The Best of Harvard on '30 Rock'

Harvard graduates have been infiltrating NBC's primetime writing scene since Al Franken '73 first landed his "Saturday Night Live" writing gig in 1975. Those that followed Franken have included James "Jim" M. Downey '74, Conan C. O'Brien '85, B.J. Novak '01, and an insufferable slew of comedic know-it-all's from the Harvard Lampoon, a semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine.

These "hyper intelligent Harvard boys"—as Tina Fey once referred to them—dominate the writing staff of nearly all NBC shows, including Fey's own sitcom "30 Rock," a show about NBC writers. With five Harvard graduates on its writing staff, "30 Rock" has never hesitated to make fun of the University.

Season one, episode two introduces the character James "Toofer" Spurlock, a fictional Harvard grad. According to Alec Baldwin's character, Jack Donaghy, he is nicknamed "Toofer" because "with him you get a two-for-one; he's a black guy and a Harvard guy."

At another point Jack Donaghy refers to Toofer's going to Harvard, saying, "So we know that he's smart and superb at masturbation."

And in season four Toofer tells Fey's character, Liz Lemon, "I'm about to say two words a Harvard man would never say," to which Liz Lemon jokingly interrupts, "I'm cool?"

In the full-blown Crimson episode "Secrets and Lies," former Harvard Lampooner Ron Weiner '95 adds an entire subplot where Toofer and another writer feud over Toofer's status as a Harvard alum.

Occasionally the Harvard stereotype just makes fun of itself. When Toofer attempts to quit his job at TGS, the faux NBC show for which he writes, he tells Liz, "I'm off. With my degree I can always go into architecture or medical nanotechnology." When Liz, confused, asks him what his college major was, Toofer responds, "Sorry I don't understand—Oh, I see. At Harvard we call them 'concentrations.'"

Toofer also pulls the eerily accurate modesty card, making every effort to avoid speaking of his education. "You know I went to school in Boston," he says. "Well, not in Boston, but nearby. No, not Tufts."

But, for once, the most recent Harvard reference in last week's episode has nothing to do with Toofer. Liz's new boyfriend calls Wesleyan "the Harvard of central Connecticut," to which Liz replies, "No, Yale is the Harvard of central Connecticut."

That's also debatable, Liz Lemon. That's also debatable.

Harvard on the Web

Harvard Today

The latest in your inbox.

Sign Up

Follow Flyby online.