My husband loves comedy in all forms and for this reason I have been exposed to Tina Fey, 30 Rock, and her films. Although comedy hasn’t been my favorite in the past, I have to admit that this woman is brilliant. As we prepared for yet another road trip where I would be forced to listen to Matt’s aweful podcasts the entire way, the opposite of my idea of a good time in the car, when he purchased the Bossypants audiobook, I was excited. Last time we tried an audio book in the car was this past Christmas; I chose Stephen King’s 11/22/63. It was a dismal failure, and we turned it off after the first few sentences. The narrator was monotone and the subject matter made it hard to focus. I had hopes that the talented Ms. Fey could hold the attention of a person accustomed to the tangible comfort of holding and viewing a book. Everyone knows this woman is beautiful, intelligent, assertive, hilarious, and successful. Obviously these qualities sell books, but does that mean the texts have merit or are worth reading? Within the first few minutes of listening to this text, which is narrated by Fey herself, I knew the answer to the questions was a resounding yes!
In Bossypants, Fey recalls memories from her past that are laugh-out-loud funny, because they are realistic, relatable, sarcastic, and contain multi-layered levels of meaning. As she begins the book talking about her an experiences as she entered puberty, which included a box her mother handed her that contained a pamphlet intended for her mother, entitled “What to Tell Your Daughter About Menstruation,” Fey tells the story of the day she got her first period and the look her mother gave her that implied her daughter had obviously not read to pamphlet. The story and the way it is communicated may seem like something only a girl could relate to; but, I looked over and saw my husband, Matt, laughing too. This was when I realized the book is written like a comedy sketch, and the stories contained within it are funny, because even if a person didn’t have that exact experience, we have all known a time when we just knew our parents didn’t come through for us. In this same way, Fey knows how to connect with every person in society as she discusses her body image issues as they relate to women and society as a whole.
In making jokes about beauty and body image, Fey creates humor that touches readers on several different levels beginning more broadly and ending more narrowly by focusing on the individual. After discussing that she had only blonde, flat-butted, thin-lipped, long-legged role models growing up, Fey mentions that back then, a girl had two options: be the blonde Barbie or be ugly and unaccepted. Today, she says, now that multiculturalism is beautiful, a woman needs every feature of every beautiful woman to perfect- e.g., J Lo ass and Beyonce thighs. The entire discussion is great, because every observation, although ridiculous and awful, is somehow true of our society’s expectations. Fey mentions that the culture of beauty has evolved to such extremes that now the only thing for a woman to do is fix herself until she exemplifies everything she should be; it is so sad, the readers must laugh. But, she says, none of this applies to her. Fey makes a list of all the attributes she loves about herself, for example, back fat and a stomach that are slowly sliding together until they permanently meet and she officially becomes her mother. The more characteristics Fey lists under the guise of things she would never give up, I thought about who she is and how I view her. This is a woman who writes for and stars in an Emmy-winning TV show, she is presumably paid millions of dollars to represent a hair coloring company as their spokeswoman, and there is no debate here, people look up to her and consider her attractive. Still, even she ruminates, obsesses, and finds herself unsatisfied about the smallest details the rest of us will never notice. The idea is to use one joke to make the reader think about a variety of issues and ways he or she can relate, and Fey is completely successful.
Although we all have different experiences, friends, and moments that stand out to us, many themes resonate that a comedian can use as material. The teenage years, friendship, love, heartbreak, anger, bitterness, work, and many others are universal sources of inspiration Fey uses to create her unique recollections and form this piece of magic. This book is a great choice for anyone looking to lighten their mood. You’ll be happy you read it; this is not mindless comedy.