Tina Fey is a woman with many titles attached to her name: screenwriter, producer, and Golden Globe and Emmy award-winning actress. Now, after the release of her highly anticipated book, Bossypants, New York Times Bestselling Author can be added to that already impressive list.
Though many people recognize Fey for her iconic portrayal of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live, not many people know how she has reached such a level of success in an industry typically dominated by males. Bossypants is billed as a memoir, but it more so a mix of extremely humorous musings and a mostly chronological account of some of Fey’s most significant life experiences.
Born in 1970, Fey grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, where she had her awkward years as a child that included such experiences as being mistaken for a boy in a supermarket due to her bowl haircut. During high school she developed a love for performing and joined a local summer theatre program where she took solace in a new group of friends, all of whom happened to be gay. “Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I was embraced by the gays. They loved me and praised me. I was so funny and so mean and so mature for my age,” she writes.
Fey went on to study drama at the University of Virginia where she says her Greek heritage made her the most ethnic looking girl there. “What 19-year-old Virginia boy doesn’t want a wide-hipped, sarcastic Greek girl with short hair that’s permed on top?” asks Fey, using her signature brand of self-deprecation. “What’s that you say? None of them want that? You are correct. So I spent four years attempting to charm the uninterested.”
Then, in 1992, Fey moved to Chicago where she joined The Second City – a comedy troupe and breeding ground for SNL alums the likes of which include Gilda Radner and Bill Murray. After paying her dues performing around the country at gigs like high school proms, she finally got a job as a writer at Saturday Night Live, only to become head writer two years later. Now, she has her own television show, 30 Rock on NBC, which she created, stars in, and executive produces.
Fey’s comical observations of adolescence are something that everyone can relate to. Besides candidly describing her awkward years and bad luck with boys, including how she unintentionally remained a virgin until the age of 24, she addresses some issues that many young women face today. In a chapter entitled “All Girls Must Be Everything,” Fey recalls one summer where she spent a week with her cousins in Wildwood, New Jersey. One day, while on the beach, she hears her cousin make a snide remark about the width of a woman’s hips. She then goes into a laundry list of attributes that women in American society are expected to have in order to be seen as beautiful. Fey’s self-deprecating nature and approach to all things concerning vanity is when she is at her funniest.
During many chapters of the book, Fey talks about her current home life. She mentions her composer husband and the comedic antics of her 5-year-old daughter, but we rarely ever see a glimpse of her innermost feelings. Not that Fey owes any of us this type of information, but during chapters that seem as though they should be more revealing (like the chapter where she talks about her debate on whether or not to have another child) she seems as though she is afraid of sharing too much for fear of being vulnerable. Goodness knows this book is meant to be humorous, but it would have been a nice change of pace to see a sadder and maybe darker side of its author.
Tina Fey has reached a level of success that many comedians, both male and female, only dream of achieving. Bossypants is a hilarious look into the life and thoughts of one of our generation’s most revered women and makes it easy to see why Ms. Fey is where she is today.