Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Image: Google books
Two confessions off the bat: I rarely read autobiographies and I have not watched a single full episode of 30 Rock. I have nothing against biographies and although I like Tina Fey, I tried once watching 30 Rock, didn't find that particular episode funny, and then I just didn't try watching it again. Now, after reading Bossypants, I know that was the pilot which Fey herself finds embarrassingly bad, so... Maybe I'll give it another go?

Bossypants is my light holiday reading: I picked it up because I figured it's in large-ish font with wide margins and thus perfect snack reading in between more serious books (which I probably will never finish and write about here). And I could use something silly to read.

Not only was the book all that, it was surprisingly clever. I only say "surprisingly" because I had assumed that Bossypants would be a John Barry-like book of slightly chuckle-worthy, brainless anecdotes. Shame on me. In addition to Fey's funny anecdotes on growing up and getting into the entertainment business, she does get serious between the lines--while still keeping the tone punchy and hilarious.

Here's an example from her discussion about women in the business:

I've known older men in comedy who can barely feed and clean themselves, and they still work. The women, though, they're all "crazy." 
I have a suspicion--and hear me out, 'cause this is a rough one--I have a suspicion that the definition of "crazy" in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore. 
The only person I can think of that has escaped the "crazy" moniker is Betty White, which, obviously is because people still want to have sex with her.
Network executives really do say things like "I don't know. I don't want to fuck anybody on this show." They really do say that stuff. That's not just lactation-stopping dialogue on Entourage.

Her tone is honest, unapologetic but also undramatic: as in the case of sexism, she does not complain about it but instead, illustrates hilariously what the situations have been like and then how to overcome those obstacles. And if you can't overcome the situation and you can't overlook it either, she has tips for that as well.

The clever thing about this book is all the advice that she hands out without pointing fingers or claiming that the advice will work for everyone. Such as her list of how to become a good improviser in comedy, Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat. It includes awesome advice such as the following, which could be found in any self-help book worth its salt:

MAKE STATEMENTS. This is a positive way of saying "Don't ask questions all the time." If we're in a scene and I say, "Who are you? Where are we? What are we doing here? What's in that box?" I'm putting pressure on you to come up with all the answers. In other words: Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don't just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. 

Come to think of it, I would buy a self-help book written by Fey.

This tiny book covers entertainment business, motherhood, mentally wrassling with Lorne Michaels and the SNL cast, trying to keep a show afloat and feed families while posing for a magazine cover knowing that the final picture will be (thankfully) Photoshopped* to hell.

(*Protip from Fey: apparently feminist magazines are the best at Photoshopping, as they know what to leave in and still make the image flattering.)


  1. I opened this book with similar expectations than you did and I was positively surprised. It took me some time to say aloud that I preferred Tina's advice over Sheryl's ! My favorite part was Improvisation discussion. And I never watch 30Rock either.

    1. Hi Leena!
      Glad to hear there is another pleasant surprise-reader out there. :) I still feel kind of unfair saying that it was a surprise, but it really was due to the low expectations I have toward books written by comedians...