Friday, 11 May 2012

Memoir Junkie 1: "Bossypants" by Tina Fey and "Seriously...I’m Kidding" by Ellen DeGeneres

Let me start by saying I’m innately NOT a funny person. I rarely can make people smile, let alone laugh, giggle, guffaw, cackle, chuckle, chortle, snicker, snigger, hee-haw, cachinnate, or make any other similar sound. So don’t blame me later if you came to this page and expected to physically  get rid of stress by expelling large amounts of air (mostly CO2 and mostly from your mouth) whilst making comical sounds. Now, don’t misinterpret this; I do have a sense of humor, everyone does. And it’s not nonexistent (I do know people whose sense of humor is nonexistent and, yes, I inevitably question their humanity). So, why am I declaring my level of funniness? I just want to put it out there that on the rare occasion I make someone laugh, I secretly glow inside…and this is NOT something I generally share with folks. But as I most probably can’t see or hear you, I would have no clue you read this, and perhaps made one of the aforementioned sounds; please leave a comment to let me know if you did and tweet me the sound…it would make my day! Now, in order to make up for broody people like me, the world also hosts funny people who try as they may can’t make people not laugh. Some of these people are women, who wrote books to share their stories, that (surprise!), made me laugh!
Before I divulge my thoughts and opinions about these two books I’d just like to mention that prior to reading them I had only occasionally watched Saturday Night Live and had only heard of 30 Rock, but never watched it. Also, Mean Girls is an awesome flick! As for Ellen, she really is one of the best talk show hosts in the business, and I have many a times become victim to her YouTube clips. (Doesn’t everyone keep tabs of how many times she’s scared Taylor Swift? No? Moving on then…) The general structures of both ladies’ books is similar. Both women make many references to their childhoods, claim that their books are for “all types of readers”, give tips on how to become a cover girl (Fey) or a CoverGirl (Ellen), dole out information about how a woman can survive in modern society, talk at length about homosexuality, etc. In short, they have the basics and magic words to keep the contemporary reader glued. Who doesn’t like to read about a woman trying to make it on the cover of a LGBT magazine in a man’s world using her childhood experiences? The length of both books is similar, but while I found Fey’s debut book gripping and funny throughout, Ellen’s style of humor and writing made me weary and was, at times, even irritable.
Fey allows the reader to visit her past and, as memoirs go, she takes us on a journey through her life, from her “employee stage” (community theater, stand-up, SNL) to her “bossypants stage” (marriage, 30 Rock, motherhood). Her writing is introspective and direct, which I loved. The reader is never distracted by the jokes and sarcasm, and you’ll find yourself wishing she was older just so she would have more anecdotes and memories to write about! (Miss Fey, if you ever read this, I most certainly would never wish premature aging on any lady, so please, take it as a compliment, or better yet, write another book in a few years!)
Ellen’s book is also funny (like I mentioned before, inherently funny people just can’t help it), but I was not a fan of the haphazard arrangement of content. I know what you’re thinking- memoirs don’t have to be chronological. But that’s not really the problem. The book starts out great with very typical “Ellen jokes and sarcasm”. At this point I never suspected that I was being lead right into an onslaught of over-the-top nonsensical, repetitive bad jokes! It’s towards the middle that the “random chapters” become too much to bear, even resulting in boredom. (The worst chapter is “The Longest Chapter”, which incidentally is not the longest and for which I recommend the reader should take half of Ellen’s advice and “skip ahead”, but do not return to it…you won’t be missing anything!)   
Overall, Fey comes across as the great storyteller she is and sticks to the first-person point-of-view (POV), which is expected for an autobiographical sketch. Meanwhile, Ellen takes a stab at involving the reader more and, in my opinion, makes a mess by alternating the first- and second-person POVs. She basically seems to be trying too hard to be her usual random, hilarious self and “talk” through the book as if it’s just another episode of her show. Unfortunately, this is a failed attempt!  
What I found most ironic was that I expected to like Ellen’s book more because she was someone who I had watched frequently, but ended up reading Bossypants twice. I wasn’t really familiar with Fey’s work and admittedly picked up the book because I’m attracted to memoirs and needed a laugh (hence choosing a book by a comedian). Nevertheless, I’m glad to have read both books by these inspiring women. So if you feel you are in need of anything between a twitter and a horselaugh (no these are not social networking sites), I highly recommend these hilarious, tear-jerking-in-a-good-way books!
Note: I am a firm believer of “listening to audiobooks is cheating and not reading”, but these are the exception to this thumb rule. They are simply funnier in the authors’ voices (I listened to Bossypants after my first read when I acquired the audio version). Alternatively, you can read them in your mind in the respective author’s voice (I did this for Ellen’s book without initially even realizing it).


Seriously…I’m Kidding:

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