Little, Brown & Company, 2011
I wanted a lighter in tone and entertaining book that would be different from my usual choices. Tina Fey did not disappoint. She is using her celebrity status to primarily make a pile of money, not teach me life lessons. Books with “lessons” as secondary are good only if they are entertaining, so was it?
Writing without pretense of style or poetic phrasing, Fey breezes through her childhood, teen years, and early career years. The story is so light there is not a word of how she met her husband until he is introduced during the honeymoon as her companion on an ill-fated cruise ship.
When she hits the time of employment with Second City and then Saturday Night Live she begins a larger description. The Rules of Improvisation are framed, in italic type and have a screen behind the type to make it stand out.
With the disclaimer that improv will not reduce belly fat, Fey launches into a perfectly sized two-page spread that is a good primer for learning to talk to strangers and survive cocktail parties. It begins with agreeing with the other player and ends with stating there are no mistakes, only opportunities.
Her prominent listing of what she learned from her boss at Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels is her outline of how to be bossypants and make improvisation succeed with team work and team recognition. A good portion of the book gives credit to Michaels, a dozen named writers on Saturday Night Live, and a dozen more co-screen personalities.
Small stories and observations accompany the listed acknowledgements to make it interesting, but it began to feel like a very long Emmy acceptance speech or treatise on why she deserved a raise.
Because her manner is breezy and she profusely thanks other people, what she does have to offer as advice is not couched in efforts to sound important and erudite so the points she makes are like medicine in a mimosa; you’ll never taste bitterness.
With the ease of a true comedian she offers a few guiding thoughts on accepting an imperfect body, the guilt of a working mom, how to meld a team of Harvard Boys with Chicago Street Entertainers, how to find “me time,” and feeling comfortable with the decisions of your life.
A single highlight weekend of her life included filming a skit with Oprah, meeting the “real” Sarah Palin on television, and her daughter’s birthday party, “all of equal importance,” she writes. It is a good read and I admired her thoughts on playing Palin.
Her reasoning showed a depth beyond the book’s fluff, but my favorite thought that jumped off the pages for its dark implication at an otherwise fun garden party was in her mother’s prayer for her daughter. “May she be beautiful but not damaged, for it’s the damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the beauty.” That was before another wish, “Lead her away from acting but not all the way to finance.”