet bastard is one of the dumbest human beings alive.
- Breakout Character/Ensemble Darkhorse: Kenneth, big time.
- Brick Joke: Liz's "sex nightmares" (about her grandma and Tom Jones respectively) each get Freudian explanations in later episodes.
- In an early episode, Jack reads Kenneth’s file to see his potential as a threat, he seems deeply off-set by a number similarities between them but also randomly that Kenneth’s middle name is "Ellen". Four seasons latter Kenneth receives Jack's paycheck by accident and gleefully exclaims that Jack "Francis" Donaghy has a girl's middle name "Just like me!"
- Bunny Ears Lawyer:
- Dr. Leo Spaceman.
- Jenna's contract mandates that she be made a producer should TGS reach a fifth season; she turns out to be excellent at it and has the show's best interest at heart to the point of realizing that under the current budget she's superfluous, and asks Pete to fire her.
- Tracy. Everyone acknowledges that he's absolutely crazy, but he gets great ratings and arguably saved the show.
- The Bus Came Back: In a meta-example, after three seasons, Rachel Dratch resurfaces in "Live Show," playing a cleaning lady. She came back again in "100" in her former role of TGS animal wrangler.
- Josh comes back in "Audition Day", trying to get his old job. He's been doing gay porn.
- Butt Monkey: Lutz and Jonathan.
- Shut up, everyone! Shut up, Lutz!
- Buxom Is Better: Jack's girlfriend Elisa, played by the patron saint of Buxom Is Better, Salma Hayek. From "St. Valentine's Day":
Liz: If I had knockers like that, I'd be thanking God too.
- California Doubling: Inverted: Tracy Jordan's freakout on the 405 (in Los Angeles) was actually filmed in New Jersey.
- Call Back: In a Season One episode, Liz goes to Cleveland, which seems like a paradise to her after living in New York. She calls it "The Cleve". Next season she turns in a neighbor she suspects to be a terrorist, only to learn from an audition video that he is merely trying out for The Amazing Race. When listing the places he has gone, he mentions "The Cleve". Cue raised eyebrow from Liz.
- In the third episode of Season One, long before any of Liz' love interests are introduced on-screen, Pete goes through a list of her former boyfriends. Two of the three later show up, including Conan O'Brien, and Dennis features in a few multi-episode arcs. The latter is notable for originally being "the guy who plays X-Box under the handle Slut Banger", which is completely appropriate for his character.
- Calvin Ball: Kenneth's insane Secret Santa variant.
Kenneth: And then one of you guys is the murderer--wait, that's not right...
- The Cameo: Ghostface Killah, Whoopi Goldberg twice, Joy Behar, Jerry Seinfield, Conan O'Brien, Al Gore, former GE head Jack Welch, and many others.
- Will Ferrell as the main character in Bitch Hunter.
- "Kidney Now" features a ridiculous amount of guest cameos: Clay Aiken, Sara Bareilles, the Beastie Boys (Mike D and Ad-Rock), Mary J. Blige, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Steve Earle, Wyclef Jean, Norah Jones, Talib Kweli, Cyndi Lauper, Adam Levine, Michael McDonald, Rhett Miller, Moby, Robert Randolph, and Rachael Yamagata.
- Brian Williams and Matt Lauer pop up every now and then.
- Aaron Sorkin competed with Liz for a job, doing the whole scene with his trademark Walk and Talk.
- Tom Hanks appeared in "100". The song he sings while he knits is the theme song from Bosom Buddies.
- Throwaway gags about Jack dating Condoleeza Rice were redeemed in the fifth season when she played herself as Jack's PO'd ex.
- Buzz Aldrin was Liz's mother's old boyfriend
- Jim Carrey playing himself in a role in Leap Day Williams, which is a cross between The Santa Clause and Liar Liar. His wife is played by Andie McDowell.
- Camp Gay: All of the openly gay characters, especially Randy Lemon and, of course, Devon Banks.
- Canada, Eh?: New castmember Danny is from Canada, and the show goofs on Canadian stereotypes.
- In "Double-Edged Sword", Jack and Avery are horrified at the prospect their baby might be born in Canada.
- Captain Oblivious
- The Cast Showoff: The writers never miss an opportunity to put Jane Krakowski's singing abilities on display.
- Catapult Nightmare/Dream Within a Dream: Tracy and Pete both have sex dreams about Kenneth in "Floyd".
- Catch Phrase: "Shut it down!"; "Blurgh"; "By the hammer of Thor!"; "I want to go to there"; "Nerds!"; "That's a deal breaker, ladies!" For a more complete glossary of the show's catchphrases, click here.
- And Jack Donaghy's iconic "Good God Lemon."
- Lampshaded in "Queen of Jordan".
D'fwan: ... D'fwan forgot his catchphrase!
- Jack's Executive Meddling in his and Liz's television movie "Kidnapped by Danger" includes forcing the inclusion of an "awesome catchphrase!"
Jack: That suggestion was off the charts, kemosabe!
- Celebrity Paradox:
- Liz is a Star Wars fan and sometimes quotes the movies, and even dressed up as Princess Leia to evade jury duty. However, when Carrie Fisher shows up in the Season 2 episode "Rosemary's Baby" as a writer whom Liz idolized, she doesn't recognize her as Princess Leia. Fisher even gets to do the requisite Shout-Out, yelling "I need you Liz Lemon, you are my only hope!"
- Liz can't seem to remember who the white guy was in Invictus. It was Matt Damon, who played her pilot boyfriend, Carol, earlier in the season.
- There are constant references to Friends, usually accompanied by mentions of its infamous Ross and Rachel storyline. Yet nobody recognized Greenzo or Liz's old college friend as David Schwimmer or Jennifer Aniston.
- Chekhov's Skill:
- Who knew Jack's Tracy impersonation would actually solve a plot issue three seasons after it was used for a one-off joke?
- Josh's impressions of both Tracy and Jack solves their problems of talking to their loved ones over the phone.
- Chew Toy: The entire cast. However, Pete gets the most abuse, even more than Lutz.
- Jonathan, increasingly as the show went on.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Tracy, surprisingly. Despite being a pornography savant with a dedicated chair in every strip club in town, a tell-all book about Tracy reveals that he's never been unfaithful to his wife, whom he loves dearly.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
- Church of Happyology: The Church of Practicology, a pretty blatant Captain Ersatz version of Scientology--they love celebrities, use devices similar to e-meters, and have an equally bizarre creation story:
Jack: [The Church of Practicology?] You mean the cult that was invented by Stan Lee?
Devon: No, I mean the religion founded by the alien king living inside Stan Lee.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: In "100", Jenna somehow generates a baby bump by virtue of wanting to get pregnant hard enough. It immediately vanishes when Hank Hooper offers her a talk show deal.
Dr. Spaceman: That's redundant, all pregnancies are hysterical - they're started by penises.
- Class Reunion: Where Liz learns she was the universally loathed high school bully, not the shy quiet bullied nerd, which is how she remembered it.
- Clip Show:
- Subverted in season three's "The Bubble":
Liz: Has it been that long? Boy, we sure have done some crazy things with Tracy in the last three years.
Jack: We sure have.
Liz: I'm thinking of some of them now.
Jack: ...Me too.
- Played somewhat straight in "100". Hundredth episodes have commonly been clip shows in sitcoms; 30 Rock legitimizes the characters reminiscing because a gas leak has gotten into the air vents, and exposure to the gas causes, among other things, hallucinations and nostalgia. Lampshades abound.
- Closet Geek: Jack had a cookie jar collection, which he forced himself to get rid of in order to be able to climb the corporate ladder. He also still cherishes his childhood dream of being a marine biologist.
- Cloudcuckoolander: While practically the entire cast is frequently portrayed as at least slightly nuts, Tracy Jordan often has zero connection to reality. One episode involves a mention of a Christmas song he recorded, which begins with the lines "Magic Christmas wishes / Shooting out of your eyes...". Then there's "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah": "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah / Spooky, scary. / Boys becoming men, / men becoming wolves."
- Clumsy Copyright Censorship: From time to time. The problem is that it's generally not reflected in the DVD subtitles. For example, "['Jaws' theme playing]" superimposed on a scene where said theme was replaced with a "sneaky" version of the main theme.
- Continuity Nod:
- Liz's "disgusting foot secret", and her preferred underwear, Spanx.
- From Peanut to President, seen in episodes "Into the Crevasse" and "Stone Mountain" after Milton Greene mentions he's writing it.
- In "Live Show", Jack mentions that he agreed not to drink while Avery is pregnant (although he ends up drinking with Liz at the end of the episode). In "Christmas Attack Zone", he is shown drinking water while Liz and Milton drink wine. In another episode, Jack is seen drinking throughout. A line in the epilogue mentions that Avery made him sleep on the couch for a week for breaking his promise.
- "100" had the blue dude, Dennis, "Pam the Overly Confident Morbidly Obese Woman", and a nod to Hard to Watch, amongst others.
- Alternate Jack also wears a tuxedo noting that's it's after 6:00, a nod to Jack's former habit.
- "Respawn" has Kenneth plead with Jacob for "more time", which he had done once already in a seemingly comic instance earlier in the season.
- One of the most long reaching in the history of TV. In the pilot episode it was mentioned that Tracy fell asleep on his neighbor's roof. In the latest season we got this from Angie:
I just want to wake up, look over, and see my husband asleep. On the neighbor's roof.
- In Season 5, Jenna, Kenneth and Kelsey Grammer formed "The Best Friends Gang". The next season, Kelsey mentions the Gang with Jenna.
- Contractual Purity: In-universe: a wool company imposes a morality clause on Jenna after taking her on as a spokeswoman, which Paul takes ire with because it requires him to cover up his gender-dysmorphic bigenitalian pansexuality.
