popular culture

Everything I needed to know I learned from Tina Fey

Emboldened by the fact that Aimee cited it the other day, I’ll admit that the best book I’ve read this year is Bossypants. Buy it – really! – and read it, in all the spare time academics having starting in the month of September. But just in case you don’t get to item #7538 on your to-do list, I’ll tell you my favorite bits.

  1. She’s unafraid of being powerful, and you should be too. “[E]ver since I have become an executive producer of 30 Rock, people have asked me, ‘Is it uncomfortable for you to be the person in charge?’ You know, in that same way they say, ‘Gosh, Mr Trump, is it awkward for you to be the boss of all these people?'”
  2. The “yes, and…” rules of improvisation. (Aimee referred to these too.) “THERE ARE NO MISTAKES,” this line of performance holds. Hmm. Can this work for us in the academy? I like to think so. When people are going down a road you don’t want to travel, agree early and play along. Keep your sentence going long enough that you manage to take the next exit, cross back over the expressway and steer the conversation back to Sanityville.
  3. Her casual references to menstrual experiences: for example, “queasy like when you lose your tampon string.” She assumes a readership of women, just like the architects at my university predicted the feminization of the Arts when they built nothing but women’s washroo- no, wait, they didn’t build any women’s bathrooms in the first version of that building. So, it’s nice to be interpellated.
  4. Her outfits, especially the electric blue polyester Hillary Clinton power suit that she and her roommate shared.
  5. Do your thing and stop worrying about what other people think. The story is actually about sweet Amy Poehler who, challenged by Famous Male Comic, goes black in the eyes and says, “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Even writing this down gives me a little thrill.
  6. She reproduces scripts that show how last-minute some of the changes are. I like to think she’s the one winging it at the conference podium. And you know what? She’s a genius.
  7. She cries at work. Paramount among the untold true stories of working women’s lives has to be the fact that sometimes we cry at work. Exhaustion, frustration, disappointment, sadness, anger – I can’t be the only one. Right? Also awesome: she closes her door, has a little cry, and then gets on with her work.
  8. She gets that we want to be liked, and she gets that that’s not the point. On dealing with Sarah Palin after the famous skit: “I got some hate mail, and there are definitely people out there who will dislike me for the rest of my life because of ‘what I did’ to Sarah Palin. On an intellectual level, this doesn’t bother me at all. On a human level, I would prefer to be liked. … You see what I’m getting at here. I am not mean and Mrs. Palin is not fragile. To imply otherwise is a disservice to us both.”
  9. And finally, something to think about the next time you run out of time to brush your teeth, or show up at the meeting with the wrong notebook, or don’t show up to the meeting at all: “Just remember that every person you see on a [magazine] cover has a bra and underwear hanging out a gaping hole in the back. Everyone. Heidi Klum, the Olsen Twins, David Beckham, everybody.”

Everybody but you, Tina.

    6 thoughts on “Everything I needed to know I learned from Tina Fey

    1. I've read the book at least three times already. I just love it. As a memoirist is she sometimes a little cagey and unrevealing? Yes. But really, as a book it's still hugely empowering for all women. I loved the crying at work, the looking for Tinkerbell party favors while shooting scenes with Oprah and practicing Sarah Palin's accent: it's true that if Oprah tells you you're working too hard, you need to reconsider some things. But she just muddles through, like the rest of us.

      I love also that she keeps saying she is really trying to sell out and be mainstream, but can't seem to do it. Naked ambition and drive, rather than indie/hipster street cred by 'opting out.'

      JUST LOVE IT. HAVE GIRL CRUSH ON TINA FEY. I actually had a dream that we were best friends. It was so awesome.


    2. Thanks for the summary. That's all great advice. I guess I need to get that book.

      On the architects and washrooms, why is the standard stall size the same? Can't they anticipate that they need to put that disposal container for “feminine products” in there and make the stall bigger so we don't have to pinch our legs? Oh, yeah, sorry, I should be glad we have a bathroom at all.


    3. This is yet another recommendation for this book, for the audiobook version. I've taken to listening to my recreational books while exercising – and this one was perfect. Tina Fey reads it herself – and it's an absolute riot. I'm sure the woman on the treadmill next to me thought I was crazy because I was laughing so hard.

      In addition to being entertaining, it has a lot of good, uplifting advice. When I grow up, I want to be just like Tina Fey.


    4. I actually found the book disappointing. A pleasant and easy read, to be sure, but not as interesting as I'd expected, perhaps due to all the hype.


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