Tina Fey’s story could only be told by Fey herself. The topics covered in her humor-memoir range from her awkward childhood spent doing community theater to her experience working with comedy troupes to her experience being a mother to her time working on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. With self-deprecating humor, a keen sense of dry wit, and a voice that’s very unique, Fey’s Bossypants is a funny, warm look at a remarkable woman who insists that she’s very ordinary.
Bossypants is less of a cohesive memoir and more of a collection of biographical essays. Readers looking for Fey to drop the comedy and bare her soul are likely to be disappointed (and there are more than a few of those types of reviews on Goodreads, though often the reviewer can’t even articulate this disappointment so much as whine about how if she hates show business so much, why doesn’t she just quit?) Those looking for sharp, clear writing that is at times full of introspection and critical thinking are likely to really enjoy Fey’s book. A bit of advice: if you have the chance, listen to it as an audiobook. Hearing Fey’s words in her own voice makes the experience even better.
Make no mistake about it, Fey is very, very funny. Her sharp wit shines throughout the book, but it is the times when she is being particularly self-deprecating that she is at her sharpest and funniest. Early in the book, she talks about all the things women try to correct about their bodies, and then goes on to list all the things that are “wrong” with her own body. Not only is this part of the book unbelievably funny, but it’s also unbelievably true. (Fey also takes the time to coin the phrase “crotch biscuits” to describe the “wobbly triangles on your inner thighs.”)
Despite Fey’s reluctance to get serious for very long, her writing is strong enough and engaging enough to give readers at least a little insight into the strong woman that she is. There is a juxtaposition between who she is as a business woman in the professional world and who she is in her private life (kind of a homebody, actually), and it provides for some compelling thinking on Fey’s part. She is smart, she is strong, and she has fought for her success while remaining classy and (mostly) dignified. That in itself is admirable.
Bossypants by Tina Fey. Reagan Arthur Books, 2011. Library copy.