Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Funny Girl

I do not want to be Tina Fey’s best friend.

I say this, of course, to distinguish myself from the millions of my peers who do, because I feel sort of sorry for Ms. Fey, having to live with the constant awareness that legions of college-educated women of Generation X see her not only as an admirable figure, but also an approachable gal who they’d get along so well with if only given the chance. I’m sure she has plenty of perfectly lovely friends and isn’t casting about for sidekicks.

And of course, by so separating myself with my considerable reasonableness, I’m hoping that she’ll PICK ME! PICK ME!

Sigh. Crap.

I just finished reading Fey’s first book, Bossypants, and I can’t help that it left me feeling even more uncomfortably close to the writer/actor/producer/mom than I already did. The solid family life, the tales of geekdom, the social salvation through high school theater, the awkward college years … it all struck an off-pitch chord.

But then her story became like a fan-fiction version of my life, where instead of taking the desk job to pay off student loans after college, she slogged away at the Evanston YMCA (three blocks from where I was racking up that student loan debt) to pay for classes at Second City. I spent high school and college going to improv and sketch comedy shows, and despite a natural draw and fascination, I never took the next step. I thought it wasn’t my world. But then I come to find out through Tina Fey that female comedy writers are, by and large, good girls from good families who went to good schools. Three for three, people. Why didn’t my academic advisor ever tell me that?!

With just a little clearer knowledge, I may have made that leap. I just needed a little security. Between safety and adventure, I tend to choose safety.

Which is the exact opposite tack of Craig Ferguson, whose memoir, American On Purpose, I polished off shortly after finishing Bossypants. Unlike Fey’s autobiography, it’s a story filled with dramatic dives into self-destruction. The clean-and-sober actor/writer/talk show host/novelist that I’ve known and loved since he replaced Smarmy McFratterson on The Late Late Show has a long, messy trail behind him, littered with booze and drunks and overly forgiving women.

I knew from his surprisingly poignant Britney Spears monologue and other frequent references that he was in recovery, but it’s still a little startling to take a close look at what any addict is recovering from. As Tina Fey says, most male comedians are filled with an urge to break rules, and Ferguson follows that bumpy path – dropping out of school, touring with punk bands, hanging out with Emma Thompson (that skank).

A little part of me has long held on to the idea that my (as-yet-unhired) press agent would have an in with Ferguson’s people, and they’d have me on the show to discuss my (as-yet-unwritten) hit novel. And of course the interview would go so well that we’d decide to talk more after the show, when we’d get drinks at the Brown Derby and discuss Fitzgerald’s prescience about the dehumanization of modern America and the genius of Bill Hicks, and one thing would lead to another and yada yada yada, we’d be collaborating on an HBO pilot.

But now that I’ve read the book, I’m not so sure we’re suited to work together. Drinking or not, there’s a dark, driven, slightly dangerous side to Ferguson that I’m not sure would complement my Nervous Nelly tendencies. Perhaps it would be best if we just stuck to the interview. And maybe three or four casual dinner parties throughout the year.

And if Tina Fey wants to stop by, hey, that’s cool.


  1. I just don't get your grudge against Kilborn. He's just a smartass white dude who was raised in MN. That's who you like! He's not a spazzy dork like that irritating Scottish guy, but he's not fratty!

  2. ESPN anchor = fratty, plus he was a jerk to Lizz Winstead.