Last night, Alec Baldwin was honored by the Museum of the Moving Image, giving a number of his pals an opportunity to say kind things about him, while also cracking jokes at his expense. Lorne Michaels complimented Baldwin on being the “rarest of animals, a liberal who looks good in a suit. He’s also, more impressively, the only Baldwin brother about whom no one has ever asked: ‘Which one is he?’” And Michael Keaton, Baldwin’s Beetlejuice co-star, remarked, “When you look at the [clip] reel of this guy … and the photographs and pictures, and you see the range of the things he’s done … I think to myself, What an extraordinary head of hair this man has. No, he does.” Baldwin himself made a speech, saying working on 30 Rock was the most fun he’s ever had: “Who knew that playing a self-seeking, Machiavellian, Republican corporate fuck would turn out to be the highlight of my life.” And Tina Fey’s tribute was so delightful that we’ve printed it in its entirety. Enjoy.
“The part of Jack Donaghy was written for Alec Baldwin. Unfortunately, I did not have the courage to introduce myself to him and tell him that at the time, so for several months I met with some of the best actors in New York, and also some that are only okay. And with each meeting I had in an attempt to cast Jack Donaghy, it just became clearer and clearer that this part was for no one except Alec Baldwin. And so I knew what I had to do: I got pregnant and I stalled for a year. And then when I came back from my maternity leave at SNL, Alec was hosting the show, and he was having fun with it that week and the sketches were not terrible, thankfully, and so Lorne and I said to each other, ‘Should we ask him? Maybe we should just ask him.’ And so, I hid and Lorne asked him, and here we are five years and almost a hundred dollars later.
And I still cannot believe how lucky we are to have him. Alec is a writer’s dream in that he speaks quickly and memorizes well, and other stuff I don’t really understand. But I know that over the last five years, our writers have asked Jack Donaghy to do everything from imitate every member of Tracy Jordan’s family, to play his own Mexican doppelgänger, to, you know, act out a heartfelt good-bye scene with a live peacock trying to sodomize a Dick Cheney look-alike. And he has done each of those things with a grace and precision that is prophetic. Jack Donaghy is a special character to me, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that not since Archie Bunker has there been a television character that my parents agree with so often. They’re enjoying it on a different level.
Alec is also an American treasure, because Alec excels at all three types of acting. You may not have known that there are three types of acting because most actors can only do one or two of them, but Alec can do film acting, comedy acting, and real acting. Film acting. Everything I know about film acting I learned from watching Alec. And from what I can tell, film acting is mostly about hitting your mark and remembering what hand to hold your papers in, and if there’s a lady in the scene, do not get in front of her china bowl. And also he taught me this cool thing: If you have a line that’s really a special line, that you would want to make sure you’re on-camera for that line, take your jacket off during that line. That’s called forcing the cut. And that works, that little trick.
He lets the camera come to him, and he speaks so quietly that I cannot hear him when I am standing next to him. And then you play the film back and it’s there; it’s there somehow. And somehow I’m yelling and you still can’t hear me. He is particularly gifted at comedy acting, the second type of acting, because he is smart enough to understand any kind of joke you throw at him on an intellectual level. He understands every reference, he knows everything you’re talking about, but at the same time he is silly and playful enough to truly enjoy dressing up like Thomas Jefferson and flipping off the audience at The Maury Povich Show. He truly enjoys that.
And he is a master of real acting, which cannot be learned, which is the portrayal of human emotion with an honesty and accuracy that makes other human beings feel things. Alec, on behalf of the cast and crew of 30 Rock, we honor you tonight. Our show would not have gotten on the air without you. It would not have remained on the air without you. I shudder to think what low-rent Two and a Half Men show we would have without you. I guess we might have more money if we had that type of show. But I hope you enjoyed tonight, you are truly Reaganing tonight.”