Bossypants by Tina Fey

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“I experienced car creepery at thirteen. I was walking home from middle school past a place called the World’s Largest Aquarium – which, legally, I don’t know how they could call it that, because it was obviously an average-sized aquarium. Maybe I should start referring to myself as the World’s Tallest Man and see how that goes? Anyway, I was walking home from school and I was wearing a dress. A dude drove by and yelled, “Nice tits.” Embarrassed and enraged, I screamed after him, “Suck my dick.” Sure, it didn’t make any sense, but at least I didn’t hold in my anger.”

An ideal palette cleanser after my recent A Song of Ice and Fire binge (also known as Murder-and-Rapefest ’12), Tina Fey’s memoir is a fun, brief (I started and finished it in one day) little glimpse into the mind of the woman who created Mean Girls, 30 Rock, a better Sarah Palin than Sarah Palin, and many other things that I love.

I say it’s a glimpse because there’s a lot of stuff here that was very purposefully left out. Fey states in the first chapter: “During the spring semester of kindergarten, I was slashed in the face by a stranger in the alley behind my house. …I only bring it up to explain why I’m not going to talk about it.” There’s plenty here that she’s not willing to discuss at length (the sad absence of behind-the-scenes Saturday Night Live gossip leads me to believe that either Fey is still friends with everyone on the show and doesn’t want to air their business in a bestselling book, or SNL is no longer the crazy cocaine-fueled shitshow that it was in the 70s and 80s – it’s probably a little of both), and plenty of things that she discusses, but grudgingly. You can tell the second time she brings it up that she’s sick of having to answer questions about how to succeed as a woman in a male-dominated field (“You know, in the same way they say, ‘Gosh, Mr. Trump, is it awkward for you to be the boss of all these people?'”), and there’s definitely the sense that she’s writing about this subject, again, only because her publisher prodded her into it. When Fey discusses creative projects, the big focus is on 30 Rock (she even goes through the list of everyone who wrote for the show and tells us what their best episode was – while sweet, it’s not super illuminating), and it becomes almost an advertisement for the show – want to read about the creation of Mean Girls? Too bad, because Fey barely even mentions the movie in passing.

It’s mostly a fun distraction of a book without really delving into deeper territory, but the best parts (and the parts that make up for the disappointments I described aboare when Fey is discussing the unbelievable amount of bullshit you have to wade through if you want to be a woman in comedy (Speaking of which, did you know that Fey originally wanted Jenna on 30 Rock to be played by SNL cast member Rachel Dratch, but she was overruled and the more commercially pretty Jane Krakowski was chosen instead? That would have been a good story to include in this book, and it’s nowhere to be seen.). First, from her time at The Second City:

“In 1995, each cast at The Second City was made up of four men and two women. When it was suggested that they switch one of the companies to three men and three women, the producers and directors had the same panicked reaction. ‘You can’t do that. There won’t be enough parts to go around. There won’t be enough for the girls.’ This made no sense to me, probably because I speak English and have never had a head injury. We weren’t doing Death of a Salesman. We were making up the show ourselves. How could there not be enough parts?”

and my favorite part in the whole book, from a chapter entitled “We Don’t Care if You Don’t Like It (One in a series of love letters to Amy Poehler)”:

“Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and ‘unladylike.’
Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, ‘Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it.’
Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. ‘I don’t fucking care if you like it.’
With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.
I think of this whenever someone says to me, ‘Jerry Lewis says women aren’t funny,’ or ‘Christopher Hitchens says women aren’t funny,’ or ‘Rick Fenderman says women aren’t funny…Do you have anything to say to that?’
Yes. We don’t fucking care if you like it.
I don’t say it out loud, of course, because Jerry Lewis is a great philanthropist, Hitchens is very sick, and the third guy I made up.
Unless one of these men is my boss, which none of them is, it’s irrelevant. My hat goes off to them. It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don’t like something, it is empirically not good. I don’t like Chinese food, but I don’t write articles trying to prove it doesn’t exist.”

Tina Fey, you are the coolest.

Verdict: three out of five stars

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1 Comment

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One response to “Bossypants by Tina Fey

  1. I think you’re quite right that some of this discretion comes from the fact she wants to maintain good working relationships with certain people, but I wonder if it might be a comedy thing. I’ve been listening to the Nerdist podcast—which I highly recommend—and Chris Hardwick, the host, does stand-up and talks about the craft a lot. Being a stand-up, I’ve come to understand, often means that you get to control the conversation. Obviously, Fey is a comedy writer first and foremost, but I wonder if some of that attitude doesn’t affect her.

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