Rating: 4 out 5 stars
Tina Fey’s 2011 memoir Bossypants is a humorous, though scant reflection on the writer-comedian’s life up until the time of her popular portrayal of Sarah Palin during the 2008 election season and shortly before her critically acclaimed show 30 Rock ended. The book doesn’t describe her role as a boss much, making the title somewhat misleading.
A standout story in the book is the when the cruise ship during her honeymoon goes on fire: “Everyone is quiet. Which is the wooooooorst. It’s scary when a group of people all know instinctively not to joke around. Another voice over PA, repeating, ‘Please, remain calm. Please proceed to your muster stations.’ The German half of me is thinking, ‘Shove the old people out of the way. Shove the old and the infirm! If they are strong enough to resist you, they deserve to live.’ The Greek half of me wants to scream at our Greek captain. I do neither and proceed obediently. We stop at our cabin along the way so that I can change into sneakers. I have a strong urge to lie down and pretend this is not happening—like the old couple in Titanic. That’s how I want to go, ice-cold water rising around our spooning bodies and me somehow willing my body to nap…We’re going to be one of those stories of a couple that died on their honeymoon… I think about how horrible it will be if I have to get on the lifeboat and leave him behind.”
The last four chapters feature deeper introspection on topics such womanhood, motherhood, and being a working mom. She explains the challenges in a relatable way. She writes a prayer for her daughter that is hilarious “First Lord: No tattoos. May neither the Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.” The book includes graphics such as SNL scripts, photos, and text boxes which are a great postmodern touch.
Tina Fey revealed many of her insecurities and anxieties throughout the book. Her lack of confidence coupled with her success is inspiring. Her candor is refreshing because she doesn’t seem like an out-of-touch celebrity, but a regular human being such as when she admits she loves the glamour of photo shoots saying: Photo shoots are THE FUNNEST!” She deftly addresses sexism and ageism in Hollywood using satire: “I’ve known older men in comedy who can barely feed and clean themselves, and they still work. The women, though, they’re all ‘crazy.’ I have a suspicion—and hear me out, ‘cause this is a rough one—I have a suspicion that the definition of ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to f#%& her anymore. The only person I can think of that has escaped the ‘crazy’ moniker is Betty White, which, obviously, is because people still want to have sex with her.”
An empowering moment of the book is when she lists all the physical traits women are supposed to have to be attractive according to society, then lists her own physical characteristics as perfectly fine: “Straight Greek eyebrows. They start at the hairline of my temple and, left unchecked, will grow straight across my face and onto yours… Droopy brown eyes designed to confuse predators into thinking I’m just on the verge of sleep and they should come back tomorrow to eat me… Permanently rounded shoulders from years of working at a computer… A rounded belly that is pushed out by my rounded posture no matter how many sit-ups I do. Which is mostly none, Wide German hips that look like somebody wrapped Pillsbury dough around a case of soda … I would not trade any of these features for anybody else’s. I wouldn’t trade the small thin-lipped mouth that makes me resemble my nephew. I wouldn’t even trade the acne scar on my right cheek, because that recurring zit spent more time with me in college than any boy ever did.”
More regular human moments from Tina Fey: “We dined at Red Lobster. There is no one of-woman-born who does not like Red Lobster cheddar biscuits. Anyone who claims otherwise is a liar and a Socialist. We fed fifteen people for two hundred dollars. Success!”
Her fear of terrorism after 9/11: “Then, on the TV hanging in the corner, Lester Holt came on MSNBC and said ‘Breaking news. Anthrax has been found at 30 Rockfeller Plaza…‘Nope,’ I thought. ‘I give up.’ I put on my coat, walked downstairs past my friends and coworkers without saying anything. I walked right past the host for that week, sweet Drew Barrymore, without telling her what I had heard. I just went to the elevator and left.”
Not snitching celebrity guests who acted up on SNL: “Who were the d-bags, you ask? I couldn’t possibly tell you. But if you want to figure it out, here’s a clue: The letters from their names are sprinkled randomly through this chapter.”
And possibly the funniest lines of the memoir: “To hell with everybody! Maybe I’ll just wait until I’m fifty and give birth to a ball of fingers! ‘Merry Christmas from Tina, Jeff, Alice, and Ball of Fingers,” the card will say. (‘Happy Holiday’ on the ones I send to my agents.)