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.
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.
What? 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:
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:
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.