Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: "Bossypants" by Tina Fey

“Bossypants” is an educational book. In it, Tina Fey explains that the key to becoming a TV comedy star, writer and producer is having a strong father figure and lots of theatrical gay friends as a teenager. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying just a tad, but those things are important, Fey insists.

Fey teaches us other things. To create a successful comedy writing staff, she says, “mix Harvard Nerds with Chicago improvisers and stir.” By the way, she adds, many of the male writers will pee in jars.

Posing for a photo shoot is “the FUNNEST!”, Fey explains.  The “wooooooorst” is when there’s an explosion on your honeymoon cruise and everyone gets quiet as they contemplate going down with the ship. “It’s scary when a group of people all know instinctively not to joke around.” 

The “best worst thing ever”? That would be when Fey pulled an all-nighter at her home with the “30 Rock” writers. “One night I put my daughter to bed, worked with the writers all night, and in the morning when she toddled out, the writers were still there.”

“Bossypants” is not really an autobiography, but more of a selection of essays drawn from Fey’s life. It’s funny, light, glib, and sarcastic. Fey shows she can find humor in anything, including pap smears and a scary job at an urban YMCA.

Much of the book is aimed at women, with a chapter on fashion and beauty, jokes about breast pumps, discussions of the role of women in the workplace, and observations on the difficulties of being a working mom. Since I have a penis, some of these jokes missed with me.  Also, she casually throws out a lot of pop culture references, not all of which I got. Who’s Michelle Duggar?  (Never mind, I just looked it up.)

Still, I liked knowing the background – and politics – behind Fey’s appearances as Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. And I liked seeing the messy, sometimes chaotic, way that “30 Rock” is made.

“While we are grateful for the affection ’30 Rock’ has received from critics and hipsters, we were actually trying to make a hit show,” Fey writes. “We weren’t trying to make a low-rate critical darling that snarled in the face of conventionality. We were trying to make ‘Home Improvement’ and we did it wrong. You know those scientists who were developing a blood-pressure medicine and they accidentally invented Viagra? We were trying to make Viagra And we ended up with blood-pressure medicine.”


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