Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bossypants: Tina Fey kicks bossy butt!

Bossypants, by Tina Fey
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I didn't notice until I actually started reading this book that Tina Fey has man hands and man arms on the front cover of this book. Ugh!! Shows how (un)observant I am.

Bossypants is part memoir, part show biz story, and nearly all funny. She wanders throughout her life, haphazardly, telling the reader stories and sharing observations.

She starts out by sharing her growing-up stories and photos--I always find it amazing to look at school photos of glamorous celebrities. I mean, who knew? They so clearly did NOT look glamorous in their school photos! Fey had a very normal childhool, raised by two Republican but also tolerant parents. They welcomed all of Fey's gay and lesbian friends through her high school years, especially during the summers when she was involved with a local theater group.

After college, Fey goes off to Chicago to make her millions and begins by working at the YMCA with a coworker, Donna, who loved to complain. However, "do not try to get ahead of Donna and initiate the complaining, no matter how sure she'll agree. Because Donna will leave you hanging every time.
ME: Can you believe they're cutting our lunch down to half an hour, lowering our pay by 10 percent, taking away our insurance, and making us eat dirt?!

DONNA: I don't go to doctors. I like dirt anyway, so...fine by me." 
I know people like this, and they drive me CRAZY!!

Fey begins working at Second City Comedy Club and learns the rules of improv, which she shares with the reader. The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. "Always agree and SAY YES. When you're improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we're improvising and I say, 'Freeze, I have a gun,' and you say, 'That's not a gun. It's your finger...,' our improvised scene has ground to a halt...but if you say, 'The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!,' then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun." Fey then shares that "as an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is 'no.'...What kind of way is that to live?"

Fey shares interesting observations about working with men in comedy, some positive and some negative. When she first started working at SNL, the writers actively discouraged having too many women in sketches and heaven forbid, not just two women alone. (They claimed that people wouldn't want to watch two women in a sketch.) Fey broke a lot of glass ceilings when she became one of SNL's head writers. And then when the sketch of Fey and Amy Poehler and Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton shot the ratings through the roof, Fey was vindicated.

I could have done without the image of men peeing in cups and leaving said cups on the bookshelves in their office. WTF? Are they too lazy to go to the restroom? Why on earth would you want to have pee-filled cups all over your office? Clearly, these men are not married. Or gay.

When Fey moved onto 30 Rock, she had a lot more power about the way things would go (hence the name, Bossypants). People often ask her if it's hard being the boss (as executive producer of 30 Rock). She ponders whether anyone ever asks Donald Trump the same question. She's proud of her "little show," in which all of the people look normal (unlike Friends or Desperate Housewives, among others). "I've never understood why every character being 'hot' was necessary for enjoying a TV show. It's the same reason I don't get Hooters. Why do we need to enjoy chicken wings and boobies at the same time? Yes, they are a natural and beautiful part of the human experience. And so are boobies. But why at the same time?"

During one very insane weekend of her life, she (1) scheduled and shot a critical Oprah appearance on 30 Rock, (2) learned Friday she would be appearing as Sarah Palin on SNL the next day--with almost no time to prepare, and (3) planned and hosted her daughter's birthday party on Sunday. She discusses her ambivalence about the Sarah Palin period...and how her Republican parents' initial excitement eventually turned to dread...and how she feels about women in politics and leadership. When Palin herself appeared on SNL one night, Fey insisted that she be protected from what she was sure would be a studio filled with loud boos. (Palin's first appearance was backstage, so the audience weren't sure if she was there in the studio or not.)
"In my opinion, the most meaningful moment for women in the 2008 campaign was not Governor Palin's convention speech or Hillary Clinton conceding her 1,896 delegates. The moment most emblematic of how things have changed for women in America was nine-months-pregnant Amy Poehler rapping as Sarah Palin and tearing the roof off the place."
This completely resonates with me and is akin to how I recall with fondness seeing our pregnant pastor in the pulpit, preaching to a community of Lutherans and Roman Catholics (who certainly had never had a pregnant pastor before). There's just no way you can not realize that you're listening to a WOMAN when she is pregnant.

In short, this was a highly enjoyable light read and makes me want to go watch all those Tina Fey/Amy Poehler SNL sketches all over again!


  1. I'm not big on memoirs, but I do want to read this.

    Speaking of memoirs, I recently finished Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother. I'm still not sure what I think of it. It was unsettling to say the least. The rest of the women in my book group felt the same. I really would like to read a memoir of that family in 10 years or so when the girls are on their own.

  2. Yes, I know what you mean. It's hard to imagine treating your child that way, isn't it?