- Contrived Coincidence: Played for laughs in the episode "Sandwich Day", where Jenna is having trouble with a drinking competition, competing by herself - that is until everyone simultaneously realizes they can now drink alcohol (Tracy's monitoring bracelet deactivates, Kenneth realizes he grew up drinking the stuff etc), and help Jenna win.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Jack, though classist and greedy, is arguably the most sympathetic character on the show, and undoubtedly a good human being.
- Country Matters: An episode titled "The C Word" centered around... you know.
- Kenneth provides a subversion in a different episode.
Kenneth: You are being a C-word! That's right, a Cranky Sue!
- Creator Breakdown: Apparently Liz tried her hand at writing a novel once. Jenna opens to an early page to find "Liz stabbed Jenna repeatedly".
- Credits Gag: In "Subway Hero", the Stanley Cup briefly appears. Come the closing credits:
And Introducing Lord Stanley Cup as Himself.
- Crossdresser / Celebrity Impersonator: Jenna's Jenna-impersonating boyfriend, Paul.
- Crowd Song: "Episode 210" ends with a memorable cast rendition of "Midnight Train to Georgia".
- Cultural Posturing: Jack can't take a company seriously if they're from Philadelphia, which causes Liz Lemon (from White Haven, PA) to stand up and defend it. Jack responds by defending Boston and they square off until the Los Angeles branch tries to interrupt, only for everyone to pile on them.
- Cure Your Gays: Devon Banks claimed he was "cured" of his homosexuality. It didn't work, as Devon remains infatuated with men, especially Kenneth (and Jack, see Foe Yay below).
- Inverted in "Cooter", when a "gay bomb" weapon malfunctions, causing Jack and Cooter to hit on each other. Later flashbacks reveal Jack was also involved with the generals in the room, and then-vice-president Dick Cheney. Later still in a confessional Jack claims to have sodomized Cheney.
Cooter: I feel weird.
Jack: (hungrily) Let's do this.
Sideways!Jack: What the hell is a Pwomp?
Normal!Jack: It's when two fat people-
Liz: Pete. You and Paula fight a lot...
Pete: No! I-I walked into a door, ah, I'm so clumsy...
- Dark Reprise: A sinister cello version of "Muffin Top" is heard when Tracy or Jenna are up to something.
- Dead Artists Are Better: Invoked in "Jackie Jormp-Jomp"; Jack attempts to sell Jenna's awful not-quite-about-Janis-Joplin biopic to distributors by milking an accidental report of her death. She proceeds to ruin everything for the sake of obscuring her real age (a memorial show would've revealed her birth year).
Jenna: Still alive not yet 32! Worth It! Sorry, Jack.
- Decapitation Presentation: "Stone Mountain". Well, it's a dummy's head.
- Deep South: Where Kenneth is from. The episode "Stone Mountain" actually shows it, and he mentions it frequently.
- Demoted to Extra: Poor Josh Girard, from Jenna's male co-star in Season 1 to largely anonymous staff writer. Got Put on a Bus in Season 4.
- Department of Redundancy Department: "New blood is the lifeblood of every company's blood."
- Depraved Bisexual:
- The Determinator: Jack Donaghy's freakish willpower. Includes growing an inch and a half and defeating a peanut allergy.
I believe that when you have a problem you talk it over with your priest, or your tailor, or the mute elevator porter at your men's club. Then you take that problem and you crush it with your mind-vise. But for lesser beings, like curly haired men, or people who need glasses, therapy can help.
- Different in Every Episode: The humorous message on Frank's trucker cap.
- The Ditz: Kathy Geiss. She signs contracts with crayon, with the requisite flowers and rainbows, and do not interrupt her soaps (You Have Been Warned). Her idea of sex is strange though, such as putting strawberry-flavored lipstick on her man to label him a "fancy boy".
- Do-It-Yourself Theme Tune: During the live show, Jane Krakowski (East Coast) and Cheyenne Jackson (West Coast) sang along to the theme.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Once in a while the show pulls off enormous conceits, like using coaching a Little League team to comment on the war in Iraq or Liz acting like she's courting a man as she attempts to buy an apartment.
- Door Dumb: The scene that establishes the character of The Ditz Katie Geiss has her pulling in desperation at a bathroom door printed clearly with the word "push".
- Double Standard: "Women are allowed to get angrier over the double standard than men are!"
- Drinking Contest: "Sandwich Day".
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Don Geiss is killed off, off-screen and "weeks ago" in Season 4 and only Jack cares. Likely an unfortunate case of Real Life Writes the Plot, Rip Torn's troubles with alcoholism made it unlikely they could count on him to reprise his role as Geiss.
- Embarrassing Cover Up: "I don't have alopecia... I'm very hairy."
- Engineered Public Confession
- Erotic Dream/Homoerotic Dream: In "Floyd", Tracy and Jenna are forced into listening to Kenneth's stories for several hours. Tracy begins to have dreams about Kenneth trying to get it on with him. Subverted with Jenna; she states her dreams about Kenneth are very "graphic". Turns out they are very detailed about them getting married and having lots of kids. Pete also has one involving Kenneth and Liz during The Stinger.
- Escalating War: The set of pranks between Frank, Toofer, and Lutz against Danny and Jack in "Floyd".
- Also, the Frank/Toofer rivalry from "Secrets and Lies".
- Liz and Jack get into one of these in Season 5, after they accidentally get married.
- Et Tu, Brute?: Jack says "Et tu, Kenneth?" in "Audition Day".
Kenneth: "You speak Latin? Then you understand. The safety of the people is the highest law."
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: It may have taken a polygraph to get Jack to admit it, but...
- Even Evil Has Standards: Grizz and Dot Com (While not at all evil, admittedly) are horrified that Tracy wants to start dog fighting (only because Jack told him it was the only thing He absolutely could not do). They stop him by only bringing him puppies to fight.
- Everybody Did It: Parodied in "It's Never Too Late For Now", complete with a Shout-Out to Trope Maker Murder on the Orient Express.
- Everyone Owns a Mac: "Promotional considerations furnished by Apple".
- Everything Is Racist: Wayne Brady's character in "The Source Awards" isn't a good match for Liz. Not because he's a prudish, boring, conspiracist weirdo--no, it's because he's black. Or, she's lesbian.
- Tracy is hyper-paranoid about racism as well. He thinks everyone at TGS is racist, and has supposedly learned derogatory terms for blacks in every language throughout history - including dolphin.
Liz: (to Toofer) Yeah, well, Tracy is a buffoon.
Tracy: (from the hallway) That's a fifteenth-century term for a black pirate. Racist!
- Another show had this exchange:
- Evil Laugh: Jaden in "Audition Day".
Jaden: Would a crazy person laugh like this? Hoo-hoo-haha-HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Tracy's movie Hard to Watch, which reduces everyone to tears.
- Executive Meddling: In-universe: Jack does this a lot, but since he's extremely Genre Savvy, he's often right.
- Fag Hag:
- Fail O'Suckyname: Jeffrey Weinerslav. Liz makes a valiant attempt to pronounce it as something other than the obvious.
Liz: Excuse me, Mr. Whiner-slahv--
Weinerslav: It's pronounced "Weiner-slave".
Liz: Okay, Jeffrey...
- Fake Charity: Jack's conman brother takes a collection for "Chicago All-Saints Hospital" (C.A.S.H.).
- Fashion Shop Fashion Show: In the episode "Flu Shot", the trope is played straight for two seconds in a flashback sequence, with Tracy and Jenna.
Liz: Stop. I don't need the montage.
Jenna: Sometimes I was like this [shakes head no], but other times I was like this [gives thumbs up].
- Fate Drives Us Together: The only reason Wesley Snipes (not that one) made any appearances after his first.
- Fetish Retardant: In-universe example: Tracy's "signature move" of taking off his shirt.
- Feud Episode: "The Rural Juror".
- Fictional Holiday: Leap Day isn't strictly fictional, although it's not really a holiday in real life. The show develops it into a traditional, over-commercialized holiday with established traditions, a Santa Claus like figure (Leap Day William) and its own holiday movie starring Jim Carrey.
- Fight Clubbing:
- Pete is seen in cutaways partaking in a Fight Club to get his aggression out
- Liz also discovers that the group of rich unemployed women she's been hanging out with is in actuality a Fight Club in "Jackie Jormp Jomp".
- Five Stages of Grief: After Jack found out Don Geiss dies, he experienced all the stages in a matter of seconds.
- Flanderization: True to an extent with several characters, but most obviously Jenna, who went from Liz's old friend and confidante in Season 1--"You're my rock!"--to an insane Attention Whore as well as being ridiculously slutty and perverted.
- Fridge Brilliance: In "Secrets and Lies", Jenna said to Liz the following:
Jenna: Apparently the only way to get respect around here is to act like Tracy! And that's exactly what I'm gonna do...
- Flashback Cut: Frequently done, and most brilliantly executed in the Live Episode, when Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Liz Lemon in the flashbacks.
- Flipping the Table: "WHERE'S MY MAC AND CHEESE?" (episode "Sandwich Day").
- Liz again in "Queen of Jordan".
- When Josh quits, he tries to flip the table, but thanks to his slender frame, he needs help - Liz encourages the other writers to help him.
Frank: Okay, lift with your back.
Liz: (calling over her shoulder as she walks into her office) That is wrong! Lift with your legs!
- Food Porn: No surprise that Liz being Liz, her office features a framed photo of a breakfast plate. In one episode, Jack sniffs it for motivation.
- Foregone Conclusion: If "100"'s future!Jack is to be believed (and he does know more than he should),Jack won't end up with Avery--which ends up true. Avery is kidnapped by Kim Jong-Il and forcibly married to Kim's successor, Kim Jong-Un.
