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'30 Rock': We're not in a recession!

May 9, 2008 |  9:08 am

Jokes about the Bush administration haven't been too funny lately, maybe because they seem so well-trodden, maybe because they seem so sad. 

While Tina Fey's last well-publicized dip into the pool of political humor was met with mixed reviews, she got back in the game on last night's "30 Rock" with a new take on the current office. Instead of painting it as a bloodthirsty autocracy, Fey chose to highlight the absurdity of it, with Matthew Broderick as Cooter Burger, a well-meaning but desperate drone forced to claim that a leaking ceiling isn't really leaking because "studies have been done."  When Jack (Alec Baldwin) decides to leave GE to work for the Department of Homeland Security, he is met with such silliness, as well as an office so bare-bones that people are forced to scratch out notes with tacks. As Cooter notes, what his country needs is "hope, change, experience and pens." 

The office is inefficient, delusional and pointless, but it's not sinister. The fresh perspective, the relatively light touch and the surrealistic details (such as a candle burning in the socket of a lamp) brought some laughs when there seems to be nothing to laugh about in Washington these days.  One can't help but sense that Cooter's desperation, that "the best friend I've ever had would leave me" (i.e. Jack, whom he had known for a few days) was the mentality of more than a few people in the White House. 

While Jack was handling things in Washington, once again, almost too much was going on back at 30 Rock: Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) continued to work on his porn video game, Kenneth the intern (Jack McBrayer) struggled to submit his application to work at the Olympics, and Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) thought she was pregnant with her loser ex-boyfriend's baby. That story line was somewhat buried in the episode, but it did yield a few funny moments, such as when Liz was trying to remember when she last had her period, she flipped through her calendar, saying: "Why don't I cross off my days like people in the movies?" 

In the end, Liz realized she wasn't pregnant -- it was just the bull semen in her cheese snacks that were interfering with her pregnancy tests, but Jack offered to help her adopt a child. In recent episodes, Jack hasn't been as ruthless and joyously cold-blooded as he was in the first season. Even though it was kind of him to offer to help with an adoption, the show was funnier when he tossed her lines like "You have the boldness of a much younger woman" and made references to her "badger face." He did get in one hilariously wicked line, though, in tonight's episode: He talked about what was going on in the red states, and then, alternately, the "gay, or blue states."

-- Claire Zulkey