One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve started to read about the lives of my favorite comedic writers is that they had very similar childhoods as I did. I don’t know if that’s what draws me to their comedy or if it’s just a byproduct of growing up when we did. Add to that that Tina Fey went to UVA for college (which I didn’t, but a lot of people I knew did) and a lot of her book felt VERY familiar. Until of course, the chapter where she meets Lorne Michaels. Then our lives go in very different directions.
This book is exactly what you think it is, and if you love Tina Fey (which you should or we really can’t be friends), then you’ll love this book. And now that I know Tina Fey also had a horrific experience climbing Old Rag, I think the Commonwealth of Virginia should just shut it down for the sake of humanity. Either that or Ms. Fey and I should go hiking together sometime (and by hiking, I mean, eating our way through Southern Virginia). Nonetheless, reading this book was like spending the afternoon with Tina Fey and that is a quality way to spend time.
My only regret is that I borrowed this book from the library, so I can’t go through and highlight my favorite passages for quick reference. Instead, I’m going to list them below.
“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. (Some people say “Never let them see you cry.” I say, if you’re so mad you could cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.” (p. 3)
“Almost everyone first realized they were becoming a grown woman when some dude did something nasty to them. ‘I was walking home from ballet and a guy in a car yelled, ‘Lick me!’ […] There were pretty much zero examples like ‘I first knew I was a woman when my mother and father took me out to dinner to celebrate my success on the debate team.’ It was mostly men yelling shit from cars. Are they a patrol sent out to let girls know they’ve crossed into puberty? if so, it’s working.” (p. 15)
“The person closest to actually achieving this [ideal] look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes. Everyone else is struggling.” (p. 23)
“We should strive to make our society more like Summer Showtime: Mostly a meritocracy, despite some vicious backstabbing. Everyone gets a spot in the chorus. Bring white shorts from home.” (p. 43)
“How can I give her what Don Fey gave me? The gift of anxiety. The fear of getting in trouble. The knowledge that while you are loved, you are not above the law. The Worldwide Parental Anxiety System is failing if this many of us have made sex tapes.” (p. 53)
“Only Colin Quinn was direct about it. ‘Your father doesn’t fucking play games. You would never come home with a shamrock tattoo in that house.’ That’s Don Fey.” (p. 55)
“This is what I tell young women who ask me for career advice. People are going to try to trick you. To make you feel that you are in competition with one another. ‘You’re up for a promotion. If they go with a woman, it’ll be between you and Barbara.’ Don’t be fooled. You’re not in competition with other women. You’re in competition with everyone.” (p. 88)
“I wait for his response, hoping that in the twenty-first century, romantic love can be defined as not lying about your plans to get on the lifeboat and remembering to get your partner some pills. He just laughs. With that settled, we begin our married life.” (p. 101)
“2) “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes because it’s 11:30.”
This is something Lorne has said often about Saturday Night Live, but I think it’s a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go. […] You have to let people see what you wrote. It will never be perfect, but perfect is overrated. Perfect is boring on live TV.” (p. 123)
[describing her fight to get a sketch on the show and male writers kept shutting it down] “It was the moment I realized that there was no ‘institutionalized sexism’ at that place. Sometimes they just literally just didn’t know what we were talking about.” (p. 141)
Basically the entire chapter about Amy Poehler.
Also, “Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.” (p. 145)
“(Someone should do a study of the human brain and how quickly it can adjust to luxury. You could take a homeless person who has been living on the street for twenty years, and if you let them do three magazine photo shoots, by the fourth one they’d be saying, ‘Louboutins don’t really work on me. Can I try the Roger Vivier?’ By the fifth one they’d sigh, ‘Do they not have the vegetable tarlets? Bummer!’ in a passive-aggressive tone that means ‘Somebody go get them.’)” (p. 156)
“In my opinion, the most meaningful moment for women in the 2008 campaign was not Governor Palin’s convention speech or Hillary Clinton conceding her 1,896 delegates. The moment most emblematic of how things have changed for women in America was nine-months pregnant Amy Poehler rapping as Sarah Palin and tearing the roof off the place.” (p. 232)
“Lesson learned? When people say, ‘You really, really must‘ do something, it means you don’t really have to. No one ever says, ‘You really, really must deliver the baby during labor.’ When it’s true, it doesn’t need to be said.” (p. 242)
[About the book My Working Mom] “My daughter and I can have real conversations now. I told her that I didn’t like it that the mommy in the book was a witch. That it hurt my feelings. And she looked at me matter-of-factly and said, ‘Mommy. I can’t read. I thought it was a Halloween book.’ (p. 260)
[From a Mother’s Prayer for her Daughter] “And when she one day turns on me and calls me a
Bitch in front of Hollister,
Given me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends,
For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.” (p. 263)
“I have a suspicion that the definition of a ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore.” (p. 271)