Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update,” before “Sarah Palin,” Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.
She has seen both these dreams come true.
At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon — from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.
Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you boss.
Executive Summary: unexpected (not necessarily in the good way)
We chose this book for the “comedy” category for book club. I was really excited to read it as I had heard a lot of good things. I’m (was) a casual viewer of 30 Rock, and I catch SNL from time to time (but haven’t watched it regularly since the 90s).
The book has an unusual set up and such can feel very disjointed. It wasn’t until about halfway through the book that I really started to get into it. It basically has one chapter on one subject topic followed by a few pages of “humor” and then repeated throughout the book. The chapters aren’t necessarily in chronological order nor are they connected in any way besides having happened to Tina Fey.
I didn’t find the stories about her childhood that entertaining or really that memorable. I was unaware that she had a facial scar (prob due to plastic surgery and photoshop) so that chapter was interesting, but it felt so nonchalant. I actually looked online to verify that it wasn’t just a joke. Even though I’m not a lot younger than Tina, I think that growing up in a more liberal household might have made a lot of difference. I had gay friends in high school, so the chapters about how weird it was hanging out with “the gays” in theater wasn’t something that I really related to. They weren’t weird or different to me. Just other friends.
Another thing that I didn’t enjoy was the discussions about looks. My assumption is that because Tina Fey is an atypical looking female celebrity, she must get asked about it a lot by vapid reporters. I get that she was trying to make the point that looks don’t really matter. But by drawing attention to it, she made it more apparent that they do.
But there were chapters that I enjoyed. I enjoyed the chapter about her dad. That was probably the only chapter in the first section of the book that I found interesting. And it explains a lot about her, I think.
About halfway through the book, the chapters become slightly more connected and start dealing with her life as a “grown up” (in age only perhaps 🙂 ) starting with her job at SNL. This is where I thought it got a lot more interesting. Specifically there were a few stories that I thought were really great that I’m going to summarize.
First, I found the part about the SNL commercials to be really a good story about bias and the importance of communication. Essentially, having one of the faux commercials for SNL is a big honor. They’re not filmed live and are filmed with better quality equipment so they can be kept and reused for future episodes. Apparently this was back when “Coca Cola Classic” (my mother still calls it that despite the fact that you can’t get any other coke except classic now) happened and marketers were trying to make nostalgia trendy again. Tina and Paula Pell (who actually wrote the commercial) were pushing for a throwback maxi-pad commercial showing the old 1960s maxis with the belt and everything poking out from some girls’ low rise jeans. Their commercial kept getting not selected, and finally because they were pushing so much on it, the producers sat them down and were like, “We realize that you think this is funny, so it must be, but we simply just do not understand it.” These men had no idea what maxi pads were like in the 60s and once it was finally explained to them (and the fact that you wouldn’t see blood in the commercial lol), they agreed to make that commercial. Basically sometimes when you think people are just being racist/sexist/biased against you, they might just not understand you. Ah, the power of communication. (Side note, I was explaining this to my husband and he didn’t realize that modern day maxi pads have a sticky side to keep them in place. So it’s pretty good likelihood that men just do not care to know about feminine hygiene products. I cannot say that I blame them.)
I really enjoyed the section where Tina talks about playing Sarah Palin. I found it really fascinating. From the bits about her studying Sarah’s dialect (and avoiding words she couldn’t quite get right) to the discussion of how Tina was berated for making fun of Sarah (although the male actors who played presidential candidates never were). I enjoyed the discussion of the skit that had “Sarah” and “Hillary” juxtaposing two different women off of each other and poking fun at the things that were said about them. No one wants a woman who is powerful and masculine seeming like Hillary, but no one also wants one who is stupid and pretty like Sarah. I actually saw that skit live, and reading about it in the book, I realized that there was a lot more to it than I had realized when I first watched it. I guess that’s the power of comedy. I also felt a little ashamed that I always enjoyed the episodes where the actual character (in this case, the real Sarah Palin) comes onto the show with the fake character. Apparently in comedy they hate that.
The last bit that I really liked was the discussion of breast feeding. Specifically, all women who have at least one child are an expert and if you don’t do it the way they did it, then obviously you aren’t doing it right. I have found this the case with women in general. (I don’t have children and I don’t really intend to so I don’t know about the breast feeding) but women tend to be very judgmental of other women. Not only for their looks but also for their life choices. I am a firm believer in only giving your opinion when you are asked for it. And I am also a firm believer in bringing other women up rather than pushing them down. I work in a very male-heavy industry, and I know that I am not competing against the other women. I am competing against everyone, and since there are more men, and it’s an old school industry, I’m more so competing against men (and “the man”). So it makes no sense for me to sabotage other women to get ahead. I hope they get ahead too, so I have someone to talk about feminine hygiene products with. (JK, that’s a bit gross). I also try very hard to not be judgmental of people who have chosen other paths than I have. It is hard for me sometimes, but I do my best. I think more women should do the same. If we were all the same, wouldn’t the world be boring?
Lastly, I grew up a few miles off of Interstate 80 in western Pennsylvania. So the story about bringing all the country relatives to the big city struck home for me. I’m not sure everyone else appreciated this chapter as much as I did. But my point of reference made that part pretty funny.
Verdict: 3.5 stars
Honestly, I would rank the first part of the book like a 2.5 or 3. I did not really get into it or like it. The last part, I would easily rank a 4. I thought there were interesting stories and good points made in the book. I didn’t know much about Tina Fey before this book (I don’t follow celebrities. I have my own life to worry about.) which I think was good. It made the stories new to me. I do think that reading the book made me appreciate her more, and I am interested to see what her path is now that 30 Rock is over.