I just finished Tina Fey’s autobiographical book Bossypants in approximately five hours. Not an exaggeration, and this is really just a credit to Fey’s ability to write in a way that makes you feel like you’re watching TV.
I implore you to read this book. Or at least listen to it, as she narrates the audio version. While I did not have that that luxury, I still heard Tina Fey’s voice in my head nearly the entire time. It’s incredible how much of a comedy voice she’s created. On early 2000s episodes of Saturday Night Live on Vh1, you can often tell which sketches were her brainchildren. Her show 30 Rock (which, seriously, if you haven’t heard of or seen, please go to your local public library, check the first season out, and watch every episode leading to episode 10, “The Rural Juror.” If you haven’t gained new abdominal muscle from laughing, feel free to return the DVDs and catch up on all the Big Bang Theory episodes you missed in the meantime.) is a masterpiece. You can even feel her presence in shows affected by her, like when Amy Poehler does something Tina Fey-ish on Parks and Recreation. She has made her mark on modern comedy and its a stamp that reads “Farts.”
I have declared 30 Rock the funniest show currently on TV multiple times, and while it might not hold that title today, it certainly is one of the Top 5. The early seasons are the perfect mix of situational comedy mixed with a heavy amount of meta, totally off the wall zaniness. The character of Dr. Spaceman could exist in no other show than 30 Rock. Her comedy is so sharp, but sharpest towards herself. I don’t mind that she mildly injects her own worldview into her writing, because when she does, it’s within the context of a joke while I’m already laughing at the joke she just finished. She doesn’t write in an overhanded way. This book doesn’t come across as agenda-pushing, but rather as a slight self-defense against the naysayers who rail against her without hearing her at all. The Palin supporters who said she was far too mean to Palin and her family (hardly), the Andy Samberg supporters (mostly kids between 17-22) who think she ruined SNL after Will Ferrell left, anyone who thinks women aren’t as funny as men. As previously stated, she doesn’t push agendas, she simply lays out her thoughts on a host of different topics based on her own life experiences. Which is really as much as any human can do. I’d rather hear someone’s opinion on a hot-button topic because they’ve been personally affected by it (an active-duty soldier’s thoughts on the War on Terror, a cancer survivor’s thoughts on stem-cell research, etc.) than someone who stands from the outside and loudmouths their views on something they know nothing about. Is Tina Fey a war veteran or cancer survivor? No way, and she doesn’t speak on those topics. She does speak a lot about sexism in mainstream culture, which is interesting to hear because she has coherent and well-crafted thoughts on the subject. And she ruminates in a way that allows makes the reader feel involved rather than talked at. Rare in our current culture of spouting foam at the mouth and calling it conviction or opinion or free speech.
First and foremost though, this is a comedy book. She writes about her life in a hilarious way. So let’s get to some jokey excerpts.
“In the “Great American Melting Pot,” rural Ohio may be a lump of white flour that hasn’t been stirred properly.”
“In my experience, the hardest thing about having someone “come out” to you is the “pretending to be surprised” part. You want him to feel like what he’s telling you is Big. It’s like, if somebody tells you they’re pregnant, you don’t say, “I did notice you’ve been eating like a hog lately.” Your gay friend has obviously made a big decision to say the words out loud. You don’t want him to realize that everybody’s known this since he was ten and he wanted to be Bert Lahr for Halloween. Not the Cowardly Lion, but Bert Lahr. “Oh, my gosh, no waaaay?” You stall, trying to think of something more substantial to say. “Is everyone, like, freaking out? What a … wow.”” (I hope to make a hilarious and intelligent Bert Lahr reference one day.)
“The guy in charge of the residence was a big doughy bald guy whose last name had more consonants in it than I have in this book.” (She later refers to the man as Mr. Mczrkskczk.)
(Fey includes the script writings of some of her favorite 30 Rock jokes) “Dr. Spaceman enters from I.C.U. His lab coat is covered in blood. The women all gasp. DR. SPACEMAN: What, this? No, no, I was at a costume party earlier this evening…and the hostess’s dog attacked me so I had to stab it.”
“One of my greatest regrets, other than
being the Zodiac Killernever learning to tango…”
(Fey is writing about retiring her Palin impression on SNL) “Watching Amy rap made me so happy that she had found a way to make real comedy out of a Sneaker Upper. The virtuosity and joyfulness of her performance made me feel like it was time for me to hand this job back to the professionals. I felt like that character in Flowers for Algernon. Not Charlie, the lady teacher from the college who realizes, “I’ve got to stop dry-humping this mentally challenged guy!””
I didn’t even include the joke I laughed hardest at. So please, read this book. And watch her shows. We need more Tina Feys in television today. Blurg.