Friday, June 24, 2011

Book Review: Bossypants

Tina Fey’s Bossypants is very funny.

It’s so funny that I tried to read one particular passage out loud to my husband, and I couldn’t even finish it: I was laughing too hard. I may be wrong, but I don’t think he found this situation anywhere near as amusing as I did. And I don’t think he found the passage as funny either, once I finally did managed to sputter through it. It’s not because it wasn’t funny, but it wasn’t funny out of context. Which is, to be honest, the main challenge in reviewing this kind of book. I’m worried that I won’t be able to do it justice.

While she’s probably best known to Americans as “the woman who played Sarah Palin,” Fey really focuses more on her comedy writing than her acting. Writing for Saturday Night Live and producing 30 Rock seem to be her proudest achievements, which leads to one of the main strengths of the book. As a writer, her greatest talent lies in crystallizing the humor in everyday situations and events. In one particularly hilarious passage, she talks about the absurdity of getting a manicure:

The first few times you go, it can be intimidating. For starters, you may forget that you yourself speak English. You enter, smile, and nod at the manager. “Manicure-pedicure?” “Pick color,” she chirps back in her Korean accent. You pick out a couple of the three hundred shades of off-white. “This for manicure. This feet. Magazine okay?”Why are you talking like that? Now that you have racially embarrassed yourself, you are ready to squeeze into a seat at a tiny table and basically hold hands with a stranger for twenty minutes. (page 112)
I only had one real problem with the book (aside from the cover, that is, which I think is absolutely freakish). Fey’s humor is largely self-deprecating, and I get that. The problem is that she goes out of her way, over and over again, to point out what a really, really, really normal person she is. But come on, is her book on The New York Times Bestseller List because she’s just an average Jane? Of course not. Lots of people are funny. Lots of people were theater geeks as kids. But only a handful of people have Lorne Michaels’ cell phone number of speed dial. And he only picks up for a small portion of them. Lorne Michaels picks up for Tina Fey. That makes her a BIG deal. The “I’m-just-a-regular-girl-from-Philly” thing grated on me after a while.

I was glad that Fey dealt head-on with some of the sexism issues that go along with working in the entertainment business, although I thought she stopped short of calling a few people out, especially when she was discussing her tenure at Second City. Still, this is a very funny, very gutsy book. If Tina Fey makes you laugh, you really ought to read it. But those who love modern memoirs and those who enjoy popular culture will also find a lot to enjoy here.

Here’s another title for Introverted Jen’s Dewey Decimal Challenge. So thanks again for hosting the only challenge I have completed so far this year, Jen!


  1. That mani/pedi paragraph is funny, and true, but I have a huge problem with Tina Fey's unconscionable treatment of Sarah Palin. I'm not saying Sarah is a perfect woman, or would even have been a perfect Vice President. Nevertheless, for a comedienne to have that kind of impact on our politics scares the Hell out of me.

    I guess I'm kinda touchy on Fey because so many ultra liberal women in one of my book clubs love her, and I always feel quite out of the bunch. No offense meant to you, or anyone who reads your lovely blog, of course.

  2. Absolutely no offense taken, Bellezza. I can definitely see that point of view. Fey herself seemed a bit perplexed, and even embarrassed, by her impact on the election. But she really can write a humorous riff, and that's something I can definitely appreciate!

  3. Karen, I was really glad I read it on my Kindle, so I didn't have to see the cover very often. Eeeeeewww is right!

  4. This is a book I definitely want to read (or listen to - I am debating whether I should do it on audio since I like humor on audio). I like that Fey is smart and funny - its a great combo!

  5. I keep reading about how funny this is, but I have somehow never clicked with Tina Fey. I just never found her funny when she started on SNL doing the news thing and I kind of wrote her off from there. I'm thinking I need to re-evaluate my position. The few Palin things I've seen do crack me up, I have to admit!


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