Book Review: Bossypants, by Tina Fey

I am by no means one of the cool kids. I didn’t even start watching 30 Rock or Lost until last year, when The A.V. Club covered the seasons they missed for TV Club Classic. A classmate told me that I should check out Bossypants about two years ago, because she listened to it in audiobook form when she went to Canada. I made the purchase in mid-October this year. I may not do things straight away, but I do remember: for instance I watched the lovely German film Goodbye Lenin this afternoon, nearly a year after a friend recommended it to me. I finished reading Bossypants at about 5:30 this morning, after I spent half an hour trying to get back to sleep and realising it wasn’t going to happen. It’s a good way to pass the time, but not the most effective tool for going back to sleep.

I didn’t really know what to expect from Bossypants. Tina Fey was around forty when it was published, which is quite a young age to be writing a memoir. I think. Anyway, Bossypants was a delight to read, and it gave great insight as to how Tina built her career. I became aware of Tina Fey in 2004, when Mean Girls swept the world (I was in high school at the time). Then in 2008, everyone was saying she resembled Sarah Palin, which I absolutely couldn’t see until SNL started bringing her in to play Palin. When I went to the US in 2013/14, I went to see some improv shows in Chicago at Improv Olympics, where she spent some time performing, even though she only really talks about her time at Second City in the book.

If you enjoy comedy and haven’t yet read this book, go and read it. Or listen to the audiobook, which Fey narrates herself and was nominated for a Grammy. I don’t know if I really have anything to say that hasn’t already been said about that book. “That’s Don Fey” is easily one of the best chapters of a book I’ve ever read, and I read parts of it multiple times before moving onto the next chapter. I read passages of it aloud to my dad, namely the one in which Don Fey always knows when to turn the channel back at the end of an ad break – “you just wait 90 seconds”. Because I wasn’t familiar with SNL, when I saw the “N word” episode of 30 Rock on what I want to say was New Year’s Eve 2007, but it could have just as easily been 2006 (30 Rock was treated very poorly on Australian television – it was usually on at 11:30 on a Wednesday night, followed by Parks and Recreation, which is half of the reason it took me so long to watch it), I knew Tina Fey as the lady who wrote Mean Girls, which is one of my favourite teen comedies of all time.

I loved reading about how Tina was hired as a writer on SNL and only came in front of the camera when she was asked to host Weekend Update. Then she had a development deal with NBC which led to 30 Rock, the premise of which was suggested by then president of the network Kevin Reilly. I had no idea that Kevin Reilly, former Chairman of Development at Fox, worked at NBC, but it immediately made sense; he greenlith 30 Rock at NBC, and when he moved to Fox he ordered great comedies like New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s not really that surprising that Mike Schur would want to work with Reilly again after they worked together at NBC, definitely on The Office and possibly on Parks and Recreation (oh, he was also responsible for redefining FX’s slate of dramas beginning with The Shield). The shuffling of executives in the television world is fascinating; Kevin Reilly left Fox in May 2014 because he had all these ideas like killing pilot season that wasn’t necessarily in line with the rest of the network. It is worth noting that he greenlit Empire before he left, which is the biggest show in the United States.

Now that I’ve finished my aside about the reshuffling of network executives, here are some of my other highlights of the book: the 30 Rock, SNL, third birthday party trio that she was juggling, particularly the frank conversation she had with her daughter about the lack of Tinkerbell cups. She says that her daughter was very understanding and was happy with Tinkerbell plates and Captain Hook cups. The honeymoon cruise, which pretty much solidifies my desire to never go on one of those cruises. Tina working as Second City’s touring crew and changing all the sketches, and then just being happy that Amy Poehler was working with her at SNL. There are great anecdotes in Bossypants, and Tina’s voice is present throughout the memoir. If you’re not into the first couple of chapters, read “That’s Don Fey”. If for some reason you’re not in hysterics at this point, I have no idea what to do with you, because that chapter is gold.

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