Bossypants (2011) – Tina Fey

Title: Bossypants
Author: Tina Fey
Date published: 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I would not classify Tina Fey’s book as a memoir per say. I would rather describe it as a collection of musings and anecdotes, rather than a straight up story of her life. There is no clearly defined beginning or end, and her chronology is pretty much non-existent. This is not a judgement at all. In fact Fey is such a fantastic writer that I would literally read her grocery list and probably be more entertained than I am by a lot of people’s attempts at subtle humor.

Born in Philadelphia in 1970 to elderly Greek orthodox parents, Tina Fey grew up being interested, not unlike a lot of performers today, in the theater world. She performed in children’s theater groups and after school ended up studying drama at the University of Virginia. Her first and only day job she claims was at the YMCA in Illinois, after being turned down for the job as the night box office manager of a small theater company. The YMCA, a building that housed a gym for yuppies, community resources for families, low-income housing and “the epicenter of all human grimness” will prove to be a brilliant source of inspiration for some pretty great tales before she leaves to join The Second City Touring Company in Chicago to study improv.

Improvisation is clearly where Fey is most comfortable, and there are several references to her love for this particular method of acting scattered throughout the book. The Rules of Improvisation that Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat is one such thoughtful addition.

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After reading Bossypants I was immediately inspired to watch a lot of 30 Rock, the TV show Fey created after leaving Saturday Night Live, a show she had been a regular on since 1997. It was on SNL that TV viewers first became truly acquainted with the masterful skill of Tina Fey, the tiny brunette with glasses and the sass, savvy and humor to bring down the tallest and funniest people in show business. In her book she describes the very challenging process of pitching the idea for a television show that was basically a replica of her own experiences working on SNL. The very idea seemed preposterous, and the ideas of casting a big star like Alec Baldwin in it even more so. Luckily for us the TV people agreed and this awesome bit of sitcom gold was born.

It is true that Tina Fey has a very specific type of humor, and the masterful portrayal of her honeymoon aboard a cruise ship, and her father’s fashion sense are the kinds of stories that are so good it is not at all weird that the casual reader might feel the need to ‘steal’ said stories and perhaps use them in their own memoir (side note: plagiarism is wrong). Fey is also very honest and in turn very relatable in her criticism of Hollywood’s notions of beauty, and the whole business of being a woman, and being a woman in show business. She is critical without actually sounding critical at all as she assesses how society’s perceptions of beauty have changed and that the only woman to have actually achieved all the requirements to qualify as beautiful is in fact Kim Kardashian who “was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes. Everyone else is struggling”.

Scattered throughout the book are childhood photographs and adult glamour shots that are not at all embarrassing or awkward, as well as countless references and so-called ‘love-letters’ to close friend and fellow SNL performer Amy Poehler who we are all aware is Tina’s BFF and co-conspirator in all that is funniest today.

Fey’s intelligence is never to be questioned, and it is specifically this brand of intelligent female comedian that has made the world reassess what can actually be deemed funny. Without going too deeply into it Fey discusses the time she spent impersonating politicians on SNL, specifically her time portraying Governor Sarah Palin, and how topical comedy forced her to participate in real debates and deal with real issues that have faced the United States of America especially during election times. SNL has never been the platform that kept its performer’s heads buried in the sand, and has never shied away from being controversial, however even Fey had her reservations about certain skits as often times the cast were accused of being biased and/or promoting certain candidates or political parties.

Besides being an entertainer and being funny and intelligent and beautiful and powerful and slowly taking over the world one incredible joke at a time, Tina Fey is also a wife and a mother who is amazingly candid about how incredibly not easy it is to do all the right things and still maintain her street cred. I think that her incredible ability to be so damn uncool is in actual fact the reason why she is cool. Even though the common perception is that we are cool by association (and she is certainly associating with some pretty cool people) it is a little known fact that nerds are the new cool, and if you’ve worked on Saturday Night Live you’re pretty much both a nerd and cool.

In conclusion I believe that if you love Tina Fey you should read her book. You should also read her book if you’ve ever quoted from Mean Girls (2004), or if you love watching SNL, or if you would like to while away a few hours with something weird, or if you are keen to learn how difficult it is to become a famous writer slash actor in television or if you just enjoy great writing and a sense of humor. To be honest I really hope she writes another book because I feel as though there is more to her than just this book with a picture of Tina Fey with creepy man-hands on the cover.

In case you are interested in my review of Tina Fey’s BFF:

Yes Please (2014) – Amy Poehler

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