Apr
01

Permission to be a Fool

I had a dream last night about Tina Fey. I only remember two things: 1. I enjoyed spending time with her and laughed a lot. 2. At some point she took out her retainer and put it on a table. I know it’s April Fools Day but this really happened.

What is it about Tina Fey? Wherever I find her – presenting on big award shows, interviewed as cover girl on this month’s Esquire, making the talk show rounds for her upcoming movie, Date Night, with Steve Carrell – she is always surprising me and making me smile. She continues to pile up Emmys and Golden Globes for 3o Rock, the show she created, produces and stars in. What is it that made this plain jane the AP entertainer of the year and one of the greatest creative successes of our time?

It is, I believe, the permission she gives herself. She gives herself permission to explore any possibility, to play with a strange idea, to be foolish – and to let others around her be as foolish as they would like as well. She is not afraid to be ugly, uncool, a loser with a retainer fetish. You’ll see it in these quips from the Esquire interview. This is how creativity flourishes, in an environment where you have full permission to be a fool. I call it Permission to Suck or P.T.S.

Watch 30 Rock and what you’ll see is a cavalcade of creativity, undoubtedly generated from the improvisational world of pushing the fool’s envelope. Fey first made her name here in Chicago as an improv player for Improv Olympic and Second City Theaters, where the great skills are in building on each other’s imagination, never judging an idea until later (if ever), and learning that for every time you create something idiotic there is another time you create something ingenious. I guarantee you the 30 Rock writers (and the actors) are experts in giving themselves full permission to be preposterous, because it is only when you open wide to ideas that the most creative can come out. And by creative I’m not talking just outrageous. I’m talking, as you find in each of the 30 rock characters, outrageously fitting. Which makes for funny.

But ultimately there is the great improvisor herself, the former head writer and performer for Saturday Night Live, whose Sarah Palin impression will be memorable forever. It’s Tina, whose Liz Lemon on 30 Rock is continually embarrassed and made the fool, who’s gotten so good at giving herself permission that creative gold comes out of her again and again, and the fool’s gold has become a treasure.

The better you get at giving yourself permission, the more creativity will come from you. So happy April Fool’s Day and may you take the opportunity for fool permission.

More from Adam: Check out his Innovation on my Mind blog.

  • i agree! tina Fey really looks like Sarah Palin`:-

  • i think Tina Fey is also pretty, she is a great comedian and i like the way she acts **-

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