Bossypants and mom jeans

I mean, it’s not like I wasn’t going to like Bossypants. Chmon. I pre-ordered this book the minute I heard about its existence, as I’ve spent the better part of the last few years idolizing Tina Fey as both creator and star of 30 Rock. Friends of mine know I’ve long felt a kinship with Liz Lemon. Frumpy dresser? Check. Devoted fan of junk food, with an emphasis on items whose key ingredient is cheese or cheese-flavored? Check. Inability to translate motivated responsible work persona into personal life? Check. Unabashed fan of reality television? Double freaking check.

So I was a little surprised when about 50 pages into Bossypants, a subtle theme was emerging. This book was…kind of about being a woman. About being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field (comedy, not television) a theme I’ve only recently read about in another enjoyable lady memoir: Kathy Griffin’s (who, ironically, is given a bit of a shout-out in Bossypants: “If you could turn gay from being around gay people, wouldn’t Kathy Griffin be Rosie O’Donnell by now?”) Yes, this book was just a little bit about how even the suggestion that Tina Fey being a successful boss is something worth highlighting inadvertently separates her from the legions of unhighlighted male bosses who have come before her, as though signing paychecks with a vagina is like a dog walking on its hind legs.

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The littlest gossip girl

Everyone has a Kathy Griffin. That friend, you know the type, who’s effortlessly hilarious, quick with the comebacks, perfect for parties (if you, like me, prefer to bring guests who amuse but also mildly offend the hosts); also the kind of friend who after a few days together starts to grate on you. It’s no fault of theirs, just some people work better in smaller doses. Non-consecutive-day-doses.

Kathy Griffin’s memoir is a lot like her, and like that friend. It’s hilarious, fast-paced and often insightful, but by the end I was ready for a break.

I went into this book not knowing what to expect. Comedians can go both ways when it comes to the written word–sometimes, as is the case with Michael Ian Black, their books are perfection, just slightly more bizarre extensions of their routines (I don’t care what people say about Russell Brand, I find his memoir(s) far more amusing than he is in person). Other times, it doesn’t quite work. You find yourself missing their inflections, or well-placed pauses for laughter. Reading is an isolated activity, and stand-up is a group one. The two don’t always mix.

Griffin’s Official Book Club Selection (which, by the by, awesome title) benefits from Griffin’s stand-up style, which is more long-form storytelling than a series of witty one-liners. Those familiar with her stand-up (or Bravo show) will hear her voice in the writing, but the stories don’t suffer for not being performed on a stage. In fact, the book lets her go further than she probably would to a crowded roomβ€”a chapter about her brother, who she suspected of pedophilia (no joke), miiight not have made the best material for a night at Radio City Music Hall. On the page it comes across as insightful and acerbic; one gets the impression humor isn’t so much Griffin’s defense mechanism as it is a lens through which she (and any self-respecting cynic) views the world. In other words, the book isn’t all celebrity gossip and plastic surgery stories; just mostly.

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