Why are there so many recurrences of the number 17 in 30 Rock?


  • Tracy Jordan has been married 17 years as of "Up All Night",
  • Dennis tells Jack Donaghy that there are 17 million rats for every one person in Manhattan in "Jack Meets Dennis",
  • Liz Lemon's brother is frozen at the age of 17 in "Ludachristmas",
  • Jack hasn't seen his father for 17 years in "The Fighting Irish", etc.

17 is a very important number in the math community, so maybe there are some writers on 30 Rock with a background with math?

EDIT: I should have noted previously that there is a very tight-knit community that has a powerful fascination with 17, i.e. the alumni of the summer camp HCSSiM (Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics). If anybody can find any evidence that a writer on 30 Rock was an alumni (given the infamous connection between mathematics and comedy writers), that would be great too.

  • 4
    Two examples isn't exactly "many".
    – BCdotWEB
    Nov 8, 2016 at 10:28
  • There are more, but I can't remember them. I'll try and find a few more.
    – akr
    Nov 8, 2016 at 17:47
  • Maybe the writers are fans of Insane Clown Posse (they use 17 as a recurring theme, only revealing after several years that they're fond of the number because that's how many copies their first album sold on its first day)
    – Tom Kidd
    Nov 10, 2016 at 20:34
  • 1
    I was thinking maybe it was that 30 Rock broke the record with 17 Emmy Award nominations for a comedy series. But the dates on the calendar don't seem to match.
    – John
    Nov 10, 2016 at 22:19
  • @Tom Kidd: That may be the link, but I can't find any evidence to support it. Do you have any suggestions?
    – akr
    Nov 10, 2016 at 22:29

2 Answers 2


While it may not account for her use as a favorite word, Tina Fey based the character of Janis Ian (from her movie Mean Girls) on the singer Janis Ian, whose song, "At Seventeen," laments the social pains of not fitting in in high school. In the episode "The Breakup," Liz Lemon sings the song at a karaoke bar. The use of the number seventeen, then, could be a continuing homage to Ian, whose song clearly touched Fey.

More likely, though, she is just choosing it for its effect on the joke at hand. From a comedic standpoint, seventeen is a number that doesn't have ready cultural references nor familiar mathematical associations which could high-jack a joke unintentionally (like the numbers 7 and 13, for lucky and unlucky). It also has three syllables, which none of the other teen numbers has, so that can add rhythm to the delivery of a joke.


Here you go 2 links to the number 17:

  • 30 Rock received 17 Primetime Emmy Award nominations for its second season.

  • Amy Poehler (Fey's BFF) has lost out on winning an Emmy 16 times, winning it at nomination No. 17.

  • 1
    The 17 Emmy explanation has been ruled out because it happened too late in the career of 30 Rock. And Amy Poehler won an Emmy long after 30 Rock had ended.
    – akr
    Nov 12, 2016 at 22:53

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