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Monday, April 25, 2011

'Bossypants' by Tina Fey

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

Tina Fey is one of the world's greatest comic writers and performers. Bossypants is her first book.

Once in a generation a woman comes along who changes everything. Tina Fey is not that woman, but she met that woman once and acted weird around her.

Before 30 Rock, Mean Girls and 'Sarah Palin', Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

I have a little confession to make . . . I have a crush on Tina Fey. I mean a serious jonesing girl-crush of epically wonderful proportions. Let’s put this into perspective, shall we? There was a good three months when I responded positively to any question by saying “I want to go to there.” I own the 30 Rock four-season boxed set but have told friends that I don’t own it on the off-chance that they ask to borrow it from me. And I actually understand Liz Lemon’s aversion to open-toed footwear.

So when I was offered the chance to review Tina Fey’s autobiography, ‘Bossypants’, I hyperventilated and squealed simultaneously in a pitch that only neighbourhood dogs could hear. To say I was excited is an understatement, akin to saying that Justin Bieber is kind of popular with the younger ladies.

‘Bossypants’ tells Fey’s life-story. From her normal upbringing to ‘old’ parents in Pennsylvania, joining a revelatory drama club in high school, working terrible hours at an Illinois YMCA to joining a Chicago improv troupe and finding her niche in life.

Fey’s early life is peppered with hilarious anecdotes of virginal naiveté (a state in which she remained for 24 impressive years) which include many awkward encounters with thin-lipped closeted gay boys. Fey is self-deprecating and sublimely sweet in her recounting of a painfully illicit-free childhood. And it’s in these memories that you can read the character of Liz Lemon fermenting.

Fey also offers great insight into her creative timeline. Beginning with a high school drama club, advancing to improvisation classes and a travelling troupe of improv performers . . . and finally culminating in a nerve-racking interview with NBC’s Lorne Michaels for a writing gig on the infamous America sketch-comedy show, ‘Saturday Night Live’ (SNL).

Now, as an Australian, I have to admit that SNL doesn’t hold the same cultural impact as it clearly does for Americans. I understand that the show has churned-out some of America’s most beloved comedic actors – Dan Akroyd, John Belushi, Bill Murray and Will Ferrell to name a very few. I know this from pop-culture references and general knowledge. I have seen a few episodes of SNL (mostly current stuff thanks to YouTube, the majority of which is not terribly hilarious most of the time. I personally don’t get the appeal of Jimmy Fallon. At all). I know of SNL as an American TV powerhouse. But I couldn’t honestly tell you that SNL has had any impact on me whatsoever beyond being able to say that it was Tina Fey's starting point.

That being said . . . I do watch and love 30 Rock. I did watch (and hate) ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’. I am fascinated by the general writing process of TV and Film. So I loved reading Tina Fey’s behind-the-door shenanigans of what went on at the real 30 Rockefeller Plaza on the real show of Saturday Night Live. I loved her talking about the 90’s boy’s club atmosphere that was quickly turned on its head by herself and Amy Poehler. Fey doesn’t write about shattering glass ceiling internal politics. She does talk about a general shift in women taking power and no longer taking male bullshit. It’s not anything Fey can pin-point, but it is something she articulates very well and with her usual verve;
That’s the kind of trouble you get when diverse groups of people actually cross paths with one another. That’s why many of the worst things in the world happen in and around Starbucks bathrooms.
I was surprised to find that I was very familiar with Tina Fey’s (arguably) most infamous ‘sketch’ as Senator Sarah Palin. I remember watching this on Australian news channels when it was reported how the 2008 US Presidential campaign was progressing. I remember YouTubing the infamous sketches and having them forwarded to me in countless e-mails. I thought it was pretty hilarious at the time, but it’s interesting to realize how much that impersonation impacted and expressed politics of the time. It’s even more grotesquely fascinating to read what happened when Tina Fey met Sarah Palin.

And of course Tina Fey has plenty to say about the origins and progression of 30 Rock. She is very, very humble – affording most of the show’s award-winning popularity to Alec Baldwin. This is common for Fey. She also breezed over her time as the first head female writer of SNL. She is almost comically humble and aw-shucks in how she reached her success. It’s refreshing, even if it’s also blatantly untrue. But, like the geeky-gorgeous character of Liz Lemon, Fey’s irreverent self-deprecation is uproarious;
There is one embarrassing secret I must reveal, something I've never admitted to anyone. Though we are grateful for the affection 30 rock has received from critics and hipsters, we were actually trying to make a hit show. We weren’t trying to make a low-rated 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.
I was in pain reading this book. Side-splitting has a whole new meaning when you’re immersed in Fey’s kooky-cute world of thin-lipped crushes and moonlit mountain walks for the sake of some PG13 over-the-jean action. And don’t even get me started on her ‘Poseidon Adventure’ honeymoon from hell. If you love 30 Rock and quote Liz Lemon on a regular basis, then ‘Bossypants’ is pretty much required reading.



  1. <3 <3 <3 Tina Fey!!! I didn't know if I'd like this book (since it's a biography?)but I shouldn't have had any reservations - I'm running out to get it!!!

  2. @ Patti - I *never* read biographies. I mean, not since high school have I cracked one open. But this was spectacular. I kinda thought it would be, cause it's Tina Fey, but I was really impressed. I'd love her to try fiction next time, I think she'd be great.

  3. Ugh, I LOVE Tina Fey!!!! Im so getting this book!

    Awesome review hon!!! =D

  4. I'm with you on the whole Tina Fey love, Danielle (not to mention the Jimmy Fallon hate - the guy is a jerk!). She's pretty fantastic. I read an excerpt from Bossypants online and thought it was hilarious so it's good to know the rest of the book is just as funny. Great review!

  5. A must-read! Tina Fey is as funny on the page as she is performing on television, so this book is best for fans of 30 Rock and her work on SNL.


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