- Foreshadowing: In "Respawn", Liz's Spanish lesson tape teaches her the phrase "disaster imminent" just before Tracy destroys her glass tabletop with a stray golf-ball.
- Freaky Friday Flip: Parodied. Kenneth has an enemy for the first time, and isn't really sure what to do, except...
"Pray for a body switch that allows us to see the world from each others' perspectives?"
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Jenna's 'sexual walkabout list' in "Meet the Woggels", containing "cause an impeachment", "Supreme Court Justice, liberal", and "the Lorax".
- Freudian Excuse: Mostly Played for Laughs.
- The reason for Liz's sexual hang-ups? As a child her mother caught her on the ground under a Tom Jones poster with her panties around her ankles because she fell while she was waiting for the bathroom wearing roller skates. Her mother reacted by taking all the posters of Liz's crushes out of her room, leading her to believe that "sex makes all the people go away."
- Why is Jenna such an Attention Whore? Every Christmas, her negligent mother made her sing as a distraction while Jenna's mother shoplifted. Those few minutes that people were actually paying attention were the best parts of her Christmases.
- Friday Night Death Slot: TGS is on at 11:00 PM on Fridays, unless there's wrestling.
- Friends Rent Control: Averted--Liz's apartment is pretty nice, but quite modestly sized by the standards of anywhere in America but Manhattan. It is in Manhattan, and she is a network TV executive. In the DVD commentary for "Black Tie", Tina Fey points out how ludicrously expensive Liz's apartment would be. Then again, the high rent might explain why Liz makes Show Runner money and yet her only assets are $12,000 in checking and a gas giant named in her honor.
- Full-Name Basis: Tracy to Liz.
- Fun with Acronyms:
- Jack's swindler brother Eddie convinces everyone to make out checks to Chicago All Saints Hospital.
- LUNCH: LEGO Utilization for Negating Crisis Hierarchies.
- CLASS: Consuming Lunch And Simple Socializing ("Now that just seems intentionally confusing.").
- When looking for a mentee, Jack looks for DIHC (read that out loud): Drive (and ambition to be worth Jack's time), Intelligence (to understand the challenges they're going to face), Humility (to accept Jack's help), and (a life that is a bottomless swamp of) Chaos.
- HEART: Hard Equations And Rational Thinking.
- In "Respawn", Dr. Spacemen tells Liz to get some "R&R--Rum & Ritalin."
- Subverted with Devon's gay rights organization PEEN. When Jack asks what it's an acronym for, Devon replies "Acronym?"
- Fun with Subtitles:
- "Black Tie" has the classic "overly long line translated as one word" gag.
- Even the Subtitler Is Stumped:
- In "Episode 210", Liz can't keep up with the German TV executives' German, resulting in the subtitles being "Return Germany... Tell the... Time... Hubcap(?)".
- In a Season 3 episode, Jack and Drew both speak awful French, which is subtitled as a bunch of nonsense letters.
- Furry Fandom: One guy Liz hits on claims to be a "plushie", specifically referring to furries who wear school mascot-style body suits.
- Gainax Ending: The Season Five finale.
- Game Show Appearance: In "When It Rains It Pours", Tracy Jordan hops into a cab to go to the hospital where his wife is in labor, only to find that it is the Cash Cab. He wins.
- Gasshole: Liz.
- Genius Bruiser: Grizz and Dot Com.
Jack: Dot Com, this need of yours to always be the smartest person in the room is very off-putting.
- Genius Ditz: Tracy is apparently an American history buff.
- Fridge Brilliance: In an early episode, Tracy learned that he is a descendant of Thomas Jefferson, which could explain his fascination.
- Genre Savvy: Jack for the most part. Jenna veers wildly between Genre Savvy and Genre Blind.
- George Jetson Job Security: Pretty much everyone but Tracy.
- And Jack, whose job security is certainly a plot point on occasion but typically is involved with actual corporate machinations instead of being in and out on a whim.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar
"It wouldn't be a Lemon party without old Dick!"
- Jack belonged to a secret society called "The Twig and Plums".
- Jenna's transvestite boyfriend (and Jenna impersonator) Paul works at Tuck Wang's Noodle Bar.
- Ghostly Chill: After Kenneth suffered one induced allergic reaction too many.
Kenneth: I was technically dead for five minutes, but I'm all right. Though I think I brought something back with me. (exhales a cloud of condensation)
- Gilligan Cut: Lampshaded by Pete when Tracy insists that he couldn't possibly get in trouble while going on a historical walking tour.
- Girlfriend in Canada: Liz's man-bashing comedy book causes serious damage to her male friends' relationships, including Lutz, who complains that his girlfriend in Canada is very upset.
- Lampshaded in "Alexis Goodlooking and the Case of the Missing Whiskey". Liz says that her boyfriend Criss is in Canada, and then insists that really, he actually is visiting Canada.
- Glamour Failure:
Kenneth: I've never been on TV before! I hope I photograph okay, because when I look into a mirror, there's just a white haze.
- Good Angel, Bad Angel: Parodied in "Black Tie".
- Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have!: Avery's mother and the grandmother to Jack's baby(played by Mary Steenburgen). Jack becomes attracted to her while Avery is still being held hostage in North Korea. Not that Squick-y because they are closer in age than Jack and Avery but still inappropriate and causes Jack to feel guilty.
- Gratuitous German: Many characters on several occasions. Ranges from good (with an accent) by Liz & Kenneth to As Long as It Sounds Foreign with Jack. One episode spoils a major plot point if you understand German.
- Gross Up Close-Up: "NO! NO HI DEF!"
- Guttural Growler:
- Even among Alec Baldwin characters, Jack stands out.
- Jack's rival, Devon Banks, speaks in the same way. Lampshaded by Liz:
"If this turns into a showdown, you guys can settle it with a talking-like-this contest."
Jack: How did you even get a snowball?!
- Hannibal Lecture: The gas leak in "100" causes Jack to hallucinate an alternate GE CEO Jack, who delivers one to him to to persuade him into firing Liz.
- Leads to a Shut UP, Hannibal when the other Jacks tell CEO Jack that he's wrong.
- Happily Married: Tracy and Angela Jordan. Good Parents, too. Yet that very image is what Jordan fears will get out; his reputation is built on an Urban Legend Love Life and generally being "hard", so if those go, so do his Celebrity Endorsement checks. And, ironically, his financial stability.
- Has Two Thumbs And: "Succession".
Liz: Hey, nerds! Guess who has two thumbs, speaks limited French, and hasn't cried once today. (points to herself with both thumbs) This moi!
- Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Lutz does this. A lot. No one is fooled.
- The HDTV Shows Your True Self: Liz is a hag, Pete resembles Larry David, Kenneth is a Muppet, and Jack is Jack Ryan.
- Head-Tiltingly Kinky: Liz's night with James Franco and his body pillow lover.
Liz: Randy, this is James Franco, and... friend.
James Franco: Randy. (Kimiko's head bows)
Randy: (disturbed) I should probably go.
- From "Black Light Attack!":
Jack: What did he do to the back of your knees?
Liz: A lady never tells.
Dot Com: As soon as I'm vested, I'm outta here.
- Cerie also counts, knowing the exact speed of Light and appearing to be saner than some of the TGS Staff
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood:
- Tracy in "Emanuelle Goes to Dinosaur Land":
Tracy: It's all coming back to me. Oh my God! I slept on an old dog bed stuffed with wigs! I watched a prostitute stab a clown! Our basketball hoop was a rib cage - a rib cage! Why did you bring me here? I blocked all this stuff out for a reason! Oh, Lord, some guy with dreads electrocuted my fish!
Tracy: All my life I've tried to forget the things I've seen -- a crackhead breastfeeding a rat, a homeless man licking a Hot Pocket off the third rail of the G train! The G Train!
(during the credits)
Tracy: I've seen a blind guy bite a police horse! A puppy committed suicide after he saw our bathroom! I once bit into a burrito and there was a child's shoe in it! I've seen a hooker eat a tire! A pack of wild dogs took over and successfully ran a Wendy's! The sewer people stole my skateboard! The projects I lived in were named after Zachary Taylor, generally considered to be one of the worst presidents of all time! I once saw a baby give another baby a tattoo! They were very drunk!
- Jenna's past qualifies, with her white trash stage mom Verna. "Go stand closer to the alligator!"
- Hipster: Tracy encounters some when during an attempt to destroy his reputation in "100".
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Attempted by Liz in "Today You Are a Man" when she negotiates her new contract with Jack...by using his own negotiation coaching program.
- Subverted in that Jack recognizes it immediately, and begins to play both sides of the negotiation, so Jack hoists Jack by Jack's own petard.
- Hollywood Dateless: Liz, much of the time.
- Hollywood Nerd: Again, Liz.
- Hospital Hottie: Elisa, played by the luscious Salma Hayek.
- Hot Librarian: Liz. Jamie, a cute delivery boy, even uses that phrase to flirt with her.
- Hot Mom:
Cerie: You have your whole life to have a career. But you only have a short window to be a young, hot mom.
- How's Your British Accent?/Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Lampshaded/parodied. In the first season, Jack has a posh English art-dealer girlfriend named Phoebe, played by Emily Mortimer. Liz is suspicious of Phoebe and they have a confrontation that ends with an angry Phoebe slipping into an American accent for exactly one line. Liz immediately figures out that Phoebe isn't English at all (of course the joke is that Emily Mortimer IS English).
- Hypno Fool: After seeing an R-rated hypnotist show, Liz will strip on hearing "nutmeg" and stop on "rodeo".
- Hypocrisy Nod: Frequent, especially in the vicinity of Product Placement.
- Hypocritical Humor: See below, but also used in numerous other ways, typically with Liz decrying some trope before realizing it herself. For instance, she points out how shows will use sweeping scores and shots of people staring at each other in lieu of actual development, before an exaggerated staring session with Jack backed by dramatic music.
