reviews

Book review: Bossypants, by Tina Fey

This book — like Stephen Colbert’s new podcast — prompts me to reflect on the nature of success and talent. Writing talent, in particular, since that pertains to me. I see doors not taken, while granting myself a generous portion of yet-unproven talent.

This book makes me restless, impatient with my own life. I’ve improved my job situation, found work I feel better about and take more pride in, but after reading Tina Fey’s SNL and Colbert’s improv/early TV anecdotes, I feel like I won’t be completely satisfied with my career unless I get a chance to work with a group of creative peers, people who challenge me, where we collaborate to create something wonderful and greater than ourselves. (Although, to be fair, I have been doing this for several years now with my best friend, and that’s not nothing. That is, in fact, my greatest pride as a writer so far, and the reason I could feel my life hasn’t been a creative waste, even if I created nothing else.)

This book makes me fantasize about being born ten years earlier, about somehow finding my way to NYC and landing a writing job with The Daily Show, or a newsmagazine I respect. That has always been my dream, long since sensibly deferred (again: I don’t want to live in NYC), but occasionally stirred.

Things I am pleased she told us about, as I love behind-the-scenes stories and always wanted to know how things came to be:

  • Fashion/promo photoshoots
  • TV shows
  • SNL skits

But she didn’t just talk about the glamorous parts of her life — she also spent a while focused on family and motherhood, as all celebrity women are inevitably prompted to do. But I like the twist she put on those subjects, deconstructing the myths.

Quotes, including lines that literally made me laugh out loud:

[her honeymoon on a cruise, after an alarm in the engine room and they’re called to muster at lifeboat stations]

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 successfully willing my body to nap.

*

I think God designed our mouths to die first to help us slowly transition to the grave. But I am a big believer in “Intelligent Design,” and by that I mean I love IKEA!

[on Photoshop and feminism]

I don’t see a future in which we’re all anorexic and suicidal. I do see a future in which we all retouch the bejeezus out of our own pictures at home. Family Christmas cards will just be eyes and nostrils in a snowman border.

At least with Photoshop you don’t really have to alter your body. It’s better than all these disgusting injectibles and implants. Isn’t it better to have a computer do it to your picture than to have a doctor do it to your face?

*

A coworker at SNL dropped an angry C-bomb on me and I had the weirdest reaction. To my surprise, I blurted, “No. You don’t get to call me that. My parents love me; I’m not some Adult Child of an Alcoholic that’s going to take that shit.” And it never happened again…that I know of.

*

I chose to breast-feed, and it was an amazing time in my life. It really changed me as a woman, and it’s the most gratifying thing I’ve ever done.

There are lots of different opinions as to how long one should breast-feed. …For my little angel and me the magic number was about seventy-two hours.

*

I would tell myself, “Once I have the baby full-time to myself, everything will be easier.” And then it hit me; that day was not coming. This “work” thing was not going away. There was no prolonged stretch of time in sight when it would just be the baby and me. And then I sobbed in my office for ten minutes. The same ten minutes that magazines urge me to use for sit-ups and triceps dips, I used for sobbing.

Of course I’m not supposed to admit that there is triannual torrential sobbing in my office, because it’s bad for the feminist cause. …But I have friends who stay home with their kids and they also have a triannual sob, so I think we should call it even.

[on catching snippets of religious radio while driving across the states]

“Friends, do you live your life in a way that there’s a crown in heaven waiting for you?”

[this one’s been quoted a lot, but it’s worth including here in full]

Amy Poehler was new to SNL and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers’ room, waiting for the Wednesday night read-through to start. There were always a lot of noisy “comedy bits” going on in that room. Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and “unladylike.”

Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it.”

Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit. (I should make it clear that Jimmy and Amy are very good friends and there was never any real beef between them. Insert penis joke here.)

With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.

I was so happy. Weirdly, I remember thinking, “My friend is here! My friend is here!” Even though things had been going great for me at the show, with Amy there, I felt less alone.

I think of this whenever someone says to me, “Jerry Lewis says women aren’t funny,” or “Christopher Hitchens says women aren’t funny,” or “Rick Fenderman says women aren’t funny… Do you have anything to say to that?”

Yes. We don’t fucking care if you like it.

I don’t say it out loud, of course, because Jerry Lewis is a great philanthropist, Hitchens is very sick, and the third guy I made up.

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