When '30 Rock' Spoofed the Civil Service

Civil servants have long been the butt of mean jokes and equally nasty headlines, frequently stereotyped as lazy workers in a wasteful, gnarled-up bureaucracy. More recently, for a variety of reasons, concerns have been raised about the hidden power wielded by the administrative state.

But deviance is a fact. What that means, in plain terms, is that every social structure, every institution, every organization, every group, and every team will have its dysfunctional aspects as well as a few extremely bad apples.

Deviance is a fact: It doesn't matter who's in charge.

Unfortunately, the unique dysfunctions of the civil service are very hard to understand unless you actually work there. The following hilarious scene, from Season 2, Episode 15 of the hit NBC show 30 Rock (original air date: May 8, 2008), highlights this perfectly.

Click here to watch: "Jack's First Day In Government"

In it, "Jack" (played by Alec Baldwin) joins the government and finds out pretty quickly from "Cooter (played by Matthew Broderick) that all is not quite what it seems from the outside.

Following is my transcription of the hilarious dialogue, which is about one minute in length.

Bureaucrat: "Hey, you must be Jack Donohue. Cooterburger, Vice Chair of Farm Subsidies, Acting Head of FEMA, Temporary Acting Head of the FBC while the Acting Head Is On Trial."
Jack: "Ah, you've had a lot of shakeups around here lately, huh?"
Bureaucrat (Cooter): "I couldn't disagree with you more. The Administration has been streamlined. And the media are so obsessed by the current election they've completely forgotten that we're here. It's an exciting time."
Jack: "I'm glad to hear it. I don't like to think of this President as a lame duck. I like to think of him as a lame...eagle." (There is a pause as drops of water fall down on the desk in front of him.) "The ceiling appears to be leaking."
Bureaucrat: "It's not. We've looked into it and it's not." (He turns to get some paper and a pen from the desk.) "If you have any questions, I'll write down my extension for you." (Bureaucrat writes with a stub on a small yellow Post-it pad.)
Jack: "Do you need a pen?"
Bureaucrat: "No. I've kind of gotten used to it."
Jack: "You don't have pens?"
Bureaucrat: "We're not in a recession."
Jack: "Boy, we've gotta crack the whip around here Cooter, you don't have pens, the roof is leaking."
Bureaucrat: "It's not, I'll show you the study. Hey, we have a meeting with the Appropriations Committee like now."
Jack: "Oh no, I'm not prepared."
Bureaucrat: "I know, I'm not drunk either. But we'll manage."

Copyright 2018 (not the script text) by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. The author's content is hereby released into the public domain. Photo is a screenshot.

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