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Bossypants

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

Because I didn’t grow up in the US, Saturday Night Live was a show I had heard about, but it was a bit of a mystery to me. However, during the build-up to the US Presidential Election in 2008, I came upon an SNL sketch that made me an SNL fan.


Tina Fey, who had already left SNL at that point, played Sarah Palin (the vice presidential candidate for the Republican party) and Amy Poehler played Hillary Clinton (who had just barely missed out on the Democratic party’s nomination for president to Barack Obama). I was in university and was visiting my parents at the time. I sat in their living room cackling so loud that my mom came in from the kitchen to see what all the fuss was about.


I know I was late to the party, but this is where my love for Tina Fey (and Amy Poehler, but this isn’t about her book) really began.


Although Bossypants is her only book so far, Tina Fey is a prolific writer when it comes to the film and TV industry. She was a writer on SNL (she wrote for three years before becoming a cast member), she wrote the screenplay to Mean Girls and several other movies, and, of course, she was the creator and writer of 30 Rock. Because she’s such an experienced writer, this isn’t your regular celebrity memoir – it’s not only interesting because she’s famous. She talks about her own life experiences, of course. She’s extremely hilarious, of course. But she also provides social commentary, wisdom, and depth.


She emerged in comedy during a time when it was widely considered (whether consciously or subconsciously) that women just weren’t as funny as men. She tells a story from her first week at SNL when a female performer missed out on playing a role because the group thought it would be funnier if one of the male cast members dressed up as a woman and played the part. She says, “I tell this specific tale of Cheri being passed over for Kattan-in-drag because it illustrates how things were the first week I was there. By the time I left nine years later, that would never have happened. The women in the cast took over the show in that decade, and I had the pleasure of being there to witness it.”


Tina Fey is incredibly self-deprecating but I think she understands her place in comedy history. She is one of the pioneers of women in comedy for my generation. Of course, she stands on the shoulders of people like Carol Burnett, Betty White, Lily Tomlin, and others. But it seems like the post-Tina-Fey-on-SNL era has opened the floodgates of female comedians. It helped that her female contemporaries were also such rock stars, but she was definitely one of the leaders.


I’m emphasizing the more serious aspects of the book because I think that’s what makes it stand out compared to other comedian memoirs I’ve read, but I want to be very clear – this book is mostly funny. Even when she’s making a point, she soaks it in humor so that it goes down easy. You will not feel like you’re reading social commentary.


My favorite chapter is called “Sarah, Oprah, and Captain Hook.” It follows a busy week with three converging storylines: (1) Being asked to come back for a guest appearance on SNL to play Sarah Palin, (2) trying to get Oprah on an episode of 30 Rock, and (3) desperately trying to find Peter Pan decorations for her daughter’s birthday party (apparently they were hard to find – lots of Tinker Bell and Captain Hook decorations, not so many Peter Pan ones). It’s hilarious because each of the individual stories are good, but together they show how simultaneously insane and normal her life was during this season. I also loved hearing the backstory of the sketch that first made me love her.


If you need a laugh, read this book. If you want some insight into the world of comedy, read this book. If you don't think women are funny, you should definitely read this book.

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