Bossypants by Tina Fey
Genre: Non-fiction, humor, autobiography, I think I just peed myself
Rating: 4.95 out of 5 stars
Summary: In her laugh out loud, no holds bar autobiography, former head “SNL” writer and “30 Rock” creator/star Tina Fey talks being a woman, a mother, and a workaholic.
From her early childhood to befriending closet homosexuals to her start in improvisational comedy and eventual rise to stardom, Fey writes with every bit of wit and sass that makes her so damn lovable on screen. You’ll laugh, you’ll laugh some more, and you may inadvertently wet yourself in the process.
Tina Fey is not afraid to make fun of herself. This is the first thing that became apparent when I saw the book cover for Bossypants. She may be an actress who makes enough money to afford a nanny (who she refers to as her babysitter or in one instance Coordinator of Toddlery) but ultimately she’s a down to earth woman who isn’t shy of presenting the world for what it is.
As far as expectations go, I assumed her autobiography would be very similar to Sarah Silverman’s, The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee. This was unfair of me. It was unfair to assume that just because both of these writers are female comedians that their autobiographies would be in some way congruent. Whereas Silverman’s novel taught me that she is a loose, social outcast with poor fashion decisions and no qualms about spitting out various racial epithets and/or references to vaginas, Fey’s novel was ultimately more fulfilling. While they both talk about their rise into the public eye (by starting low in the comedy world with other now also famous comedians), Fey presents her story in a much more intellectual way.
The most satisfactory aspect of the novel is the way that Tina Fey’s voice and humour shines through the stories (most of which are funny, sardonic, and tinged with a sense that no matter how bad things get there is always humour, and a sarcastic world view to solve the problem). Rather than hearing the story with my own voice as I read, I constantly found myself hearing Fey’s voice. Literally. She talked to me as if we were old friends, and she just happened to be entertaining me with various stories from her life. You can’t help but hear her inside your head.
My favourite jokes were the more subtle ones. For instance, during one chapter she talks about a job she had at a local YMCA and her boss with so many consonants in his name that she couldn’t fit them all in the book. She refers to him on different occasions as Mr. Mczrkskczk, Mr. Mkvcrkvckz, and Mr. Mvzkrskchs, all of which eventually devolve into Mr. Mrkkkzzz.
In another chapter she is writing about the disastrous cruise her and her husband went on for their honeymoon. She explains that for legal reasons her husband does not want his name mentioned in the book so she instead refers to him as Barry. Throughout the narrative however she keeps “accidentally” writing that his name is Jeff, a mistake she consistently berates herself for mid-text. Barry then becomes Lee for a good portion of the story until she changes it to Rod at the request of Jeff who think it sounds much more manly. The funniest moments are when she breaks the fourth wall, or whatever you would call that in literary form. Sorry Zack Morris, Tina Fey has you beat.
Another thing that greatly appealed to me was how much the book was aimed at women. Granted, not being a married mother I cannot fully relate to the entire novel, but for the most part I could easily connect to what she touched upon. As a woman I have experienced her frustration with females being viewed as somehow less capable than men in the workplace. This included talk about the lack of a female majority in the improvisational acting group Second City, and also the lack of parts for women that initially occurred on “Saturday Night Live”. In one anecdote she mentions that Chris Kattan in drag was chosen over a female cast member for a sketch with Sylvester Stallone.
She rails against the strangeness of being a woman, from having her period to delaying being allowed to shave her legs. In one of the first lines that struck me enough to highlight it on my Kindle, Fey writes that, “I had noticed something was weird earlier in the day, but I knew from commercials that one’s menstrual period was a blue liquid that your poured like laundry detergent onto maxi pads to test their absorbency”. This was, to me anyway, a “what’s the deal with airline food” joke for the 21st century.
Much like me, Fey was not allowed to shave her legs at the request of her mother. I still do not understand why mothers do not want their daughters to shave their legs. On the one hand I can understand that shaving makes leg hair coarser and thus will need to be shaved more frequently, but is putting it off better than having your daughter mercilessly mocked and beaten with water bottles at a sleepover until she cries herself to sleep? I think not.
What resonates most however is the inadequacy women feel with themselves and the cattiness they exhibit to one another. This is also explored in Fey’s movie Mean Girls (AKA the pinnacle of Lindsay Lohan’s career). She discusses how no matter what a woman looks she will be judged harshly, both by herself and others. Ultimately we will compare ourselves to photoshopped models we see on the covers of magazines (Fey herself is proud to admit she has all her own teeth and original facial features) despite the impossibility of achieving these attributes. Tastes also change. Where once curvier beauties were in (see Marilyn Monroe), followed by stick thin models (see Twiggy), followed by big booties (see J-Lo), and now thighs (see Beyonce) women will forever be striving to do whatever it takes to conform to the national standard of beauty. We as a gender will never view ourselves as enough.
Fey herself admits to being catty toward other women, which makes me feel better about occasionally displaying these qualities. She takes another woman’s job out from under her, she wishes that an ex’s new love interest has a “cavernous vagina”, and she convinces her closeted homosexual friends to choose another lead for a play merely because she has a vendetta against the blonde beauty who stole her boyfriend. She writes, “Obviously, as an adult I realize this girl-on-girl sabotage is the third worst kind of female behavior, right behind saying “like” all the time and leaving your baby in a dumpster”. It’s behavior like this that makes it easy to not enjoy the company of a select few women (or more likely girls on “Teen Mom”). And it is precisely thinking like what I just wrote that gets us labeled as “catty”. Meow!
My only pet peeve with the novel was that in a couple of instances I did not understand references to various older men, which is obviously a generational thing and not everyone will have this same problem. But I’m sure girls even younger than me would read the book and not understand references to Monica Lewinsky, so kindly ignore my ageist complaints.
-So funny it hurt
-Hard to put down, resulting in continuous amusement
-A book for women without shoes or purses or glitter on the cover
-Encouragement for women looking to break in to a man’s world
-Hard to put down, resulting in very little sleep
-Find it hard to relate to some of her jokes/references due to generation gap
If I were asked who to not recommend this autobiography to, it would most certainly be men. At one point, Fey writes an open letter she found trolling the internet to a man who thinks women have unfair advantages in the workplace (… Boobs?) because of their gender. “I want to hear what the men of the world have been up to,” writes Fey, “What fun new guns have they invented? What are they raping these days? What’s Michael Bay’s next film going to be?”. Pwned!
You may make more money than me for the same work, you may be chosen for a promotion over me, and your penis may make you feel far superior than me (mostly because Freud deemed it so), but if Tina Fey’s autobiography has taught me one thing, it’s that you can have a vagina and still be successful. We just have to break through that damn ceiling first.