Brushing your teeth is optional when you go to bed at 3 a.m. Now, any other normal day of the week you should brush your teeth. But when you come rolling in at 3 a.m. you have approximately five seconds to decide if you have the energy to stand in front of the sink before your body makes that decision for you. So, needless to say, several nights ago when this happened to me I did not brush my teeth. I was way too exhausted, oddly enough, however, I was also way too enthralled in Tina Fey’s biography to put it down. Too tired to brush my teeth, too caught up to stop reading. It’s kind of weird, and yet that one 3 a.m. moment describes my whole feeling about Bossypants.
Let’s get some of the details out of the way. The book is hilarious, I mean laugh-out-loud uncontrollably hilarious. Fey’s comedic wit permeates nearly every line of every page. Whether she’s writing about her first period, her father, her lack of boyfriends, her job at the YMCA, or photo shoots, you can’t help but laugh. The book is also pretty crass and at times vulgar. She references genitalia frequently for some strange reason. But the truth is that Fey doesn’t really care if you like it or not (she wrote an entire chapter just on that point, aptly titled “I don’t care if you like it”). The book is also obviously geared toward women and frequently offers inspirational messages to the working woman, the mom, and the girl struggling to make it in showbiz. Not being at any of those stages of life… oh and not being woman too, means there’s much of the book that just doesn’t resonate with me, and yet I was still engaged by every chapter. Fey’s style is captivating (as my 3 a.m. moment revealed). In all actuality I learned a great deal about Fey, an actress, writer, and producer whose work I love. What I most enjoyed learning, however, is that even while Fey and I will disagree on many things (she is after all a feminist liberal and I am a conservative pastor) this is exactly the kind of person I would love to have lunch with.
It seems that Fey doesn’t take anything so seriously that it isn’t worth poking fun at, including herself. It’s not that she is disrespectful (well, except when responding to “fan” mail. See “Dear Internet” page 163). The truth is that she realizes every political party, every religious group, every celebrity, everyone everywhere in fact has had a Sarah Palin, Charlie Sheen, or Tina Fey moment. To be honest, it was incredibly refreshing to read and reflect on these facts. In a world and context where everyone takes themselves, their politics and their views so seriously that they can’t take a joke, Tina Fey serves as a breath of fresh air.
She is smart, there’s no denying that, but she doesn’t come off as pretentious. She comes off, instead as an average person. She has moments of pettiness that she regrets, like when she manipulated a director not to cast the girl who “stole” her boyfriend. She has moments of craziness, like when she left work at SNL without telling anyone because she was afraid of anthrax. She both loves and hates the way she looks. She seems rather shocked at her climb to celebrity status, her getting the job at SNL, and 30 Rock’s success. But nonetheless there she is standing in the spotlight.
The truth is, of course, that Tina Fey is a brilliant writer with a gift for good comedy that excels at subtlety. Both 30 Rock and Bossypants demonstrate her skill with the hilarious tertiary comment and the subtle mocking. But she doesn’t take herself so seriously that she has to put on some semi-elitist façade. She doesn’t think she’s above everyone else, that she shouldn’t have to face crappy days, nor does she pretend to have life all together (read the chapter about her honeymoon). The book reminds me, in typical Fey fashion, not to take myself so seriously. It reminds me to ease up, enjoy the craziness every now and again. It reminds me to laugh at others because they can do stupid things, and they need to take themselves less seriously. It also reminds me to laugh at myself, because I am not as smart, funny, creative, or generally important as I often convince myself I am. The book reminds me to laugh at Tina Fey, because she is hilarious!