by Tina Fey

for Canadian readers

Reagan Arthur Book, 2011. ISBN 978-0-316-05686-1.
Reviewed by Olga Livshin
Posted on 07/04/2012

Nonfiction: Memoir

Tina Fey needs no introduction. For several years, she was a staff writer and performer on "Saturday Night Live" (SNL). She has won a great many awards. She has had a few movies and anime features under her belt, both as a writer and an actress. She is a producer, writer and co-star on the farcical TV series "30 Rock." Her fame spiked in 2008, when she gained international attention by impersonating Sarah Palin on SNL. So when I saw a book written by her, I grabbed it.

I expected some insights into the life of a celebrity. How did she do it? How did she deal with the obstacles on her way to the top? What were her secrets? But the book answered none of my superficial questions.

To tell the truth, I was a bit disappointed. Although the story follows the author's life in a vaguely chronological order—from her happy childhood and the summer theater program for teens to her extraordinary success as a TV writer, performer and producer—it is a memoir through the comic lens. That is, the narrative offers simultaneously too much and too little.

Let's start with too much. Throughout the book, Ms. Fey mentions too many names and cultural references that meant nothing to me. At some point, her name-dropping became almost a game of slang—with capitals. Perhaps I'm not very cultured, but nine times out of ten I didn't recognize her capitalized lingo. I suspect nine people out of ten, at least outside of showbiz, might not recognize them either.

My second objection: the writer employs too much humor. Granted it's a strange charge, applied to a comedian, but I think she is trying too hard to make readers laugh. Even her cover blurb is a buffoonery: one of the endorsements has been written by Mark Twain, another by a werewolf. She succeeded admirably. I laughed at her droll recollections of her honeymoon or her first acting gig with The Second City, but in my opinion, some of the jokes, especially in the mock beauty regiment, were rather crude. Or perhaps our literary tastes fly on different wavelengths. To give the author her due, though, she mostly pokes fun at herself. She doesn't air anyone's dirty laundry but her own, except when she ridicules her first job after university as a front desk clerk. That office was stuffed with a host of quirky characters worthy of her later SNL skits.

That's it with too much. What about too little, then? I'd say the book provides too few serious memories and none of the insights into the working of a talented mind. The only serious theme running through the book is sexism in show business. But maybe it was a jest too.

After finishing the book, I haven't gained any real understanding of Tina Fey. Behind the teasing tone and the endless snickers, the author's inner core, her soul, remains an enigma. Did I expect a serious memoir from a comedian? Yes. Was it a mistake on my part to start this book with such unreasonable expectations? Probably. Or perhaps I shouldn't have come to this book with any expectations at all, because despite all of the above, I had fun while reading the book. I enjoyed it. Isn't it the only thing that counts?

Read an excerpt from this book.

Elizabeth Stamatina "Tina" Fey is an American actress, comedian, writer and producer, known for her work on the NBC sketch comedy series "Saturday Night Live" (SNL), the NBC comedy series "30 Rock", and films such as "Mean Girls" (2004) and "Baby Mama" (2008).

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