Tina Fey’s essays on everything from girlhood rites of passage (such as “men-stru-hating”) to her days at Saturday Night Live and her struggles as a working mom are laugh-out-loud funny, but many of the details also come startlingly close to my own experiences. For example, she talks about trying to kiss a guy in front of the Monroe Hill dorms at the University of Virginia, making him run away from her. I lived at Monroe Hill while attending UVA and made a guy run away just by telling him I liked him. She says her go-to look in college was bicycle shorts with wrestling shoes, while I thought I was cool in bike shorts and jazz shoes. She played with Star Wars action figures, studied at Second City, and did touring shows. Check, check, and check for me, too.
But make no mistake—I am NOT comparing myself to Fey (who can?); I’m simply explaining her appeal to me and many people I know. She comes across like your witty and nerdy best friend, someone who doesn’t make you feel inadequate about how she’s a superwoman and you’re not. And while she’s making you laugh, she’s also slipping in wise nuggets like how the rules of improv can make good life philosophy:
The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun, ” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger…,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt…Now, obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says. But…at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you…
The next rule is MAKE STATEMENTS…If we’re in a scene and I say, “Who are you? Where are we? What are we doing here?…” I’m putting pressure on you to come up with all the answers. In other words: Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. We’ve all worked with that person…Instead of saying, “Where are we?” make a statement like “Here we are in Spain, Dracula.” Okay, “Here we are in Spain, Dracula” may seem like a terrible start to a scene, but this leads us to the best rule:
THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities.
Fey manages to convey a sense of gratefulness for her life while maintaining it isn’t easy, that she gets stress-induced canker sores just trying to decide if she has time for a second baby because two hundred people on the 30 Rock cast and crew depend on her for employment. (She must have figured it out because she’s now pregnant.) Just like her OB-GYN says to her in the book, “Either way, everything will be fine,” Bossypants makes you feel that way, too.
Nerd verdict: Bossypants rules