My rating: 4 of 5 stars
So I’m not a fan of memoirs. I think that if you’re an interesting enough person, someone else will want to write about you and that there is really no point to doing it yourself. I’ve read a couple of David Sedaris’ essays and some other anecdotes, and that is really my only other exposure to this form of nonfiction. (To be honest I would’ve left this near the bottom of my to-read list if I hadn’t done a guest post for International Women’s Week on E. Kristin Anderson’s blog, but I don’t have any actual regrets about reading it. Disliking a genre doesn’t mean not appreciating good writing.)
I read this whole book in about three hours because I couldn’t stop reading. I love the comedy in ’30 Rock’—even the episodes where you could tell they were thin on material, there were still funny lines—and any show about a nerd that isn’t completely blatantly LOOK AT ME, I AM NERD (cough cough ‘The Big Bang Theory’) has my attention.
What I have learned from this experience is there are two things I need to enjoy a memoir: 1) overall agreement with the author’s viewpoints and 2) some ability to relate to what happened.
As far as the latter goes, Second City used to come to the University of Chicago every year (sadly this seems to have stopped happening from 2010 onward) and I’ve seen them a couple of times up on the Northside. I know Chicago, I dipped my toes in Drama Club (I’m so bad at improv but I did know those rules) and so on.
My familiarity with both SNL and ’30 Rock’ compensated for all the pop culture references that completely passed over my head because I did not really live through the ’80s. I’m just barely old enough to remember the Perot bid for President, and I’m not even sure if he actually made it to the Presidential nomination. I think history class said not. (Yes, you should feel old now.)
Also, I’m a female.
Important note: the target audience here really is women. A gay man or a man trying really hard to make sense of his lady may get something out of it, but the experiences she talks about in this book do pivot on the issues of growing up during a time when the role of women shifted drastically, although in some ways not enough. There is a whole chapter dedicated to being a mother and also someone who works 70 hours a week and brings it back home.
The overall layout of the book is chronological, with the focus of information being on her career and also an awkward nerd girl growing up. Getting an idea of exactly how much of her personality went into ’30 Rock’ was interesting (also I got to be like ‘ha, I can read that Greek’), as well as the behind-the-scenes time at SNL and photoshoots and that kind of thing. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not that into memoirs and would prefer a book that was more objective but supplemented by anecdotes.
She does have an awesome voice, as you’d expect from a comedy writer, so even the more personal bits are a fun read. They’re just calorie-free saccharine to the real sugar in the later parts, as far as informational value goes. And teenage girls or people raising teenage girls may find these segments more valuable anyway.
So the one real takeaway message I got from this book is DO WHATEVER YOU WANT AND DON’T WORRY THE HELL ABOUT IT IF IT’S WHAT YOU WANT TO DO. There are deeper themes in the narrative if you go looking for them, but on the surface level Fey repeats this a whole bunch, so it’s important and you should pay attention.
As a comedy writer, she’s not unfamiliar with tackling controversial issues head-on, and it’s nice to have this perspective in an age where the Internet is overloaded with social justice warriors who will stomp on any sense of dialogue that even hints at offensiveness. (Amusingly, most of these idiots are not associated with the groups they’re advocating for.) But it all comes back to the DO WHATEVER YOU WANT, and Fey doesn’t just trample the issue without acting like stereotypes don’t exist or that these things can be racist/sexist/whatever. Sometimes, the black kids from the bad part of town really are coming to steal your bike.
Anyway, if you enjoy comedy, you think Tina Fey is funny, and you’re a lady, I recommend reading this.
I didn’t really gain any new wisdom here (although like I mentioned, I learned some cool stuff about the professional comedy industry), but for someone who’s normally like I DON’T NEED NO ENCOURAGEMENT ‘CAUSE I’M THE BOSS, this was a weirdly empowering read. Kind of like how watching ‘300’ is the mental equivalent of having a testosterone shot. The book made me appreciate being the type of person who’s going to do what I want if I think it’s right and living in a time where that’s not so hard for women.