Tina Fey’s collection of essays, Bossypants, was passed onto me by a friend at work. I’m a big fan of Fey – I love 30 Rock, and especially appreciated her contribution to the public shaming of Sarah Palin. I have to admit, though, I approach books by comedians cautiously. Sometimes they can be really engaging and funny, but a lot of the times, when reading a comedian’s words, the funny gets lots because the delivery is missing.This was especially true when I read Wanda Sykes’ Yeah, I Said It. Now, I love me some Wanda Sykes, but gotta admit, a huge part of why I love Wanda Sykes is that inimitable squawk of a voice.
Bossypants works well because it’s Fey’s words that are funny – her delivery is pretty nondescript. The book is a memoir of sorts – there are stories about her childhood and her time in Chicago (a chapter I especially liked as I recognized some of the Chi-town trivia she sprinkled around) as well as chapters covering her work with Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock and the infamous Palin sketches. And even though she shares personal stories, she manages to throw in quick one-liners, that remain relavent and funny (when describing how important the study of improvisation was to her personal and professional life she asks, “What has your cult done for you lately?”). She also has a sharp eye for detail, that comes in wonderfully when she creates a scene, as when she describes the Polish cleaning women she used to see on the subway eating “potatoes, rice, meat, and cabbage in an endless series of combinations.”
There’s also a cool chapter, “Dear Internet” which is a series of questions emailed to her – a lot of these questions were hostile, like “Tina Fey is an ugly…overrated troll” or “Tina Fey completely ruined SNL. The only reason she’s celebrated is because she’s a woman and an outspoken liberal.” She answers these emails not defensively, but by playing with the insults – like responding to the charge of being an overratted troll by writing, “You have offended me deeply. To say I’m an overrated troll when you have never even seen me guard a bridge, is patently unfair.”
The appeal of Fey is her clever wit – she doesn’t try to be quirky or strange like David or Amy Sedaris (though the Sedaris siblings are plenty hilarious), which lots of humorists try to do. Instead , she’s funny because she shows off her intelligence without being, well a show-off.