Book Club: Tina Fey 'Bossypants'

by - Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Have I ever mentioned how much I love the library? Not necessarily an admission that's going to put me at the top of any cool lists I know, but I do. It's the perfect way to try out books you wouldn't normally, it's environmentally savvy and it's free - what's not to love? 

Since moving to Leeds I've been making more of an effort to read, and in particular, I've been drawn to autobiographies. They're great to dip in and out of, normally quite easy to read and obviously they give you a good chance to learn more about someone you admire. Once such book I'd been looking to get my hands on for a while was Tina Fey's Bossypants. Like every girl of my generation, she's been something of a god for a while thanks to her work on quote-a-minute Mean Girls, but more recently, I've become obsessed with her latest project, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Neatly eschewing traditional gender and racial stereotypes, it's one of the best comedy shows I've seen in a really long time. Ergo, I wanted to learn a little more about the lady herself. 

Right from the off, Bossypants doesn't take itself very seriously at all. Anybody who is a fan of Tina Fey's work will know that self-deprecation is what she does best, and like any good comedy actor, this personality translates on paper. Tracking her life all the way from childhood through her time in an improv group right up to the Saturday Night Live years and onto to 30 Rock (which is great by the way), it's an unconventional approach to an autobiography, dipping often into offbeat anecdotes that really ram home how much work goes into making people laugh. As a pop-culture consumer, I've always been most invested in music, but this really opened my eyes to the intricacies of TV and scriptwriting. The listicle about how to succeed at SNL was particularly funny, lifting the curtain on the process in a way that I'm sure probably pissed off some of her employees, but was so well written that they couldn't actually tell her off for it. The parts about motherhood were also refreshingly honest too - as someone who hadn't really done much background reading on Tina I didn't even know she had children, so it was nice to hear somebody admit that the urge to procreate had occurred quite late on it life as she was just too busy being professionally hilarious to give it much thought. 

There are a few clunky moments. In particular there are a couple of references to Korean nail technicians that feel a little too much like a joke at someone else's expense, like anybody who who isn't a born-and-bred American couldn't possibly see themselves in this book. I can let this go though - it's sort of joke you know she's put in just to take things a little offbeat and stop you feeling too comfortable. The undertone of feminism throughout is also super-satisfying, not rammed down your throat or portrayed in lip service, but plainly exemplified in some good examples of lack of equality in writing roles and the role of females in comedy in general. 

Depsite being published in 2011, it feels even more pertinent reading Bossypants for the first time in 2016 when females are absolutely killing it in comedy - Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Mindy Khaling, Ellie Kemper, Zoeey Deschanel... the list goes on and on. It's definitely made me think more about supporting grassroots comedy too - and I don't just mean watching cat videos on YouTube. 

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