For the right audience, Fey’s ‘Bossypants’ is fun, funny

For a fun diversion, proud women of a certain generation will appreciate Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” because you’ll get her jokes. The rest of you are out of luck.

bossypantsI laughed out loud (that’s LOL to those of you born after I graduated from college) many times while reading Tina Fey’s memoir, and it was worth every penny and every minute I invested in it.

But I’m a sucker for celebrity memoirs. If you’re looking for a complete documentation about what makes the former “Saturday Night Live” writer and creator of “30 Rock” funny or genuine, you’ll have to wait for the unauthorized biographies. Fey’s telling of her own story glosses over some of the details (her facial scar) and jumps around. But it’s a satisfying and entertaining portrait of a feminist comedienne of today.

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with 1-star reviews (authors get like that), so I always check out the 1-star reviews of books I like, trying to figure them out. I ran across this accusation about “Bossypants”:

It also showed me someone with a gargantuan ego who has a lot of false modesty.

Star Trek MemoriesWhat? I respectfully disagree, “Ebby” who liked “Samuel Adams: A Life” but didn’t like “Bossypants.” With that in mind, I’ve chosen to compare and contrast Fey’s “Bossypants” with “Star Trek Memories” by William Shatner, the actor with perhaps the most bloated ego on planet Earth. Or possibly the Milky Way. I confess to enjoying his memoirs very much, but he defines “gargantuan ego”; hey, you can’t take on the Klingons without a healthy opinion of oneself. At least Fey admits to being a “bossypants.”

Compared to Shatner, Fey goes into a lot more detail about her childhood and work history including an entertaining stint at the YMCA in Evanston, Ill. I particularly enjoyed her retelling of her transformation into Sarah Palin. I was surprised by the number of photos in Fey’s book, including flattering shots like this one, which she, of course, plays for laughs:

Fey photo

Shatner’s first memoir (yes, “Star Trek: Memories” was the first of three, count ’em, three memoirs written with author Chris Kreski about his “Star Trek” connections) is filled with vainglorious pictures like this:

The caption reads: The "highly prestigious," not to mention "extraordinarily handsome," new capitan. What a guy!

The caption reads: The “highly prestigious,” not to mention “extraordinarily handsome,” new captain. What a guy!

Fey is a comedienne who sometimes acts. Her memoir is a writer’s book, filled with clever jokes that might not work on TV or even in the audio book (my Beloved did not find my readings of her work amusing), but they’re funny in print. Here’s a bawdy one about the first time she wore contact lenses:

“Right up until camera time, I was sweaty and green from having to touch my own eyeballs like that. If you’ve never had to do it, I’d say it’s not quite as quease-making as when you lose your tampon string, but equally queasish to a self-breast exam. If you are male, I would liken it to touching your own eyeball, and thank you for buying this book.”

Shatner, an actor who fancies himself to be a comedian, tells many stories of the times he pulled practical jokes on his co-stars, like the time he made fun of Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock screaming, “Pain, PAIN, PAAAAAAAIN!!!” while channeling a mother alien whose eggs had been destroyed. Writes Shatner, “At which point I yelled, ‘Jesus Christ! Get that Vulcan an aspirin!'”

Listen, I love Capt. Kirk, and I’ve held on to his hardcover memoir for two decades, but he’s just kind of harsh sometimes.

Fey wraps up her memoir with some observations about juggling motherhood with a demanding career. It’s a humorous take, but she’s spot-on, too, I think, about the illusion of “having it all.”

Shatner, meanwhile, writes an epilogue about how much some of his cast members hate him and how it’s really too bad. Genuine, I thought, but as self-serving as Fey justifying her life choices (it’s worth reading Nichelle Nichols’ and James Doohan’s memoirs for their unvarnished perspectives).

In conclusion (isn’t that how a rule-following high school student wraps up her compare-and-contrast assignment?), “Bossypants” succeeds at amusing readers, particularly ones who are female, mothers or fans of “30 Rock.” Though she might show moments of false modesty, I found her memoir to be genuine and playful, sort of like having lunch with a funny performer. Which shouldn’t be surprising — she is.

13 responses to “For the right audience, Fey’s ‘Bossypants’ is fun, funny

  1. You convinced me! 🙂 I’m going to give the book a try

  2. Adding it to my Amazon wish list now! Have you read “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)” by Mindy Kaling. I thought it was a witty and fun read. Mindy plays Kelly on The Office, which is one of my favorite shows.

  3. I LOVED Bossypants but I’m a Tina Fey girl and kind of a “bossy pant” girl too! One of my fifth graders chose Tina Fey for her biography project…it was one of the class favorites!!!!

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  5. I’ve been a Fey Fan since Mean Girls, so will almost certainly get her book!

    Interestingly, Memoirs was the turn-around point for me with Shatner. As a kid loving Star Trek, I thought he (and all the others) were wonderful. Then, post-show, I started hearing stories about what an ogre he was. Shattered illusions and all that, so he got filed away in my “another major life disappointment” file.

    It was that epilog that made me rethink. The bit with Nichelle mostly. He didn’t need to put that in the book. He is what he is (an American icon and part of Smithsonian history), and his career of poking fun at himself ever since has once again endeared him to me.

    • You have a good memory. I just re-read that epilogue and I was trying to determine if I saw humility or just more masked arrogance. I admire his ego. He is not right all the time, but I like his confidence.

      • What did you decide after re-reading? (I should try the same thing; see if I perceive it differently now.)

      • Perhaps I’m soft-hearted and gullible, but I saw humility. Then again, he makes money as he makes revelations. I don’t know. I like the guy.

      • Likewise (those Priceline commercials crack me up).

        Maybe he’s just discovered there’s a goldmine in playing the humble clown; maybe it’s legit. [shrug] He had a one-on-one talk/interview show for a while on one of the cable channels. I saw bits of some episodes. He had Nimoy and Koenig as guests. He seemed fairly legit.

        I do know that his real passion in life is his quarter horses. He’s into those trick riding competitions, horses turning in ultra-tight circles, running and slamming on the “brakes”… stuff like that, and he’s very good.

        Do you remember the movie that had both casts? Shatner and Stewart meet in that imaginary place and ride horses? There’s a scene with both sitting on horseback, not moving, just talking. Shatner’s horse, with no obvious control from Shatner, strolls around Stewart’s horse, while facing forwards the entire time, and ends up back in the starting position.

        Even at the time that blew me away. Knowing more about that trick riding now, I realize that was him showing off his horsemanship skills. Which are quite impressive. (Both horses in the scene are his horses.)

      • Of course I saw that movie!

        I was aware Shatner is a horseman, but your description of that scene makes me want to rematch it. I do not ride horses so I don’t know how difficult that maneuver would be.

  6. Pingback: Tina Fey – Bossypants | Sci-Fi & Fantasy Book Reviews

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