One of the reasons Jane Krakowski (Jenna) was drawn to the series, was because it gave her the chance to sing and dance. Sitcoms today don't usually allow for that, this was the first since Ally McBeal (1997).
In her 2011 book "Bossypants", Tina Fey said that during the early years of the show, Donald Glover was its only black writer. She also said that he was so young that when he started on the writing staff, he was still living in an NYU dorm, and working there as a Resident Adviser. Since he came from a large family in Stone Mountain, Georgia, Fey said that Glover was especially good at writing for the character of Kenneth, who was also supposed to be from Stone Mountain. Glover later became a star on the television show Community (2009).
Alec Baldwin won the SAG Award for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series every year since the show's inception until 2013, a feat held by no other actor in either drama or comedy. In addition, he won another one in 2009 as part of the cast. He was also nominated for the last time in 2014, but failed to win that time, probably because the show ended in January 2013.
Tina Fey had to leave Saturday Night Live in order to appear in the show (the schedules overlapped). Rachel Dratch also left the show at this time, as she was set to play Jenna DeCarlo. After appearing in the first version of the pilot, Dratch was replaced by Jane Krakowski and given bit parts during the first season.
In 2012 Tina Fey explained the Emmy in Liz Lemon's office: "I've always sort of thought that it's a Daytime Emmy and that perhaps she got it for writing a really specific category, like Best Regional Promo for the show The Mommies (1993) or something like that . . . (or) for writing jokes for Joy Behar for The View (2001), it's definitely a Daytime Emmy. It's a local Daytime Emmy."
Liz Lemon's office has a framed cover of "Bust Magazine" with Amy Poehler reenacting Janet Leigh's shower scene in Psycho (1960). Tina Fey and Poehler are close friends, and former cast members on Saturday Night Live.
Tina Fey originally pitched a series about a cable news producer who is forced to produce a show hosted by a right-wing pundit. Rachel Dratch and Alec Baldwin, respectively, would have played the roles, but NBC suggested a show based on her Saturday Night Live experiences instead.
The awning in front of Liz Lemon's apartment has displayed two different addresses over the course of the show. In some episodes the address is 160 Riverside Drive and in other shows the address is 168 Riverside Drive. The former is the real address of the exterior building shown and it is directly across the street from the exterior building used on Will & Grace (1998). In an audio commentary Tina Fey jokes that they should've shown Eric McCormick (star of "Will & Grace") walking out of that building.
Jane Krakowski and Cheyenne Jackson both originated the lead roles in the workshop of "Xanadu" for Broadway. Krakowski left the show before it premiered to appear on this show instead. Jackson decided to leave the show because he did not want to perform without her. He ended up returning when the replacement actor broke his ankle only a short while before the show opened. Both have since appeared on this show together, where their close real-life friendship is reversed, with Jenna resenting Jackson's character and he being disgusted by her constant rude behavior.
The same year that this show started airing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006), another show set behind the scenes of a fictional Saturday Night Live (1975)-type show, also premiered. Even though there were many differences between them (including this show being a half-hour sitcom, while "Studio 60" was an hour-long drama), many critics compared the two shows and engaged in speculation about which one would survive. "Studio 60" was canceled after one season, and Creator Aaron Sorkin and former regular Nate Corddry went on to guest star on this show.
Liz and Jenna began "The Girlie Show" at The Second City in Chicago. In 1992, Tina Fey took classes there, and in 1994, was invited to join the cast. Her writing partner was Rachel Dratch, and their time together inspired the relationship between Liz and Jenna.
On December 29, 2006, Nielsen Media Research reported the results of having, for the first time, monitored viewers who use a digital video recorder to record shows for later viewing. According to the Nielsen numbers, this show had the fifth-largest increase (viewers who use a DVR to record the show and then watch it within a week of its initial airing). According to Nielsen, the show added nearly 7.5 percent to its total audience every week as a result of these "live plus seven" viewers.
Aside from the main cast and the supporting actors credited at the beginning of each episode (Tracy's entourage and "TGS" employees), the only cast members who appeared in every season are Elaine Stritch, Will Arnett, Chris Parnell, and Dean Winters.
Before Will Forte played Paul, Jenna's boyfriend and Jenna impersonator in later episodes, he appeared in season one, episode twelve, "Black Tie" as Tomas, the assistant to Austrian Prince Gerhardt, played by Paul Reubens. In the episode, he tells Jenna that the Prince wishes to meet her, and introduces them.
Jack Donaghy is a staunch conservative Republican who looks down on anything he considers even remotely liberal. In real life, Alec Baldwin is a staunch Democrat famous for his liberal political views.