- The show really enjoys showing that Liz, despite her politics, can be fairly racist.
- I Always Wanted to Say That: From "The Tuxedo Begins".
Jack: (to Liz) There's a war coming, and you're going to have to choose a side. I've always wanted to say that, and I can't believe I wasted it on you.
- If It's You It's Okay: Frank discovers he's sexually attracted to Jamie, then discovers he's not gay--the only male he's sexually attracted to is Jamie.
- I Know You Know I Know: The stalemating between Liz and Jack gets to ridiculous levels in "Today You Are a Man".
- Imagine Spot: An entire plot thread of "I Heart Connecticut" is about Pete imagining that he's an incredible arm-wrestler.
- Impairment Shot: Jack in "Hiatus" after he has a heart attack.
- Improbably Low IQ: Hazel Wassername, Kenneth's replacement as the Page.
Hazel: Why do I keep screwing things up? Is 70 NOT a good IQ?
- Improbably Predictable: Jack makes a joke, and Liz hands him an envelope predicting that joke. Then Jack hands her an envelope, predicting her prediction of his joke.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Liz in "Christmas Attack Zone" downs the whole glass of white wine in one gulp after finding out exactly what Jack is going to do.
- Jack. Especially in the "Live Show" when he's not allowed to drink thanks to his promise to a pregnant Avery.
- Informed Emotion: Grizz in "Argus".
- Inherently Funny Words:
Liz: Last year, Jenna accused me of trying to destroy her because her lines didn’t have any ‘K’ sounds, which she thinks is the funniest sound.
- Lampshaded when Liz giggles after Pete says, "Oh my God. My cousin Carl crashed his car, and now he’s in a coma at the Kendall Clinic."
- Played straight earlier in the series:
Milton: Without a kidney I’m going to die.
Dr. Spaceman: (giggling) I think it’s the hard K sound that’s making me giggle. Kidney!
- Also played straight with Tracy, who loves to use the word "booby".
- Initialism Title: The Show Within a Show TGS.
- Instant Book Deal: Liz's Dealbreakers book. Naturally, it helps that she had the network's backing in promoting it.
- Insult Backfire: from "The Problem Solvers":
Liz: God, Jack, why are you being such a wang about this?
Jack: I'll take that as a compliment. An Wang, the founder of Wang computers, is one of the greatest businessmen of the twentieth century.
- Interspecies Romance: Geiss's peacock Argus attempts to woo Liz.
- Irony: In the competition for Don Geiss's CEO position, the head of the stress ball division cracked under pressure and, uh... hanged himself.
- Irony as She Is Cast: In-universe: in the Show Within a Show, Danny's workaround when inserted into a Christmas duet with Jenna. As Christmas Vengeance.
- Is This Thing Still On?
- I Take Offense to That Last One: In "Idiots are People Three!", Liz is forced to read a pre-written apology to an idiot anti-defamation league. She has to credit them with such great achievements like the Birther movement, intelligent design, and water parks, but stops reading from the apology because water parks are the worst item on that list.
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY":
- The quack celebrity doctor for the cast (and other celebrities) name is Dr. Spaceman, as Liz learns when Tracy identifies his doctor as such. Initially considering it part of his ramblings, she admits she owes him an apology when she finds it written down. Although apparently it's pronounced "Spah-cheh-min".
- Then there's sexual harassment specialist Dr. Weinerslav. That's "weiner-slave", not "whiner-slav".
- It Tastes Like Feet: Jack's wine apparently tastes like Satan's urine after a large portion of asparagus.
- Ivy League for Everyone: Pretty much. Jack went to Princeton and Harvard Business School, Liz to Bryn Mawr, Jenna to Northwestern, Toofer to Harvard. Milton Greene teaches at Bennington. (Justified, though: this is the highly competitive corporate end of the entertainment industry we're talking about. And Kenneth studied TV theory at Kentucky Mountain Bible College.)
- It's never actually stated that Liz went to Bryn Mawr; she says she went to the University of Maryland. Jack associates her with Bryn Mawr because of her politics and because of his assumption of her sexuality...
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: The reason Kim Jong-Il does not raise objections to Avery and Jack's marriage vow renewals.
- I Was Quite a Looker: Jack describes his younger self this way when telling Liz about how extremely attractive people like her boyfriend Dr. Drew live in a bubble that affects their ability to genuinely accomplish things in life without having everything handed to them. He proves this by showing Liz a photo of his younger self which causes her to gush over its attractiveness. Justified in that Alec Baldwin really was that astonishingly good-looking as a young man; in another episode, in front of the HDTV, Jack is depicted as his handsome younger self in the role of Jack Ryan.
- Jerkass: Tracy and Jenna don't seem to be able to understand the concept of other people being in the universe aside from them.
- The Jimmy Hart Version: The songs for Jenna's feature film "inspired by, but, for legal reasons, not based on the life of Janis Joplin."
"Synonym's just another word for the word you want to use..."
- Jump the Shark: An in-universe discussion: in the episode "The One with the Cast of Night Court", Jenna Maroney was blamed by Harry Anderson, Markie Post, and Charles Johnson for making Night Court "jump the shark" for her three part episode as werewolf lawyer Sparky Monroe.
Harry: You made us jump the shark! You're the reason we didn't have a tenth season!
Markie: I had just bought my second home when they brought that idiot werewolf lawyer in!
Jenna: (insulted) Uh, that "idiot werewolf" paid for my hand reduction surgery, okay?
- Jury Duty: Liz Lemon wears a Princess Leia costume in an attempt to get out of it.
- Karma Houdini: After winning his Oscar, Tracy thinks he's garnered too much of the public's respect for him to be able to pull off his usual antics. In "100", he goes on several talk shows in an attempt to re-ruin his reputation, but people love him too much to take it as anything but admirable honesty or being "real".
- Jack's mother.
- Kavorka Man: Frank. Somehow. However, the only conquests of his we're shown are Jenna and two decidedly unattractive staffers.
- In "Queen of Jordan", we find that when he was in junior high school he had a Mary Kay Letourneau-style affair with his teacher, played by Susan Sarandon.
- Lampshade Hanging: SO MUCH. In fact, the constant lampshading of television tropes is one of the running themes of 30 Rock.
- Last-Second Word Swap: The janitor in "100":
"I'm getting too old for this ssssshhhhhhh sound that comes from this gas pipe."
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Subverted. Though Liz has a pregnancy scare near the end of Season Two, it turns out to be the cheese puffs she's been eating.
- Licensed Sexist: Dennis Duffy.
- Live but Delayed: Averted, impressively.
- Live Episode:
- The fifth season episode "Live Show". Two performances were aired live, one for the Eastern and Central time zones and one for the Mountain and Pacific time zones.
- Again with Season Six episode "Live from Studio 6H".
- Living Prop: Lampshaded when one of the nameless writers cries out "I did it! I spoke!" in astonishment after finally delivering a throwaway line in "Respawn".
- Lost Wedding Ring: Pete loses his wedding ring in a game of poker in "Blind Date", and later admits he still had money!
- Pete again in "MILF Island" when he throws his wedding ring at a phone. In this case, Pete's arm was stuck in a vending machine and he would presumably be freed if he only managed to dial the four digit extension of anyone in the building. He succeeds in dialing his own extension.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Jenna and her mother's "Do It to Me One More Time" duet.
Liz: How are you not moved by this?
Jack: Because I'm listening to the words.
- "Ma'am" Shock: Liz simply purses her lips and shakes her head at no one in particular when a judge calls her "Miss, I mean ma'am" in "Respawn".
- The Magic Poker Equation: Subverted in "First Date", when Jack's pair of 2s beat Kenneth's King-High.
- Male Gaze: Discussed by Liz in "Grandmentor" when crazy page Hazel makes some very inaccurate accusations about Kenneth.
- Played straight in "Brooklyn Without Limits" where Jack (and even Jenna) are mesmerized by how fantastic Liz's butt looks in her new jeans.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Claire Harper, played by Jennifer Aniston in Season 3.
Liz: Yep. Fun, craaaazy Claire.
Jenna: Oh man! Do you remember that night we all danced in front of that open fire hydrant?
Liz: Haha yeah. Her roof parties.
Jenna: Karaoke and boys talk.
Liz: The all night scavenger hunt.
Jenna: Do you remember when we crashed that Polish wedding?
(both laugh a little nervously)
Liz: Yeah, she's exhausting.
Jenna: Oh, I know. She's going to make us buy more of her homemade jewellery. Birds always attack me when I wear it.
- And true to form, she also steals a police officer's gun and lets Jack take the blame. Played for Laughs of course.
- Manipulative Editing: Angie's Show Within a Show Queen of Jordan does this. Tracy avoids it by surrounding himself with copyrighted material so the producer can't use the footage without paying for the rights and the show makes Jack look clumsy, gay, and flatulent.
- Married to the Job: A motif of the series is the question of whether Jack and Liz can "have it all"--have a successful family life in addition to their devotion to their careers.
- May-December Romance:
- At one point Liz romances a 20 year-old. It ends badly when Liz discovers that she looks exactly like his mother.
- Jack and Avery.
- Frank and all of the cleaning ladies at 30 Rock.
- Frank and his former elementary school teacher.
- Meaningful Echo: In "MILF Island", Liz and a cutthroat Reality TV contestant say the same line simultaneously.
- Meaningful Name: Kenneth's last name is Parcell. As a page, he would obviously be handling a lot of parcels.
- Medal of Dishonor: Liz's "Followship Award".
- Metaphorgotten: From "The Natural Order":
"Dear racist Liz Lemon. This is how you treat me: like a white-whiskered gibbon put on this earth to do nothing but dance around for your amusement and reduce the insect population of Malaysia."
