The closest fans ever came to getting inside Jerry Seinfeld’s head was in his 1993 book Seinlanguage, which, at 192 pages, was full of pithy everyday observations (most of which appeared in one form or another on his show) but was terribly thin on anything biographical. Tina Fey, thankfully, takes a different approach in her much-anticipated memoir. In the self-deprecating style that has made her famous, the brain behind 30 Rock pretty much starts at the beginning: she writes about developing breasts when she was nine (“so weird and high, it’s possible they were above my collarbone”) and getting her first period at 10 (“I knew from commercials that one’s menstrual period was a blue liquid that you poured like laundry detergent onto maxi-pads to test their absorbency. This wasn’t blue, so I ignored it for a few hours.”).
But this isn’t just about Fey’s awkward youth. In addressing sexism in comedy, Fey strikes back at the critics, namely Christopher Hitchens and Jerry Lewis, who claim women aren’t funny. “It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that because you don’t like something, it is empirically not good. I don’t like Chinese food, but I don’t write articles trying to prove it doesn’t exist.”
Fey, whose killer impersonation of Sarah Palin some claim altered the 2008 election, also details her rise through the comedy ranks, from Chicago’s Second City to head writer at Saturday Night Live, and, finally, to creator and star of 30 Rock. Fans will enjoy the many peeks behind the curtain, especially during the six weeks she spent channelling the Republican VP candidate on SNL.
The book has all kinds of laugh-out-loud moments, but the effortlessness of Fey’s writing is what’s most impressive. It reads like a series of funny letters from a close friend. The friend just happens to be an Emmy Award-winning comedian.