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30 Rock Funniest Moments Ranked

With all the deranged energy of a cartoon and a level of surrealist satire that makes you feel far removed from reality, "30 Rock" deliverd relentless laughs and moments of pure absurdity that remain unrivaled in the world of live-action sitcoms. Of course, the unique atmosphere of the series meant that "30 Rock" struggled in the ratings more during its run than a traditional comedy, but its loyal fans know just how well-deserved its virtually countless awards are.

In fact, if the show's cult following had its way, it would probably receive an award for every other line, not just an episode here or an actor there. (It's not every show that can make a dental procedure or an envelope hilarious.) That's not how awards work, of course — but luckily, we're here to pay our respects to some of the best and brightest (or drollest and darkest) moments "30 Rock" gave us over the course of its seven seasons.

15. Jack catches Liz singing 'Night Cheese'

NBC's self-referential sitcom has graced us with a lot of original musical numbers over the years. And although it's performed a cappella by Liz Lemon, alone in her apartment and decked out in a Slanket, "Night Cheese" is a quintessential "30 Rock" melody, right up there with "Muffin Top" and "Midnight Train to Georgia."

We only get to hear a few seconds of Liz's rendition, but it's clearly an homage to Bob Seger's "Night Moves." Liz may not make any front page drive-in news with her nighttime snack, but she does have an audience of sorts: before she can get a bite in, she hears Jack knocking urgently at her door. The best part is that when she tries to pretend she was sleeping, he sees right through her, dryly informing her that he heard her singing "Night Cheese" with a matter-of-factness that implies he's heard this song before.

14. Tracy reminds us to be nice

Liz Lemon is a lovable curmudgeon, but she sometimes needs to work on the way she relates to people. Remember when she went back for her high school reunion and found out that everyone had seen her as a bully? It's a surprise to us, too — she's certainly no Regina George. But it was actually the fact that she saw herself as unpopular and nerdy that made her so bitter and cruel to her classmates: She took their genuine gestures of friendship as passive-aggressive jokes at her expense. 

While her snarky attitude might work to her advantage when wrangling an unruly crew of unhinged actors and apathetic, she would do well to remember that the people she works with, however difficult, are human beings.

Tracy reminds Liz of this fact when she marches up to him and immediately calls him a "dummy" and begins flinging accusations. He responds, "Watch your mouth, or I'll show you the back of my hand," and Liz flinches, thinking that he's threatening physical violence. Instead, when he raises his hand, it bears a sticky note that says, "Please be nice to me." This moment is hilarious because it's so unexpected and also so human: It's a message we'd all probably like to wear on our sleeves sometimes, especially when someone is making things more tense than they need to be.

13. Angie Jordan is an (at least) octuple threat

As hard as it is to pick the funniest "30 Rock" moments out of a veritable sea of levity, picking just one or two Angie Jordan — ahem, the Queen of Jordan — moments is almost impossible. It's easy to see why, despite his self-constructed reputation for debauchery, Tracy Jordan has been nothing but faithful to her ever since she offered him a free shrimp cup at a strip club 15 years ago.

Sherri Shepherd first appeared as Tracy's wild-hearted, strong-willed wife Angie in the first season episode "Up All Night." She steals the show every time she arrives — which is probably why she ends up with her own reality show within "30 Rock." "Queen of Jordan" is stuffed with catchphrases like "It's my way till payday" and moments like teaching Liz what a surprise is.

It's clear that Angie is a formidable force. In fact, as she puts it in one of her best and most revealing moments: "I'm an octuple threat: Reality star. Actress. Singer-songreader. Perfumist. IBS survivor. Best-selling author of a book I didn't write. Catchphrase coiner, 'I'll take that with cheese.'" She's pretty much the whole package.

12. Dr. Spaceman's inaugural appearance

The last time Tracy went on "Late Night," he turned into a self-proclaimed "stabbing robot." But now, with the help of some new medication in "Tracy Does Conan," the 7th episode of "30 Rock," he just might make it through the show without injuring anyone. Or not.

After finding Tracy on the ceiling proclaiming that he's "bugging out" due to his new prescription, Liz Lemon assumes that the "Dr. Spaceman" Tracy names as his physician is just another delusion. That is, until she finds Tracy's prescription bottle, which does indeed bear this unusual name, and calls the doctor hoping to return Tracy to (relative) normalcy before taping begins.

When Spaceman (a wacky Chris Parnell) answers the phone, we learn a lot of important (and absurd) information. First, his name is pronounced, "spah-CHEH-man." More crucially, though, we learn that "medicine's not a science," making us wonder if Liz's initial intuition that Dr. Spaceman isn't a real doctor was accurate. We also finally get a window into Tracy's eccentricity: Erratic behavior and delusion, brought on by excessive notoriety, and exacerbated by Dr. Spaceman's admittedly "wildly experimental treatments."

Of course, Spaceman also admits that he's questioning his own judgment on this phone call due to the influence of some "blue things" he's taken, so we're not sure how accurate any of this information is.

