Let me get this out of the way right up front: I love Tina Fey. Her brand of smart, absurd humor is right up my alley, and I happen to think 30 Rock isn't just one of the best TV comedies currently on the air, it's one of the best TV comedies ever. There are times when I think it would be unbelievably hard to choose between 30 Rock and Arrested Development for the title of my all-time favorite.
So, as a huge fan, I devoured Fey's hilarious memoir, Bossypants, the way Liz Lemon eats an entire pizza. By folding it in half and shoving it all in my mouth. And then, after that, I read it. And damn, is it a fun book! Fey's voice comes through so loud and clear in the prose (I suspect that as a writer herself she didn't have any need to employ a ghost writer) that it's almost like sitting down to dinner with her and listening to her tell anecdote after anecdote about her life, only with her sense of humor tinging everything. (By the way, that's something I'd like to do one day, have dinner with Tina Fey and just listen to her talk while I blink at her admiringly. I'm a little smitten. Sorry, Alexa!)
Bossypants is not a deep book. Fey barely dips below the surface and doesn't share too much of herself with the reader. The only time I felt like I was seeing more deeply into who she is was when she briefly, and without much detail, mentions the awful, terrifying event behind the scar on her chin. It's a rare moment of openness -- and darkness -- in an otherwise breezy book. But one of the things I love most about Fey, other than her unabashed willingness to make herself the butt of her own jokes, is that she and I seem to have many neuroses in common. Here's one example, taken from the chapter about her honeymoon cruise, where a fire breaks out in the engine room and everyone has to gather on deck to possibly board the lifeboats. The fire is put out before that happens, but Fey is now convinced the ship is about the explode:
While people around me start to relax, I keep my eyes on the sea, waiting to be rocketed into it on a wave of fire. I'll be ready for it to happen, and that way it won't happen. It's a burden, being able to control situations with my hyper-vigilance, but it's my lot in life.
The next time people ask me why I can't sleep on airplanes, I should just point to that paragraph rather than trying to explain that I can't sleep because I need to keep the plane in the air. I'm so happy to see I'm not the only one, too. I think together we, the hyper-vigilant, are secretly keeping this world operating as smoothly as possible. Fey's anecdote goes on, resulting in one of my many favorite passages from the book:
Some crew members come around with coolers of cold drinks. A nearby woman takes a soda and hands it back, saying, "Do you have diet?" If God had a sense of humor, the ship would have exploded then.
Fey also describes her time at Second City in Chicago, where she discovered institutional sexism at work in the world of improv comedy. There, she was told nobody wanted to see a sketch between two female characters. Later, as she and Amy Poehler rocked Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" together week after week, or did sketches as Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin that went instantly viral, she realized she'd not only proved the Second City patriarchy wrong, she'd proved it wrong for all time. It's impossible not to share in that feeling of triumph.
Fey goes on to share a prescription for dealing with workplace sexism that I don't agree with, though, namely that a woman should simply work harder, become the boss, and then not hire the people who were assholes to her. As great as that sounds, that's not going to work for everyone. First of all, institutionalized workplace sexism often prevents women from advancing to become the boss. Also, what about the women who don't have Fey's talent, or aren't lucky enough to work for someone like Lorne Michaels, or who simply aren't on track to become the boss? Surely they deserve a workplace environment free of sexism as well. While I'm certain Fey would agree, her "just work harder and become the boss" prescription comes off as rather privileged.
Aside from that, I loved the book. Loved it, loved it, loved it. In fact, I loved it so much, I wish it were longer. I wish Fey had spent some time talking about Mean Girls, which she wrote, or Baby Mama, which reunited her with her good friend and SNL co-star Amy Poehler. Maybe in the next memoir. In the meantime, though, Bossypants is to be treasured. It's only August, but I'm already sure it's my favorite read of the year.