Who's The Boss?

Tina Fey’s Bossypants is the perfect primer for hilarious women in the workplace.

By Tina Fey
Little Brown & Company, 277 pages

I have a confession to make.

When Tina Fey was the anchor of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, I didn’t like her at all. I didn’t think she was especially funny, and I thought her delivery was always kind of smarmy, as if she was the smartest person in the room telling jokes for herself.

So, has Tina Fey improved tremendously as a performer and comic, or was I wrong in my initial assessment? As much as I’d like to think  Fey has gone from mediocre performer to the hottest and smartest comedic performer in popular culture today, I have to admit now that my first assessment of Fey might have been just a teeny bit wrong. 

Bossypants, Fey’s hilarious, brainy and hugely entertaining first book, confirms Fey’s status as not just a flavour-of-the-month comic, but a genuinely inventive comic mind who will be with us for a long, long time.

Bossypants is a combination biography, wry (and sometimes a little angry) ruminations on today’s culture, and essays on being a woman/mother in the workplace. (From the introduction: “If you are a woman and you bought this book for practical tips on how to make it in a male-dominated workplace, here they are. No pigtails, no tube tops. Cry sparingly.”) And it all works.

Fey’s childhood is the not the stuff of stirring biographies. It was pleasantly middle-class, with one moment that was literally scarring: she was slashed in the face by a stranger when she was in kindergarten. The still noticeable scar led to her being doted upon by her parents, not because she was some “incredible beauty or genius; they were making a fuss over me to compensate for my being slashed.” To her credit, the terrifying incident rates barely a mention.

Fey rose through the comedy ranks the way following the traditional comedy superstar route, starting with summer theatre, making it to The Second City before graduating to Saturday Night Live, and ultimately to her brilliant sitcom, 30 Rock.

This is not a tell-all biography, where she dishes on her former SNL co-stars. Fey seems just too nice a person to trash celebrities in print, although I suspect she must have some great SNL dirt as the first female head-writer in the show’s history. There is some very entertaining behind-the-scenes stuff about her Sarah Palin impressions on SNL, which catapulted Fey into the celebrity stratosphere, much to her discomfort.

While I found a lot of Bossypants to be laugh-out-loud funny, I’m sure if you’re a female, you’ll find it even funnier, even brilliant. She writes of being given a  “my first period” kit, which made me laugh, although I couldn’t relate to it in any way. There are a couple of chapters on modern motherhood that, again, hardly resonates with a middle-aged guy like me, but still resonated with the truth.

And that’s the greatest compliment I can pay to Bossypants. Fey writes from a woman’s point of view, about issues of women in the workplace, and she still makes me laugh.


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