Saturday, April 09, 2011

BOSSYPANTS by Tina Fey (2011) Little, Brown and Company, 275 pages

Tina Fey's BOSSYPANTS is a collection of personal essays (some familiar if you read The New Yorker), lists, anecdotes, work advice as well as 30 ROCK and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE script excerpts that will make you feel as if she were sitting in your living room blithely recounting the unexpected and remarkable trajectory of her life.

The cover artwork will either amuse you or creep you out. With perfect makeup and sporting a flattering haircut (both of which she defies in most of the other photos included in the book), Fey's head is photoshopped onto the torso of a middle-aged man. It would truly make me happy if those arms turned out to be Alec Baldwin's--Fey's inspiration for 30 ROCK's antithetical Baldwin: Jack Donaghy.

Tina Fey is at the top of her game. She was the youngest person to be given the Mark Twain award for Humour, has an armful of Emmys for 30 ROCK which she produces, co-writes and co-stars in on NBC, has been on the big screen with her pal Amy Poehler in BABY MAMA and Steve Carrell in DATE NIGHT, and written for the big screen (MEAN GIRLS) and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE to which she returned to play Sarah Palin opposite Poehler's Hillary Clinton. What is obvious about all of these successes is that Fey takes none of them for granted.

Although I'm a bit older than Fey, I do share with her the horror of the YOU ARE A YOUNG LADY NOW pamphlet, secreted in my underwear drawer when I was ten and other mortifying coming-of-age milestones like publicly trying on a bra outside of my clothes in a department store. While I didn't work as YMCA receptionist as my first grown up job post-college, I did work as a temp for a social services agency in Toronto, where it was common place to witness tattooed street youth convulsing in heroin withdrawal while I answered the phones and set up appointments for them with their social workers.

At the end of the parody list "Remembrances of Being a Little Bit Fat," I could kiss Fey for writing, "We should leave people alone about their weight. Being chubby for a while (provided you don't give yourself diabetes) is a natural phase of life and nothing to be ashamed of. Like puberty or slowly turning into a Republican." Also, about surviving in the workplace, she sagely intones, "don't waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions...Do your thing and don't care if they like it."

By the end of BOSSYPANTS I was happy to know that Jack Burditt wrote the line from the episode "Rosemary's Baby" starring Carrie Fisher (herself surely a smartypants script doctor as well as the iconic Princess Leia) as a crazy former-era comedy writer about whom Donaghy snarks, "Never go with a hippy to a second location." Most of all, however, I would like to meet Don Fey, her dad, the man to whom powerful men like Lorne Michaels and Alec Baldwin "stand down." After meeting him Fey admits, "it rearranges something in their brain about me...What are they realizing? I wonder. That they'd better never mess with me, or Don Fey will yell at them? That I have high expectations for the men in my life because I have a strong father figure?" Right on both accounts, I hope.

The best advice before reading BOSSYPANTS: have a prophylactic pee. You'll need to read this romp on an empty bladder. Or else.

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