11. Liz inadvertently teaches us about root canal aftercare

The aftercare instructions for a root canal procedure suggest that you shouldn't eat anything that requires chewing for at least a few hours afterward (your mouth is likely to still be a bit numb), and that you stick to soft foods for the next few days.

All of this information can probably be found on a pamphlet in just about any dentist's office, but Liz Lemon is not to be deterred after her own root canal in the Season 4 episode "Future Husband." She asks her dentist eagerly, "When can I start eating hard cheeses again, doctor?" Dr. Kaplan sighs and hands her a pamphlet — but not one of the standard ones from the waiting room.

No, this one is custom-made and entitled, "Hard Cheeses And Your Root Canal, Liz," and Dr. Kaplan informs her, "It was expensive, but I'm tired of discussing this with you." It's clear that, just like "Night Cheese," Liz has sung this particular tune many times before.

10. Jenna Maroney goes on Hardball

The stars of "T.G.S. with Tracy Jordan" have a problematic history with talk shows. You'd think that someone would have realized by now that all publicity is not necessarily good publicity when you're dealing with characters like Tracy and Jenna. While Tracy may pose a genuine danger to others, like Conan, Jenna's greatest threat is to herself.

Just look at her segment on "Hardball with Chris Matthews." Despite rehearsing with Liz, who attempted to steer her toward more innocuous commentary, she ends up making a horrific gaffe when she confuses the names "Obama" and "Osama," suggesting that America should hunt down the former and vote for the latter.

And the worst part is, she only took the "Hardball" engagement to clear her name after she was misquoted in a magazine saying that she hated the troops. It's hard to imagine why she thought that she could fix things by talking more, but the first-season episode "Hard Ball" is certainly funny (in a cringe-y way) to watch.

9. The bad doctor

It's safe to say that the medical talent on display in "30 Rock" is questionable at best. Dr. Spaceman is constantly raising doubts as to his competence and credentials, and when Liz gets what she calls an "off-brand eye surgery," it leaves her in tears — tears that come out of her mouth now, apparently.

But one doctor truly takes the cake. Jon Hamm's Dr. Drew Baird seems like the whole package: He's funny, intelligent, and incredibly attractive. Or maybe he's just incredibly attractive, and people have been laughing at his jokes and telling him he did a great job on botched surgeries because of "the bubble": the special treatment afforded to more conventionally appealing members of society.

Liz eventually realizes this and attempts to show Drew just how much he's benefited from his looks, and it's a pretty ridiculous sequence. When Liz chokes on his homemade salmon bourguignon (made with real orange Gatorade), he suggests finding a chopstick or fireplace match to push it down. He's a doctor who doesn't know the Heimlich.

8. Tracy gets tired

"30 Rock" is a satire, and a notoriously surreal one. This combination means that the show uses a lot of meta humor and narrative devices like breaking the fourth wall. It's an incredibly self-referential show, but it finds increasingly creative ways to accomplish this, so that such humor always feels uncannily fresh rather than played out.

One of the best examples is when Tracy, who allegedly needs 14 hours of sleep a night in order to keep himself from going crazy, well, goes crazy. In this episode, "Grandmentor," the eccentric actor is extremely tired and behaving even more erratic than usual. In the background, you can hear him screaming that he's on a show within a show and his real name is Tracy Morgan.

This is, of course, the actor's real name, and the premise of "30 Rock" is indeed that of a show within a show. It's a wonderful background moment you could easily miss, and a perfect example of the show's meta, self-reflective nature both turns people off and makes it beloved in equal measure.

7. Kelsey Grammer: evil genius?

Being a show on NBC about being a show on NBC has its benefits. By various means, "30 Rock" incorporates many network luminaries into its stories. The Season 2 premiere, "SeinfeldVision," revolves around Jack's efforts to launch a slate of programming with footage from "Seinfeld" edited into existing content (before Jerry Seinfeld himself arrives to confront him). Conan O'Brien makes numerous cameos on the show, and it's even suggested that he once dated Liz.

But one recurring guest appearance by the star of another NBC program, quite literally, takes the cake. Kelsey Grammer, who plays the titular role in "Frasier," reveals himself to be something of an evil genius when he helps Jenna Maroney scam a cake shop in the Season 5 episode "Reaganing." But his best and most evil moment comes in Season 6, when the "Best Friends Gang" (as Jenna, Kenneth, and Grammer have christened themselves) reunite for a much more sinister (and funnier) caper in "Idiots Are People Three!"

This time, after Jenna and Kenneth accidentally poison Pete with the mercury from broken light bulbs, they recruit Grammer to help them make it look like he was knocked out during auto-erotic asphyxiation. He's all too eager to help, and is easily one of the best parts of the scheme.

6. "How do you do, fellow kids?"

Steve Buscemi's endlessly memeable "How do you do, fellow kids?" moment is actually part of a wider storyline from "The Tuxedo Begins." Buscemi plays Lenny Wozniak, a private investigator looking into Jack's past to see if there's anything that might jeopardize a run for mayor of New York City.

