It’s partly because of her freakin’ hilarious, possibly slightly abnormal, view of the world in both big philosophical strokes and tiny anthropological detail. And it’s because she trades on her smarts, not her looks. Tina Fey is this very pretty woman who often pretends she isn’t. She’s also a wildly intelligent woman who acknowledges that she is.
Another reason I feel pride in award shows acknowledging her brilliance is because she gets being a woman and is fairly honest about the man-woman thing. In her new book Bossypants (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown & Company, $26.99), she writes with great humor about discrimination in the comedy workplace, breast feeding, bad haircuts, having crushes on boys who told her about their crushes on other girls, and about how men keep cups of pee in their offices but women don’t so much.
Tina Fey has made me think and guffaw at the same time. So far no one’s been hurt. Sometimes I just chuckle and then later, I’ll get the rest of the joke. Her comedy river runs deep.
Bossypants is a delicious gift from its cover of her airbrushed face juxtaposed with burly, hairy man hands, to the last chapters about turning 40 and suddenly needing to take her pants off as soon as she gets home. BTW, I read it on my iPad2 because I’m a Boomer who is cool, even though when I watch SNL now I often have no idea who the musical guests are. They might consider bringing back Paul Simon for the 846th time to keep us from worrying about that.
Anyway, Fey is Generation X, meaning she was born a few years after bra burning and around the time Ms. Magazine was born. One of my favorite tributes to Fey was when her freakishly-perfect-for-his-role 30 Rock co-star Alec Baldwin lauded her as the Elaine May of her generation at the 2008 Emmys. May was born during the Great Depression, not exactly when comedy was king, and despite enormous talent is most famous for her routines with Mike Nichols.
In Bossypants, Fey has collected essays about her life in a Dave-Barry-if-he-were-a-woman way. We learn about her suave father’s run in with a carpet shampooer, her super cool gay friends from summer theater, her disastrous fire- and fear-laden honeymoon cruise to Bermuda, breaking the rules at Chicago’s Second City improv troupe, getting to the comedy Mecca of SNL, being the boss at 30 Rock, changing venue on an in-law Christmas, doing her wicked good Sarah Palin, having a baby who is good for many things, including blaming for farts.
There’s a lot in the book about being a woman. I’m thinking she can’t help that because of her gender. There’s also a repeated understanding that coal mining and active duty military service are the real high stress jobs, even more than working at NBC. She has a chart comparing her job stress to the life of a baby and both are miniscule compared even to the manager of a Chili’s on a Friday night.
The book also contains bits of scripts and lifted SNL and 30 Rock jokes. There are amusing footnotes too, some that I missed in the beginning because I am not actually cool and hadn’t figured them out on the iPad2’s Kindle.
Fey’s SNL news was worth staying up for (Boomer time). Her movieMean Girls was on-target funny. 30 Rock has so many layers of humor-filled quirkiness I’ll bet nobody ever gets everything there. And this Bossypants business is more of the same. Life through the eyes of an observant, ingenious, sometimes shameless woman who left to her own devices claims to dress like someone coming to clean the aquarium; but left to other peoples’ devices happily endorses having her portraits Photoshopped.
In my family, where humor is a basic currency, we reserve the term “important work” for anything that makes us really laugh. Tina Fey does some of the most important work of several generations, Bossypants included.
Mary Flood is a Houstonian who has asked both then-comedian Al Franken and then-law professor Archibald Cox to sign baseballs for her brother’s sports-comedy-Watergate memorabilia collection.