My boss, fittingly, gave me Bossypants! She gave it to me in June after I broke my elbow, and I promptly put it on my shelf and did not read it, like I do with most books. But now is the time! The time to read Tina Fey’s comedic memoir.
Let’s start with the obvious: Fey is a comedy genius. That isn’t in question. She is funny. This book is funny. If you like her other work, you’ll like this book.
The first half, which discusses her early life, didn’t do a lot for me. But once Fey begins discussing her work in comedy, particularly on Saturday Night Live, I was very interested. See, I love it when people use humour for a serious purpose. And as much as Fey is obviously trying to entertain us, there is definitely a more serious thesis. With Bossypants, Fey pulls back the curtain and explains some of her thinking and choices behind her various career decisions. This is valuable stuff for … pretty much any audience, but especially I expect for young women, and in particular, young women looking to break into comedy or entertainment.
I never really watched much SNL. However, I remember when Fey came back to the show to portray Sarah Palin. So the chapters where she discusses her ambivalence about that moment were so fascinating. She explains how she second-guessed herself, how she was worried about the attention and backlash (particularly for her family), and how she questioned whether it was the right move in terms of the type of political commentary she wanted to do. Political commentary is difficult enough to do at the best of times. To do it in that climate, as a woman, is particularly challenging.
Fey goes on in a similar vein about balancing career and family life (something men, of course, never seem to need to deliberate or discuss!). Even having a child doesn’t stop her from continuing 30 Rock, because, as she notes, other people’s jobs depend on the show. Similarly, she expresses how one of her goals as a successful woman in the industry is to open the door to more young, up-and-coming women who could be the next generation of actors, directors, showrunners, etc. Fey expresses all this with humour and humility and no small amount of sarcasm.
For a book called Bossypants, I think I was expecting something more about management and about being a woman in a position of authority. (Certainly in my newfound status of womanhood, such sage advice might have been even more welcome!) Fey does reflect, somewhat, on her management style versus those of the men (and occasional woman, like Amy Poehler) around her. Nevertheless, this book is more memoir than management seminar, and if you can surrender that expectation like I did, you’ll enjoy this a lot more.