- Mistaken for Gay: Jack does this to Liz in Season 1, setting her up on a blind date with a lesbian.
Liz: What made you think I was gay?
Jack: Your shoes. [Lowtop Converse sneakers]
Liz: Well I'm straight!
Jack: Those shoes are definitely bi-curious.
- Liz doesn't help herself, though, constantly making herself to be a bit mannish. For example:
Elisa: I have a terrible secret. Please don't ask me what it is.
Liz: I don't want to know what it is! (pause) Are you a man?
Elisa: ...Really, Lemon? That's your guess? You want to see me naked?
Liz: Kind of.
Liz: I have a new life philosophy that I call Lizbeanism... I'm Liz and obviously my philosophy is simple like a bean. Lizbeanism means that I am a dike... against the rising waters of mediocrity.
- Mistaken for Pedophile: Criss, Liz's boyfriend. He gets in trouble with a cop when he tries to invite a kid into his van for a hot dog. He's actually a hot dog vendor selling out of his van.
- Mistaken for Terrorist
- Modern Major-General: Jack, early on. He was promoted to TV programming executive despite his most notable previous achievements coming while the executive of the Microwave division.
- Ms. Fanservice: lampshaded with Cerie in Season one; Elisa in Season 3.
- Mummies At the Dinner Table: Subverted.
- Mushroom Samba: The gas leak in "100" causes hallucinations, flashbacks, and nostalgia.
- Music Video Syndrome: Parodied in the finale of Season 4, where Jack and Avery can't hear each other over the song.
- My Breasts Are Down Here: In "The Shower Principle", Hazel the crazy page says "Eyes down here!" after showing up to work at 30 Rock wearing only a bra under her page jacket.
- My Name Is Not Durwood: Cooter Burger--both "Cooter" and "Burger" are nicknames given him by then-President Bush. His real name is James Riley.
Cooter (played by Matthew Broderick): Cooter Burger? What am I, a cartoon dog? The president gave me that name! 'Cooter' because I look like a turtle and 'Burger' because he saw me eating a burger one time! It wasn't even a burger... it was a sandwich.
- N-Word Privileges:
- Toofer has apparently lost them, by virtue of his educated demeanor.
Liz: It just sounds so hateful coming from you.
- Subverted when Grizz makes Liz read a message to Tracy and Dotcom. Stumbling over the ending, she says that there's a word she can't, as a white person, say: "homie".
- Jack and Liz are convinced that other races don't even have the privilege to say "Puerto Rican".
Jack: I'm sorry, what do you call yourself?
Elisa: A Puerto Rican.
Jack: No, I know you can say that but what do I call you?
Elisa: A Puerto Rican!
Jack: Wow, that does not sound right...
- Tracy is slightly confused by his. During his attempt to make people lose respect for him:
Tracy [plaintively]: I even called a basketball team a bunch of nappy hoes, but apparently I'm allowed to do that? Why?'
- Name's the Same: In-universe: Liz briefly dated men named Wesley Snipes, Carol Burnett and is currently dating Criss Chros.
- Also in-universe: Wesley complains that "Wesley Snipes" should belong on a white British gentlemen. When you think about it, yes, it does.
- Nerd Glasses: Liz Lemon.
- Never Learned to Read: In "Jack-Tor", Liz comes to the mistaken conclusion that Tracy can't read, and Tracy uses this as an excuse to goof off.
- Nietzsche Wannabe: Kenneth briefly becomes a parody of one in the Season 4 episode "Secret Santa".
- No Bisexuals: Apparently it was just invented in the 90s to sell hair products.
- No Hugging, No Kissing: Fey's stance on the show in general, and specifically on Liz and Jack getting together. They've even been married without doing any of this.
- Not-So-Great Escape: Lampshaded; Liz says, "This would've worked on Ugly Betty."
- No Title: The tenth episode of the second season of was written immediately before the writer's strike of 2007-2008, and apparently nobody "wrote" a title for the episode before the strike started. Therefore NBC never came up with a title for the episode before it aired and it is still referred to only as "Episode 210".
- Not Listening to Me, Are You?:
- "I think we need to change this Donald Trump joke... because he was eaten by a lion this morning on the International Space Station."
- "You're not listening to a word I'm saying. Poop! Monkey butt!"
- Not So Different:
- Jack about himself and Liz in "Hiatus".
- Spoken aloud by Generalissimo to Jack in "Generalissimo": "We're not so different, you and I..."
- And spoken again by Jack in Season 4.
- The Obi-Wan: Invoked by Jack on his relationship with Liz. Explored in episode "Gentleman's Intermission".
- Obsolete Mentor: Rosemary Howard.
- Older Than They Look/Running Gag: Kenneth is, at the very least, over 40. Depending on how many other one-off jokes you consider "canon", he's also owned a parrot for 60 years and is trying to hide the fact that he's been alive forever. Lampshaded in Season 4. Frank's iPhone plays an irritating tone that can be heard only by those under 25, and a separate irritating tone that can only be heard by those over 40. Kenneth staggers by, holding his ears in agony and we're not sure which tone he's reacting to, if not both. When his page uniform is changed:
Kenneth: I've worn this old jacket since nineteen-(incomprehensible mumble) and now they've just thrown it away.
- In a recent episode, a concerned Kenneth asked Jack how the Kabletown buyout would change page rules like age restrictions for "a friend".
- In "Luda-Christmas", a flashback shows Kenneth working at a video store just after Wall Street was released. He looks exactly the same, despite twenty years having passed in the meantime.
- In Season Five's "When It Rains, It Pours", Kenneth packs away a framed photograph of Fred Allen with a "To Kenneth" autograph from Allen dated 1947. He puts it away in a box labeled "NBC Memories 1947-1965".
- After seeing a pre-taped obituary for Tracy Jordan in the Season 5 episode "Gentleman's Intermission":
Kenneth: No! NO! I'm not done with him, Jacob! He stays on this side!
- In "TGS Hates Women", while giving a tour, Kenneth says he started working at NBC when Shirley Temple was eight years old (1936).
- In "Que Sorpresa", Kenneth is pitching an idea to Jack about censoring inappropriate images on TV, and points to himself when he says that some things may not be appropriate for "the elderly".
- In Season Four's "Into the Crevasse", there is a short scene depicting a 50's styled music video about microwaves. Jack Mc Brayer can be seen dancing.
- An Imagine Spot of the future in "100" gives Kenneth's birth year as 1781.
- In early Season 4, Kenneth reassures Jenna during a crisis with an analogy from The Brady Brunch. Jenna says she doesn't remember the show, as she was too young, then looks confusedly at Kenneth. There follows a brief awkward pause, then both laugh nervously and change the topic.
- Not a Kenneth example. Following The Brady Bunch analogy, Jenna does state that she was too young to have watched the show and then looks at Kenneth as though challenging him to point out that she's lying. There is a pause and he does not point it out, and then she laughs awkwardly while he is sincere.
- Old, New, Borrowed and Blue: Well, "old" at least.
- Once a Season: Typically, Liz has a new multi-episode boyfriend usually played by a special guest star (Dean Winters, Jason Sudekis, Jon Hamm, Michael Sheen and Matt Damon among them) every season.
- Also, Dennis Duffy and Devon Banks usually make one, if not two, appearances per season.
- One Steve Limit: Hilariously lampshaded when Jack essentially orders new cast member Jack Baker to go by the name Danny. The fact that Danny's actual name is Jack is never brought up again.
Jack Welch: Please, John, call me Jack.
Jack Donaghy: I actually go by Jack as well.
Jack Welch: I don't think so.
- The One Who Made It Out: Parodied with Tracy.
- Only Sane Employee: Former Trope Namer as "Liz Lemon Job".
- Only Sane Man: Grizz and Dot Com do their best to fulfill this role for Tracy.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Subverted when Jack threatens Robert De Niro with revealing he was actually from England.
DeNiro: (thick, convincing Cockney accent) But I'm so identified with New York, you bloody tosser!
- Orbital Shot: "The Problem Solvers", "It's Never Too Late For Now".
- Oscar Bait: Tracy's film Hard to Watch, which actually earns him the Oscar.
- Out of Focus: Josh, who was eventually replaced with Danny. Lampshaded in "100" where Danny is assigned flashbacks of Josh's.
- This has happened to Cerie more recently.
- Overt Rendezvous: Subverted. Jack meets Lenny along the banks of the river, in view of the Queensborough Bridge. Lenny thanks Jack for driving out there, Jack says he doesn't mind because discretion is important. Lenny replies, "Also, my gym is right over there."
- Painting the Fourth Wall: The nature of the show allows them to paint regularly.
- Arguably, some lines in the pilot; the first two lines are roughly "There's one line." "Now there's two lines."
- The Trivection Oven is described as being able to cook a turkey in 22 minutes (the length of a half-hour comedy, minus commercials).
- An annoyed Tracy is walking slowly down the stairs, and Liz yells at him, claiming they don't have time for him to be moving so slowly. Suddenly he's right in front of her and she lets out a surprised "Time jump!"
- From the second "green" episode, "Sun Tea":
Kenneth: Miss Lemon, as I'm sure you know, it is "Green Week", and NBC...
Liz: Oh brother, are they actually gonna do something this year, or are they just gonna put that stupid green peacock in the corner of the screen?
Kenneth: (glances at the corner of the screen, where the NBC logo is placed) Actually...
- Kenneth seems to be able to see credits and graphics. When one episode ended To Be Continued, Kenneth looked at the graphic, then asked directly at the screen, "Really?"
- "Yeah, I get it, you went shopping. I don't need the montage."
- Season Four begins with Jack addressing the camera and welcoming everyone to Season Four. Of course, it turns out that he's talking to the other characters, and Season Four is the name of the restaurant they are at.
