Monday, May 30, 2011

Tina Fey's Bossypants

Mia and her daddy imitating the cover of Tina Fey's new book.

No, Tina Fey is no relation, but she is an inspiration. And her book is a revelation that fills me with elation! (I'm stopping.) Bossypants, Fey's comic collection of stories about making it to the top ranks of comedy writing for Second City, TV and films, has plenty of no-nonsense, hate-free girl-power messages as well as belly laughs.

A couple of warnings, though. Don't read the Bossypants chapter called "The Secret of Mommy's Beauty" while you are taking your giant fish oil pill because you will snort water out of your nose and without that big gulp the horse pill can scrape something awful on its way down.

And don't start thinking you and the writer are buddies even though her voice is as intimate and confessional as that best junior-high friend who could nearly make you pee your pants from laughing so hard in Earth Science.

Just because she cuts her little daughter's fingernails in the exact same way you do, (fyi, "cutting the nails almost all the way left to right and then letting her have the honor of pulling the clipping the rest of the way off") and just because she dares to confess "things most people do naturally are often inexplicably difficult for me" and admits she has told her husband she was going to look for the diaper cream and then went and stood in her child's room just to get some "me time," that does not mean she "knows" you and "gets" you. (Remember how well that one time went when Liz Phair and you were in the same bowling alley? Remember? Remember?)

Because if you start over-identifying with the funniest woman in America (sorry Lily Tomlin! Still love you!), you're going to start composing little TMI chapter-musings in your head with titles like "My Favorite Hair (Not On My Head)" and descriptions of your experiences with Maxi Pads and their adhesive strips that worked as well as a circle of Scotch tape covered in lint. And you really don't want to do that. Really.

I finished Fey's book last week around the same time Oprah was saying her see-ya-laters. Oprah (why haven't I been watching her? She's so cute and funny! Because TV in the morning makes me feel like the day is getting away from me, that's why) anyway, I watched Oprah this last once and she got me all fired up with, "Take responsibility for the energy you bring in this room." I love that! Then I remembered that it's a great line to whisper to yourself but one that will be laughed at in this house if you hang it in a frame on the wall as a little passive-aggressive reminder to other people.

Hot on Oprah's heels was another empowerment whammy from Tina:

My unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: "Is this person in between me and what I want to do?" If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then when you're in charge, don't hire the people who were jerky to you...Do your thing and don't care if they like it.

(I'm omitting the riotous context of that good advice that makes it slide down like funny honey, but you get the important point.)

Oh yeah, and one final warning when you go out and get Bossypants. (BTW, my favorite illustration of that title was Tina's story of demanding "What are you doing?" when she found her gay friend playing footsie with some guy she couldn't stand, because she described herself as trying to be funny and controlling at the same time. That line kills me.)

That final warning. Don't spend too much time wondering why we distinguish poetry and comedy since Tina Fey makes you realize both art forms rely on condensed and precise language, both achieve artlessness and ease in their greatest forms and both potentially make us stop and rethink the world. Because that's kind of interesting, but instead, you could be having a better time howling your way through something Tina wrote, like this:

Or this.


Nicki Babysits said...

I'll have to check this one out! It sounds very funny!

Kim Moldofsky said...

Loved the book and love your review. I read it on Kindle and still haven't figured out (nor tried to) how to go back and fetch my bookmarks from my favorite/most illustrative points. Is it OK that I over identify with your post?