I Am Pro-Tina Fey's "Bossypants"

by E.A. Hanks
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tina.jpgThere’s a certain sort of woman for whom Tina Fey is their spirit animal. In the words of Jack Donaghy of “30 Rock,”: “New York.Third wave feminist. College educated. Single and pretending to be happy about it. Over-scheduled, under-sexed. You buy any magazine that says ‘healthy body image’ on the cover. And… Every two years you take up knitting for… a week.” Of course this is Alec Baldwin describing Liz Lemon, Tina Fey’s television alter-ego, but it could describe any number of women (that I know).

To say “Bossypants,” the new memoir out now from Little, Brown, by the former head writer of SNL and creator of the criminally under-watched “30 Rock” is funny seems like a given – you don’t become the top writer at the most renowned institution of American comedy by being merely chuckle-worthy. But it is surprising to find Fey funny when she’s talking about her hopes for her daughter, (“O Lord, break the Internet forever, That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers, and the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed,”) and what she describes as when her “face was slashed.” (“My whole life, people who ask about my scar within one week of knowing me have invariably turned out be egomaniacs of average intelligence or less. And egomaniacs of average intelligence or less often end up in the field of TV journalism.”)

tina-fey-bossypants.jpgSo yes, the book is funny, but it’s also classy: Fey deftly navigates what to include and leave out of the book. In terms of her personal life, she takes the high road and only shares what might be helpful to others, like the lessons she learned at Second City (“Never say no, always say “Yes, and-“) and that if you don’t breast feed your kid, it doesn’t mean that you hate you own offspring. Speaking of the famous scar, she only says:

“During the spring semester of kindergarten, I was slashed in the face by a stranger in the alley behind my house. Don’t worry. I’m not going to lay out the grisly details for you like a sweeps episode of Dateline. I only bring it up to explain why I’m not going talk about it.”

A celebrity memoir with stoic dignity? That’s about as common as [insert hilarity here]. On the other hand, Fey includes an entire chapter dedicated to her father, who she describes as so commanding “powerful men react to him in a weird way. They ‘stand down.’”

“What are they realizing? I wonder. That they’d better never mess with me, or Don Fey will yell at them? That I have high expectations for the men in my life because I have a strong father figure? Only Colin Quinn was direct about it. ‘Your father doesn’t fucking play games. You would never come home with a shamrock tattoo in that house.’ That’s Don Fey.”

tina3.jpgIn terms of Fey’s professional life, it’s all there: a backstage look in the “boys club” of SNL (complete with a yarn of men actually pissing in jars rather than go to the restroom), the struggle of running an expensive, unpopular (to the masses!) television show, and some thoughts on how everyone is always asking her how she “juggles everything.” (Surprise! It’s what everyone else always says: “I’m lucky, I have help.”)

Bossypants” is sort of like getting to listen to an entirely charming DVD commentary on the career of someone you wish you were best friends with. Well, that I wish I was best friends with. Maybe not “best friends,” maybe just occasionally dinner party friends? Anyway, it’s really good. Heart-warming, even. I really think you should read it. Not to pressure you, or anything.

 

 

EA Hanks is a writer based Los Angeles. You can read her busy nothings at twitter.com/eahanks.

 

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