- An early episode of Season 4 begins with Pete and Liz talking in her office about the people Jack is going to see audition. As Pete gives the following line, Liz quickly and briefly smiles and nods at the camera:
Pete: Assuming nothing goes wrong in the next 8 hours...
Kenneth: Tracy needs at least 14 hours of sleep a night or he begins to go crazy!
Tracy: (screaming from inside his dressing room) We're in a Show Within a Show! My name is Tracy Morgan!
- The Paragon: Kenneth, of course, may just be without sin.
- Parallel Porn Titles: In "Don Geiss, America, and Hope", the Kabletown executive reveals that their highest revenues come from porn. Cue the porn movie titles.
Tracy: That's Amadeus!
- Parental Substitute/Like a Son to Me: Liz and Jack often act like father and daughter. He's constantly pushing her out into the world and wants to see her take over his position when he moves up the ladder. She in turn worries about his health. This also explains the moments of Squick that can be seen on their faces whenever a romantic relationship is implied.
- Pie in the Face: "Flu Shot".
- Plucky Office Girl: Despite being the head writer on a very successful TV show, and despite technically being lower-level management, Liz Lemon fits this trope to a T.
- Pointy-Haired Boss: Jack Donaghy in earlier episodes. Funnier because he actually does have pointy spiked hair in earlier episodes ("Hair like a Viking, God bless ya!").
- Poor Man's Porn: Liz starred in a phone sex ad for 1-900-OK-FACE.
- Portmanteau Couple Name:
- Parodied when Jenna is made The Beard for James Franco. They get the portmanteau "James".
- Liz calls Jack and Avery "Javery".
- Jack and Elisa are "Jalisa".
- Preemptive Declaration: In "Succession", Devin Banks is plotting to usurp Jack's place as the next chairman of GE after Don Geiss retires. After he extracts incriminating information from Liz in an elevator, Liz asks "Has he seen the security footage of you cheating on his daughter yet?". Liz then promptly jumps on Devin and kisses him forcefully, for the benefit of the security camera.
- Product Placement:
- Parodied and doubly subverted in the first episode. Tina Fey put in a plug for the Trivection Oven (allegedly created by Jack) just because she thought it sounded funny (though GE rushed to throw in a commercial so the audience would know it's a real product).
- Later episodes lampshaded real product placements, including Snapple, Soyjoy, etc.
- The gratuitous McFlurry/McDonalds references in "Saint Valentine's Day" actually weren't for pay. Fey and the writers just like McFlurries.
- The situation was parodied in a later episode involving Liz's new Slanket. She's asleep at her desk, and when suddenly awoken, yells "It's not product placement, I just like them!"
- "Quick Lemon, to the Kia Sorento!"
- An episode has them talking about the wonders of a Verizon phone and then Liz turns to the camera and says "Can we have our money now?"
- Jack: (to Liz) "There's nothing wrong with being fun and popular and just giving people what they want." (to camera) "Ladies and gentlemen, Jay Leno."
- Jamba Juice:
James Franco: Five dates a week, one fight a month, and because of product placement agreements with Jamba Juice, the fight will take place in a Jamba Juice.
Jenna: I love Jamba Juice!
Jonathan: It’s Cisco equipment sir. It’s almost better than being there.
Breckman: You like the Cisco equipment?
Jack: Of course. It continues to be the gold standard by which all business technology is judged. Cisco: The Human Network...Did you just mute me!? Did you just use Cisco’s cutting-edge sure-mute technology to mute me!?
- Played straight with Apple computers and laptops, the logo displayed prominently on any shots involving a computer.
- Psychotic Lover: Elisa turns out to be crazy enough to murder her husband for cheating.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: "Dance Like Nobody's Watching" features the offensively frugal "Public Domain Week" on America's Kidz Got Singing, which uses songs like "The Muffin Man" and "The Turkey in the Straw".
- Pygmalion: Jack often casts himself as Liz's mentor. Their relationship has grown more symbiotic as the series has gone on, but Jack still gives Liz fatherly advice. Jack has relied on Liz emotionally later in the series as well.
- Jack is depressed over Don Geiss' death. He moans he hears himself being erased from contact lists around the country.
Liz: I hear something else. It's the hug plane coming in for a landing.
Jack: (near tears) You're cleared for approach!
- Raised Catholic: Jack was, but he also doesn't let it get in the way of anything. His mother, on the other hand...
- The Rashomon: "The Rural Juror"; "Reunion".
- Ratings Stunt: Discussed by Elisa in "Generalissimo".
Elisa: He drugged her champagne and had his way with her. Later, she gave birth to the devil. You know, sweeps week.
- Real Life Writes the Plot:
- NBC is sold to 'Kabletown', a Philadelphia-based cable company. This may or may not have something to do with the announced sale of NBC Universal to Comcast, a Philadelphia-based cable company.
- The death of Don Geiss probably is due to actor Rip Torn breaking into a bank in the middle of the night while armed and drunk.
- In "Khonani", the subplot of two janitors fighting over the late shift paralleled the Jay Leno/Conan O'Brien drama. It was also a Take That aimed at NBC by the show.
- Season 6 episode "Idiots Are People Two!" addresses Tracy Morgan's homophobic ranting during the summer after Season 5.
- Really Seven Hundred Years Old: Kenneth. Or is he?
Kenneth: Who said I've been alive forever?
- Record Needle Scratch: In "Queen of Jordan 2: The Mystery of the Phantom Pooper", when the cameras catch Jack and Avery's mother Diana kissing.
- Regent for Life: Variation in Jack's attempts to steer Kaylie into following her parents' generation into "Trust Fund Kid Syndrome" so that he can become CEO of Kabletown.
- The Renfield: Jonathan.
- Retconning the Wiki: At one point, Jenna was set to play Janis Joplin on a movie, so the guys vandalized the Wikipedia article on her to mess with Jenna and get her to do silly stuff.
- Retirony: One of the maintenance guys is on his last day in "100". There's also a gas leak... He ends up getting shot in the abdomen.
- Rich Bitch: Bianca.
- Ridiculympics: Olympic Tetherball, amongst others.
- Right Behind Me: Liz overhears Lutz using a bad word to describe her.
- Romantic False Lead: "Other Liz", played by Anna Chulmsky.
- Rule of Three
Liz: I found Tracy, I saved the show, I always think of a third thing when I'm listing stuff...
- In "Stone Mountain", after two celebrities die Tracy is convinced he will be the third.
- In "Hey Baby, What's Wrong", Kenneth actually calls out "It's the rule of threes" as Jenna is listing times that she's been under pressure.
- Ruthless Modern Pirates: Cerie's wedding is delayed by several months because her fiancée is captured by Somali pirates. Due to Stockholm Syndrome, some of them end up as groomsmen at the wedding.
- Sanity Slippage: The pressure of running General Electric gets to Devon Banks in "Do Over".
Jack: Are you insane? Think about the jobs, the economy! This is G.E.!
Devon: It's just G now, Jack, I sold the E, to Samsung, they're Samesung now!
- Sassy Black Woman: Tracy's wife, Angie.
- The Scottish Trope: In "The Shower Principle", Jenna freaks out when asked to perform a TGS sketch that mentions Shakespeare's play Macbeth.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money: In "The Funcooker", when Tracy finds out how cheap an FCC fine is for guys like him who have $300 million, he starts cursing on TV for fun. When advertisers start yanking their commercials from TGS in response, Tracy buys the ad time.
- Screw Yourself:
- Jenna attempts this with a drag queen who impersonates her.
- Jack's hallucinatory alternate, past, and future selves decide to pull a threesome once the real one runs off.
- In-show examples:
- Being who he is, Tracy might not have realized it, but:
- In-show examples:
Tracy: I hope the new dude isn't impossible to work with like some people I know. (jabs thumbs at self)
- Kenneth calls himself a "chinless piece of human garbage" while role-playing Avery in "Respawn".
- Meta examples:
- Every baby name Jack suggests to Liz is put down in spectacular fashion, especially "Christina, 'cause then everyone calls her Tina, and every Tina I've known is a real judgmental bitch."
- Jack instructing Tracy on how to lose the image of being a serious actor: go back to doing television shows.
- Self-Induced Allergic Reaction: Kenneth intentionally eats strawberries so Jenna can have an excuse to see an EMT she likes.
- Sempai-Kohai: Called by name by Jack with respect to himself and Don Geiss.
- Sending Stuff to Save the Show: In universe, Kenneth tries to save TGS by sending sugar cubes to say that fans are "Sweet on TGS". The problem with this is that the sugar cubes would end up crushed during the mailing process, and, well, Kenneth gets tackled by a SWAT team for seemingly mailing anthrax around.
- Series Continuity Error: In the pilot, it is clear that The Girlie Show has been around for some time--new GE television executive Jack Donaghy hires Tracy Jordan to save an already established show. But by Season 5 of 30 Rock, we are told that TGS with Tracy Jordan is also starting its fifth season.
- Fridge Brilliance The Girlie Show was well established. TGS with Tracy Jordan only began when Tracy Jordan joined TGS.
- Seven Dirty Words: Tracy Jordan in an episode decided to exploit the fact that he could easily pay the $50,000 fine for every time he swore on TV.
Tracy: I'm off to appear on Martha Stewart Live. Oh, it's gonna be raunchy!
- She Is Not My Girlfriend: Jack in "Black Tie".
- Ship Tease: Tina Fey is just toying with us.
- One episode contrived to have Jack claim to be in love with Liz so that her current boy-toy would break up with her. She finds out and confronts him about it.
Liz: What did you say made you fall in love with me? Was it my body? My dancing? It started off as a joke but now it's becoming real!
- Liz's boyfriend Floyd is named Floyd DeBarber.