Buscemi's outfit in this scene is, if not impeccable camouflage, impeccable comedy. He's wearing a backwards snapback and a T-shirt that says, "Music Band" written in the style of the AC/DC logo, and he has a skateboard emblazoned with stickers slung over his shoulder.

The still has become internet shorthand for someone who attempts to appear younger than they are: Millennials use it to lament their failed attempts at Gen Z's TikTok dances or to make fun of celebrities who try too hard to be relatable on social media. This one moment has become a cultural staple that outlived its source (though one could argue "30 Rock" is still relevant today), and for good reason: It's hilarious.

5. Tracy and Jenna become problem solvers

In  Season 4's "The Problem Solvers," it's clear what the problem is: Liz and Jack have hired a new cast member, and both Jenna and Tracy naturally feel threatened. Luckily, they find new roles to fill: After Tracy, in a striking turn of events, gives Liz some advice, he lets it go to his head, and he and Jenna begin referring to themselves as "The Problem Solvers."

They even make themselves custom T-shirts! Jenna's says, "Solvers," and Tracy's says, "The Problem." Decked out in their new uniforms and high on the idea of being needed, the two high-maintenance and decidedly problematic stars set out to offer solutions for every issue on set.

One of the first problems they "solve" is their own: Jenna realizes that when she stands on Tracy's right, their T-shirts read, "Solvers The Problem." When she asks whether they should switch shirts or switch where they're standing, Tracy offers an elegant solution: Do both!

Now, not only do their shirts still not read correctly, but they don't fit them, either. But to be fair, they both deserve the chance to be The Problem.

4. Liz and her Sims teach us about family

Liz's pep talks aren't always the best, but they get the job done. When she counsels Tracy to be grateful for his family and happy marriage, she offers some stark perspective: "You know what I have?" she asks. "A Sims family that keeps getting murdered."

Liz draws quite a lot from her Sims family when she's giving advice. When she finds out that Jack doesn't know who his real father is and tries to get him to open up about it or at least attempt to find out who the man is, Jack rebuffs her. Liz's response is as sage as ever: "I don't have a lot of personal life experience. But if I have learned anything from my Sims family, when a child doesn't see his father enough, he starts to jump up and down. And then his mood level will drop. Until he pees himself."

However, it could be argued that she actually hasn't learned anything from her Sims family, since she keeps getting them killed. So take her advice with a grain of salt.

3. Tracy proves misery loves company

When Tracy goes on the run from a group he believes is out to murder him, he gets taken in by one of Kenneth's cousins — who turns out to be a bit of an Annie Wilkes. Like the psychotic nurse in Stephen King's novel "Misery" and the film of the same name, Kenneth's cousin Jesse embraces the "fanatic" part of being someone's biggest fan.

Eventually, after staying with Jesse for a while, Tracy realizes that he has to go back to the city in time for the new season of "T.G.S.," but Jesse has other ideas. He knocks Tracy out and kidnaps him, refusing to let him leave, just like Annie Wilkes does to her favorite novelist — to whom she also originally appeared as a savior.

The homage to the classic horror film is expertly done, and the unease plays well with — and is comedically relieved by — classic "30 Rock" absurdity.

2. Boys becoming men, men becoming wolves

Some of the most legendary "30 Rock" segments are musical ones, and none are more recognizable than "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah," which LAist described as "a 'Monster Mash' for a new generation." The musical style is certainly similar to the 1962 novelty song that has persisted in our culture for decades — and the "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" music video, which was originally just a cutaway scene, threatens to become timeless in its own way.

The idea came about, according to an oral history in the LAist, because showrunner Robert Carlock kept thinking about how the Black Eyed Peas threw the phrase "mazel tov" into their song "I Gotta Feeling." He figured they did this to up their chances of being played at bar mitzvahs, and that Tracy Jordan would likely make a similar (but probably less subtle) effort. And "boys becoming men, men becoming wolves" is a poetic match made in heaven that seamlessly marries the Halloween novelty song with the bar mitzvah publicity grab — a combo you didn't know you needed.

1. Kenneth marries each individual envelope before he can lick it

The idea of Kenneth not being able to lick an envelope until he marries it (because it's a sin) is funny enough, but it's even more ridiculous — like, list-topping material — when you learn more about the mailing campaign he's started to save "T.G.S." You'd think his overly religious restrictions would make this a pretty difficult task for him, but he's committed himself to marrying and divorcing each of over 100 envelopes in order to save the show. That's his whole (hilarious) existence: Doing absurd and often humanly impossible things for the TV program he loves.

His mailing campaign itself is delightfully ill-advised: He's mailing sugar cubes to the head of the network to show him that the fans are "sweet on T.G.S." Of course, the cubes will likely be crushed in the mail, as Jack points out, leading to a likely anthrax scare when the executive opens the envelopes. But you have to give Kenneth credit for coming up with his plan from scratch: The only other proposal in his idea journal was "bird internet."