Oprah: As a writer, did you miss performing?
Tina: A little. At SNL, there are lots of frustrated performers working as writers. Lorne often turns actors into writers, and he's smart to do it, because writers who've performed are more sensitive to performers. A writerly writer is like, "What do you mean you can't say that long speech perfectly?" A writer who has performed wouldn't do that—which is good. But it's a little heartbreaking to be at SNL and not be on the air.
Oprah: Speaking of being on the air, you weren't offered the "Weekend Update" spot until after you lost 30 pounds. Tell me about that.
Tina: Well, I'd been writing, which is a sedentary life. And in Chicago, there's a different aesthetic than there is here in New York.
Oprah: There truly is.
Tina: When I first came here, I was like, "Ohhhh, okay."
Oprah: Yes, it's different in New York.
Tina: The only place worse is Los Angeles, where it's just disgusting.
Oprah: Where if you're over a size 4 or 6, forget it!
Tina: "L.A. obese," they call it. So anyway, when I came to SNL, I was increasingly just sitting around eating bad food, but I wanted to get control of my weight. So I did Weight Watchers. And after I lost weight, I did a two-woman show with my friend Rachel Dratch, and Lorne came and saw it and asked if I would test for "Weekend Update." But I don't want to make it sound as if he wouldn't have asked me to test if I hadn't slimmed down. No one ever said, "Lose the weight."
Oprah: How did it feel to perform again?
Tina: It was great. People were nice to Jimmy Fallon ["Weekend Update" co-host] and me right away. We had the only segment that doesn't get cut. Ever. I had a privileged experience at SNL.
Oprah: Then what made you decide to do 30 Rock?
Tina: Lorne encouraged me to develop a show for NBC.
Oprah: And you modeled it after one of your all-time favorite series, The Larry Sanders Show [Garry Shandling's satirical comedy series, which ran from 1992 to 1998 on HBO]?
Tina: The Larry Sanders Show was a show within a show, and the network wanted me to do that too. But as much as I loved the series, I was worried it would seem like we were trying to rip it off.