- To Battlestar Galactica, with the repeated use of the "word" frak.
- Liz's mother spoke about how she went to secretary school and worked at Sterling Cooper.
- There's another Shout-Out to Mad Men in an earlier episode, where Jenna puts strawberries (which Kenneth has a severe allergy to) in Kenneth's cheese sandwich. As he's starting to go into anaphylactic shock, he literally shouts out, "My real name is Dick Whitman!"
- In a new microwave model being developed by GE is the TK-421.
- Don Geiss is encased in carbonite in the same pose as Han Solo at his funeral.
- While "...goes to Dinosaurland" isn't an actual film, the "Emmanuelle" series is a very famous series of french softcore porn movies.
- A couple for Lost
Tracy: Every crazy A-lister has their own island: Nicholas Cage, Celine Dion, Charles Widmore.
Kenneth: You see all the good that is in them? All the capacity for love? Give me more time Jacob, I BEG OF YOU!
- In one episode, Liz ends up in front of a judge named Gregory L. Dredd.
- Condoleezza's favorite movie is Mars Attacks!.
- Kim Jong-Il's speech is peppered with completely non sequitur references of various Western films like "Luke I am your father! Ghostbusters!"
- "Three bucks, two bags, one meeeee! Say, where does a young prostitute get started in this town?"
- In "Christmas Attack Zone", Tracy has the same epiphany as John Sullivan in Sullivan's Travels when showing a comedy instead of a tragedy to a woman's shelter.
- Liz's recap for Avery upon her return from North Korea is done as a rap song much like Skillz' "Year In Review" raps which drop every New Years Day.
- Shown Their Work: During Tracy Jordan's attempt to get his biopic of Thomas Jefferson off the ground, he casually mentions the horse in his dressing room will play Caractus. This is the one thing that's actually historically accurate.
- Show Within a Show: The primary one is TGS With Tracy Jordan (originally The Girlie Show). But since the series takes place at NBC headquarters, there are hundreds more which pop up throughout the series.
- 30 Rock is a rare case where many of the Shows Within a Show are actual shows in real life.
Tracy: We're on a show withing a show! My real name is Tracy Morgan! (episode "Grandmentor")
- Similarly Named Works: Jack quotes the poem "Invictus", prompting Liz to wonder who the white guy from Invictus was.
- Sitcom Arch Nemesis: Jack considers 14 year old Kaylie Hooper (Chloë Grace Moretz) daughter of his boss this and even calls her his "nemesis".
- Devon Banks (Will Arnett) also fills this role. Or at least he used to before he became a joke.
- Skyward Scream: "FRAJUR!!!"
- Small Name, Big Ego: Tracy Jordan and Jenna Maroney. They even refer to non-actors as "normals" and "non-specials".
- Something Completely Different: "Queen of Jordan", in which an entire episode was made into a fake reality show starring Tracy's wife, and the follow-up episode "Queen of Jordan 2: The Mystery of the Phantom Pooper".
- Soundtrack Dissonance: A beautifully simple rendition of "Ave Maria" played on a trumpet during Don Geiss' funeral-slash-freezing continues to play in the background while Jack pitches his horrifically stereotypical "porn for women" idea to Kabletown executives.
- The Southpaw: Tina Fey. The show doesn't draw attention to Liz being left-handed, but you can tell her left hand is dominant if you pay close enough attention. However, Jack does refer to her "left-handedness" in one episode.
- Special Guest: Jerry Seinfeld and others; lampshaded in "SeinfeldVision", but usually played straight.
- Spell My Name with an "S": There are spelling inconsistencies within the subtitles, such as Donaghy vs. Donagee, Cerie vs. Suri, and Devon vs. Devin.
- Spit Take: "100".
Liz: "And I wasn't even drinking anything."
- In "The Problem Solvers", to express astonishment, Liz actually' says the words "spit take".
- Split-Screen Phone Call: "Somebody to Love".
- Spotlight-Stealing Title: The Show Within a Show The Girlie Show becomes TGS with Tracy Jordan thanks to Jack's Executive Meddling.
- Squee: Kenneth does this a lot, especially when he sees a television celebrity.
- Stepford Smiler: Hinted at with Kenneth. Confirmed when Jack asks how he can possibly be so happy when his life sucks so badly. Kenneth beams, leans in, and suddenly becomes deadly serious, saying that he lies to himself each morning, saying things will be okay, but he knows it's a lie.
Kenneth:... and I don't know how long I can keep this up!
- Story Arc
- The Straight Will and Grace: Jack and Liz realize they're closer than most actual married couples as they try to annul their accidental French wedding.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: The former Trope Namer ("Did A Korean Person Die"). Happens frequently, especially between Tracy and Jenna.
- Strawman Political:
- Very much averted with the strong Republican Jack who is seems to be accepting of homosexuality and whose views seem mostly based around his belief in capitalism, though he has an admittedly dim view of anything liberal. Liz, a self-described Democrat, admits to supporting Obama out of white guilt. She also has a bit of a racist streak, which the show uses to hilarious effect.
- In "Respawn", Liz spouts a bunch of strawman liberal catchphrases to try and "cheer up" Jack back into his usual cutthroat self.
- Stylistic Suck:
- Any asides of supposed TGS sketches. Or any other supposed shows (MILF Island: "25 super hot moms. 50 eighth-grade boys. No rules.").
- Any reference to Tracy Jordan's projects (Honky Grandma Be Trippin', Fat Bitch, Fat Bitch 2, and his adaptation of An Affair to Remember: A Blaffair to Rememblack).
- Anything Jenna Maroney stars in, including The Jackie Jormp-Jomp Story (which mutated from being a biopic about Janis Joplin), Mystic Pizza: The Musical, and The Rural Juror, which took several episodes for the rest of the cast (and the audience!) to figure out what Jenna said when she mentioned the title.
- And the sequel to Rural Juror being Urban Fervor.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Jenna does this incessantly, but the rest of the cast is susceptible too.
Kenneth: Ms. Maroney, I'm afraid I have some bad news.
Jenna: Jenny McCarthy died? But who could've been slowly poisoning her? Was she poisoned? I have no way of knowing because I'm just hearing about it.
Jenna: This is not a rage stroke!!
- Take That: In addition to their parent network NBC, many jabs are taken at everything from the obscure to the popular.
- In "Idiots Are People Two!", Tracy rallies the idiot community into protesting NBC. Included in the movement are the anti-vaccination crusaders and Denise Richards.
- "Queen of Jordan" and "Queen of Jordan 2: Mystery of the Phantom Pooper" are presented as "episodes" of Tracy's wife Angie's reality show, Queen of Jordan. The show is basically a parody of the Real Houswives franchises.
- Talking to Themself: When Liz gets a Dealbreakers talk show, she cracks under the pressure and develops a split personality "performer Liz" that bears a strong resemblance to neurotic Jenna.
- Tastes Like Purple: Said word-for-word by Jack while lying in his hospital bed after his heart attack.
- During the Live Show, Jack states he feels like he's in a Mexican soap opera (thanks to the live video feed, instead of the show being filmed as usual).
- Team Mom: Toofer outright says that Liz is that, using it as an explanation as to why Liz isn't invited to the writers' parties: "You don't wanna go drinking with your mom." Of course, he was trying to convince an angry Liz to save them from a rabid dog at the time. True in the sense that Liz is usually the one keeping the writers and cast from killing each others or themselves.
- Unless they mess with her food.
- Tear Jerker:
- When Tracy Jordan tells a heartbreaking story about his diabetic daughter at a fundraiser. Subverted when it turns out that he doesn't have a daughter--he made it up to get donations and to get Jack in Don Geiss' good books.
- In the episode "MILF Island", someone tells a newspaper reporter that Jack is a "class-A moron". Jack then tells Liz about how that insult particularly hurts his feelings: as a child, he had low self-esteem and a stutter, and he was often bullied and called a class-A moron by his peers. At the end of the episode, Jack becomes so distressed about it that he starts to stutter again ("Whoever said that, they meant it. They think I'm a moron like Gilly and everyone else... It's just k-killing me that someone would say that about me... L-Liz, I g-g-guess I'll always b-b-b-be that k-k-k-k-k-k-k-k...")Liz gets so upset that she admits to being the one that told the paper that Jack was a moron. Subverted though in that Jack was making the whole thing up and was just guilting Liz into admitting she had done it.
- Tracy's movie, Hard to Watch, is apparently incredibly moving.
- The Tetris Effect: Liz complains that she's out of whack in "Winter Madness" because she'd been playing online Boggle all night.
Liz: Okay, this is my stop. STOP. POTS. TOPS. OPTS. POST...
- That Other Wiki: When Jenna is doing method acting preparation to play a Captain Ersatz of Janis Joplin, the writers mess with her by adding ridiculous lies to her Wikipedia page so that Jenna will emulate them.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch: Bitch Hunter, of course.
Bitch Hunter: Put down the mimosas, bitch!
- This Looks Like a Job For Aquaman: Lampshaded on 30 Rock episode "I Heart Connecticut", with the fictional NBC show "Who Nose?" about an investigative reporter who must compensate for a lack of smell.
Reporter: You under estimated me, Congressman, because I can’t smell. But you made one mistake: You let me see the documents.
- Title Drop: Frequently with episode titles.
- Too Dumb to Live: After Jenna has a messy break-up with a sniper, a laser sight appears on her forehead in Liz's office. Jenna decides to run up to the window and mock him for his mother issues.
- Totally Radical:
Randy Lemon: But I'm not going home until I give my cool cousin a makeover!
Liz: (giggles) Is it gonna be fierce?
Randy: It would be if it was 2006!
- Jenna has problems with this.
Jenna: No more making fun of me when I misuse dated cultural references, okay? Are we cowabunga on this?