Andrea Martin was offered the role of Margaret Lemon, but her commitments to the Broadway show "Young Frankenstein", a musical adaptation of Young Frankenstein (1974), prevented her from appearing. Martin later guest starred as Bonnie Badamath.
In an episode of season one, Jack (Alec Baldwin) mentions watching Friends (1994), and makes several references to the show. Baldwin made an appearance in Friends (1994) as Parker, the overly enthusiastic guy Phoebe goes out with in season eight. Also, David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston (Ross and Rachel on Friends (1994)) guest starred on this show during seasons two and three (Schwimmer in season two, and Aniston in season three).
Donald Glover, who was a staff writer for the show from 2008 to 2009, also appeared on-camera in several fleeting appearances during that period (for instance, as Young P.A in season one, episode five, "Jack-Tor" or as Gay Kid in season three, episode twenty-two, "Kidney Now!"). After he left the staff of this show for a role on Community (2009) (which made him a star), he returned to play Young Tracy Jordan in the 2012 live episode. During an April 2012 interview with "Entertainment Weekly", Tina Fey said that they already knew that Glover "could sound like Tracy, because we did an extended version of (Tracy Jordan's novelty song) 'Werewolf Bar Mitzvah', and by the time we finished it, we were wrapped and didn't have Tracy. So half of it is just Donald imitating Tracy."
A running gag was the mispronunciation of Jenna's low-budget film "Rural Juror" in season one. It was often just pronounced as "Rrurr Jjurr". In the season seven finale, Jenna sings the theme song of the musical "Rural Juror". The song itself has utterly incomprehensible lyrics for the public. However, it is the first time Jenna pronounces "Rural Juror" correctly. One of the lyrics that was pronounced perfectly was "I will never forget you, rural juror."
In season three, episode nineteen, "The Ones", Kenneth states his real name, shortly before suffering an allergic shock, is Dick Whitman. Dick Whitman is also the real name of Don Draper, one of the main characters of Mad Men (2007), in which Jon Hamm (one of Liz's love interests) starred.
In a 2018 New Yorker profile of Donald Glover, Glover said that he had long wondered if he had been hired as a writer at 30 Rock because of his race: "'I wondered, Am I being hired just because I'm black?' Tina Fey, the show's creator and star, told [New Yorker writer Tad Friend] that the answer was in large part yes; she admired Glover's talent but hired him because funds from NBC's Diversity Initiative 'made him free.'"
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Over the course of the series, there were many hints that Kenneth was considerably older than the character's outward appearance would suggest (the actor who plays Kenneth, Jack McBrayer, was in his early 30s when this show started). These include: Kenneth's recognition of television pop culture from decades before he logically would have been born. He's familiar with the laws of the Roman Republic, and fluent in Latin. His anxiety in "Don Geiss, America and Hope" that NBC will start limiting and verifying the ages of their pages, and his concern in "The Problem Solvers" that people in the office have been spreading a rumor that he's "been alive forever". His memory that an eight-year-old Shirley Temple taught him how to roll cigarettes. His refusal to tell Suze Orman his age in "Today You Are a Man". His on-screen identification as "Kenneth Parcell: Elderly Page" in "Queen of Jordan", and many other jokes and references. In the episode "Governor Dunston," Kenneth's mother (Catherine O'Hara) visits and tells Jenna that Kenneth has "always been a special boy. I remember the day he was born. He looked up at me and said, 'Momma, I am not a person. My body's just a flesh vessel for an immortal being whose name if you heard it would make you lose your mind'." In the last episode of the series, Kenneth looks to be exactly the same even many decades in the future, still the President of NBC, hearing a series pitch from Liz's great-granddaughter; many viewers speculated that that meant that Kenneth is actually immortal. Another hint that supports that view is in an episode in which Jenna asks him if he thinks she is the worst person in the world. He replies, "Miss Maroney, only God and the angels can judge anyone. So yes, you are the worst person in the world."
The show often pokes fun at themes and characters that the show leaves hanging. For example, in one episode Kenneth tells Liz that no more mail could fit into her box because it was stuffed with unopened adoption letters, hinting at Liz's efforts in earlier episodes to adopt a child. Another instance is the character of Danny Baker. In one episode, Pete tells Danny that he would've asked Danny to do a favor for him, but he forgot he works at "TGS", poking fun at the fact that Danny often goes missing for several episodes at a time. In the one hundredth episode, Danny states that he remembers season one of "TGS", even though he hadn't worked there yet, but then later in the episode, has Josh's flashbacks, meaning that Danny and Josh share the same fate, in which they both appear in several episodes and then are never heard from again.
Elizabeth Banks played a character on Scrubs (2001) who was impregnated by a character named J.D. (John Dorian). On this show, she was impregnated by another character with initials J.D. (Jack Donaghy).