- Transsexualism: Jeffrey Weinerslav. And possibly Liz. But that doctor was a quack.
- Trust Me, I'm an X: From "Christmas Attack Zone".
Milton: "Trust me, I'm a doctor."
Jack: "Of history! What emergency could we possibly need you for? To tell us if The Sixties were awesome or not?"
- Turn in Your Badge: When Kenneth is fired in the final episode of Season 4, he hands in his NBC page badge - and his gun, which disturbs Pete.
- Twofer Token Minority: James Spurlock, both "a Black guy and a Harvard guy", is nicknamed "Toofer".
- When he demands that he no longer be called "Toofer" as a condition of his returning to the show (they need him for diversity credits), which causes great delight with the writers. Understandably, by the time Pete suggests something he just gives up and lets them call him "Toofer":
Toofer: As a condition, I have requested that I no longer be called Toofer.
Frank: Great! New nickname suggestions. Go!
Liz: Victoria Q. Nerdballs.
Jenna: Kanye East.
Frank: Super Virgin.
Tracy: Splock. Short for "Black Spock".
Pete: Threefer, cause you’re also gay.
- Ultimate Job Security: Tracy Jordan. Jack claims that the only thing he can't get away with is dog fighting. So he does that just because he can't. And still gets off the hook after one therapy session.
- Mitigated by the fact that he never succeeded in setting up a dog fight, and was as disgusted by it as anyone else. He only tried because he was told he couldn't, and probably never did after the session.
- Uncanny Valley: Discussed as a difficulty in combining pornography and video games. Frank uses Star Wars and The Polar Express to explain the concept to Tracy.
- Strangely Frank's explanation is fairly accurate, even though DVD commentary suggests the episode's writers didn't exactly get the concept (they didn't understand why zombies/animate corpses were in the depths of the valley).
- Unique Pilot Title Sequence: The opening credits of the first episode feature Liz in a That Girl/The Mary Tyler Moore Show-type opening, but this ends up as a Left the Background Music On gag and actually they're singing about the Show Within the Show character "Pam, the Overly-Confident Morbidly Obese Woman". The second episode introduces the regular opening credits.
- Unlucky Everydude(tte): Liz Lemon.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Much of the cast, but especially Liz and Jack.
- Unusual Euphemism:
- "Here comes the Funcooker!"
- "Lizzing," a combination of laughing and whizzing.
- "Convenience store owner" is apparently Kenneth's slur of choice for Koreans.
- Liz will often exclaim things like:
(on seeing a peacock) "Gasp! Living dinosaur!"
- Jack will sometimes say things like:
(seeing Lemon in an ugly overalls outfit) "Lesbian Mario Brothers!"
- Values Dissonance: Invoked with "Bucky", a 1950s child star on NBC.
- The Vamp: Phoebe.
- Vampire Tropes: When Liz was desperately trying to avoid anyone with a flu, she used a pocket mirror to see if anyone was around a corner and saw nothing. When she walks around the corner, she bumps right into Kenneth.
- Verbal Tic: Subtle, but throughout the show characters have a tendency to use "it" instead of "she". This is likely another reference to German, as most female pronouns are grammatically neuter in German.
- Vertigo Effect: "Flu Shot", when the flu hits the TGS set and Liz becomes terrified of catching it from her coworkers.
- "Greenzo" when Liz realizes with horror that Kenneth is inviting people to one of his parties.
- Video Wills
- Walk and Talk: Subverted and lampshaded.
- Wardrobe Malfunction: Invoked by Jenna in "Live Show", in which she warned that if Tracy didn't stop disrupting the show by breaking character (and stealing attention from her), she was going to "slip a nip."
- Waxing Lyrical: In "What Will Happen to the Gang Next Year?", after Criss sells his hotdog van named "Van Der Beek", he says "I don't wanna wait for our lives to be over." Part of joke was that earlier in the episode Criss mentioned that he had never actually seen Dawson's Creek.
- Weirdness Censor: Kenneth suddenly realizes how odd the whole TV industry is.
- Where Are They Now? Epilogue: Parodied at the end of "College".
- White Man's Burden: Parodied in the fictional films that Tracy is supposedly an expert in starring in.
"I may not know nuthin' about that fancy book learnin', but I do know one thing fo' certain--this film was written by white nerds!
- Whole-Plot Reference: The B-plot of "Succession" is one for Amadeus, with Tracy as master porn-composer.
- Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Jenna hopes to garner press buzz with her future child's crazy name.
"Right now it's between Frisbeeface and Glock, gender irrelevant."
- Cerie considers naming her daughter "Bookcase", "Sandstorm", or "Hat", but thinks that Hat is more of a boy's name.
- Will They or Won't They?: Jack and Liz. Although Alec and Tina have acknowledged the existence of sexual tension between the characters, Word of God has rejected the idea of a romantic relationship. Flat-out parodied, according to Word of God. Played deadly straight, according to some. Example: after learning Danny is dating Liz, Jack, who thinks this relationship is bad for the show, tells him, "My secret is: I'm in love with Liz Lemon." Meanwhile, Liz does a series of gross Sight Gags, and he winces almost to the point of, well, gagging.
Jack: I've never told this to anyone... not because it's a lie, but because it's a secret... Here’s my secret. My secret is... I’m in love with Liz Lemon.
Jack: It’s true. It was love at first sight. I ache for her sexually. How could I not? I’m entranced by those mud-colored eyes set back in that skin. And her laugh. Her walk, that splay-footed walk, and that... whole situation... right there. And... oh... mustache? (aside) Good GOD, Lemon!
- Jeffrey Wienerslav lampshaded this trope by name in Season 5, when Jack and Liz accidentally got married.
- In "What Will Happen Next Year", Kim Jong-Il gets exasperated and demands Jack and Liz become a couple in Season 7, citing shows like Moonlighting, telling the writers not to overthink it and just do it.
- In "Hey Baby, What's Wrong?", Lutz accidentally hits on Liz (It Makes Sense in Context), leading to this line from Tracy:
- Jeffrey Wienerslav lampshaded this trope by name in Season 5, when Jack and Liz accidentally got married.
Tracy: 'bout time! After six years, it's been like watching Moonlighting!
- With Lyrics: In the pilot, the "Pam, The Overly-Confident Morbidly Obese Woman" theme is the 30 Rock theme with lyrics. The lyrics are never heard again.
- In "Live Show", Jenna sings the opening theme with lyrics, as the credits are displayed on a monitor behind her.
- In "Kidnapped by Danger", "Weird Al" Yankovic adds lyrics to the closing credits theme.
- Wolverine Publicity: "Seinfeld-Vision".
- Won't Take Yes for An Answer:
Pete: I said you could do it.
Jenna: Why not?! Oh... I mean, thank you.
- Work Com
- Worth It: Lutz, after pissing everyone off by choosing Subway when it's his turn to pick where the staff eats.
- Worthless Foreign Degree: One of the doormen at Liz's apartment building used to be a doctor in Poland.
- Dr. Spaceman's Vietnamese medical degree.
- Wound That Will Not Heal: In "Argus", Pete reveals where Jenna bit him.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: Jack engages in this a lot. Jack and Colleen attack each other with one each, calling it their "Christmas Attack Zone".
- Yes-Man: Tracy is upset to discover that his entourage is made up of yes men.
- Yoko Oh No: Not YMMV, as it happens in universe.
- Breaks up Frank and Pete's band in "It's Never Too Late For Now".
- In "Cleveland", Phoebe says she wants to be Jack's Yoko, much to Liz's horror.
- In "Meet the Woggels!", Jenna sets out to "Yoko" a band.
- You Can See That, Right?: "We can all see the little black boy in the corner, right?"--Dr. Spaceman when Tracy brings his son to the office (episode "Sun Tea").
- You Get What You Pay For: Liz's discount eye surgery.
- You Look Familiar:
- Rachel Dratch in several different guest roles.
- Prior to his recurring role as Paul in the fourth season, Will Forte played Prince Gerhardt's valet in a first season episode.
- The same actor has played Liz's imaginary boyfriend Astronaut Mike Dexter, her mother's real boyfriend Buzz Aldrin, an actor on the "porn for women" channel that Jack Donaghy invents, and a guest at Floyd's wedding who tells Liz he's a "plushie".
- You Monster!: Liz says this to Jack when he reveals who gets kicked out of Top Chef.
- Your Costume Needs Work: Jenna met her boyfriend Paul at a Jenna Maroney impersonator contest. He came in first place; she came in fourth.
- You're Insane!: This gets invoked quite a bit on the show.
Devon: You know, revenge is a dish best served cold, Jack. Like sashimi, or pizza.
Jack You prefer cold pizza?
Devon: The morning after? It's the best.
Jack: Better than hot pizza? That's insane.
Devon: You don't tell me what kind of pizza to like!
- Your Mom: Frank, Toofer, and Lutz engage in a prank war against Jack. Jack responds by sending them a tape of himself in Frank's mom's bedroom. He tells them he's been a perfect gentleman, but if the pranks don't stop, he won't be next time. Then he reminds Toofer and Lutz that they also have mothers.
- Jack tells Devon in "Into the Crevasse" that tomorrow's newspaper will read: "Donaghy Saves GE, Marries Your Mom."
- Liz gets one in on a rude flower shop employee in "Up All Night".
Liz: Oh well you know what? I found the card, and actually, they're from your mom, so tell your gay mom I said thanks.
- You Say Tomato: Jenna does this a lot. For example, she pronounces camera as "cahmerah". When Liz gets her own Dealbreakers show, she begins to behave like Jenna and starts pronouncing stuff like her as well.
Dr. Spaceman: This is always hard to say: You have die-AB-uh-dees?
- due to his unfamiliarity with the subway system
- As they would a homeless person