Arts and Entertainment

Female comedian autobiographies

Staffer Celia Hack reviews the newest trend: autobiographies by female comedians.
<a href="" target="_self">Celia Hack</a>

Celia Hack

August 26, 2016

Over the past year or so, as I’ve grown to love female comedians, they’ve grown to love writing memoirs. Lucky for me, huh?

These role models are writing about their own (amazing) lives, so the books let me dream about living them. However, not all memoirs were created equal. I’ve read four recently, and it’s truly unfortunate that I can’t say I love all of them. With that, here’s the latest four female comedian’s memoirs in order of best to worst.

  1. “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)” – Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling cracks me up. Maybe it’s because I know and love the show she helped write, “The Office”. Maybe it’s her obsession with food and boys that I can relate to. She’s a 36-year-old Indian-American comedian that lives in Hollywood, though, so I can’t compare my life to hers very easily. But it doesn’t matter – I can still relate to her. It doesn’t matter whether she’s talking about acting with Will Ferrell or her learning to love her parents; any reader can understand her point of view. For example, Kaling discusses her time as a writer on “The Office” extensively in the book. One’s typical job is not to write for an emmy-nominated TV show, but Kaling writes it as if it’s any other job. Any person who has sat in a desk, worked an office job or, honestly, just tried to communicate with people who frustrate them, can understand.

Kaling’s book doesn’t have a strong story line. It flips between short stories from her life and short lists – Kaling describes it as a “pliest, which is a piece with a list-y quality” – but the book generally follows her life from childhood until 2011, when it was published. The lists, which are interspersed throughout the book, and include things such as “Best Friend Rights and Responsibilities” and “Types of Women in Romantic Comedies Who Are Not Real,” keep the reader interested.

I’ve read this book four times, and it’s the best. The jokes still have not gotten old. If you don’t read this, it’s on you. Because you’re seriously missing out.

Favorite line – Kaling describes the “level of fame” she wants, and her requirements include that “teenagers idolize my ‘look,’” “the fashion police slaughter me, constantly, and I don’t care,” “batshit stuff I wear is immediately considered fashionable” and “I can never go to jail.”

  1. “Why Not Me?” – Mindy Kaling

Yes, Kaling is queen. Her second book, which came out September 2015, is second on my list for its quick wit and entertainment value. “Why Not Me?” shares Kaling’s journey to becoming the writer and star in her own TV show, “The Mindy Project”. It has the same “pliest”- type quality as her first book, which, again, keeps the reader from getting bored.

In her second masterpiece, Kaling makes a considerably stronger effort to showcase her body positivity. She touched on the subject in her first book, but in this one she writes it in a way that’s aimed at her teenage followers looking for advice.

She writes, “Even though I wish I could be thin, and that I could have the ease of lifestyle that I associate with being thin, I don’t wish for it with all my heart. Because my heart is reserved for more important things.”

When Kaling writes about this, she never comes off as bland, repetitive or selling something she isn’t. She’s honest and funny about things, like her weight, that many people would be too scared or sensitive to discuss.

The only reason that Kaling’s second book came after her first was that it didn’t have parts about “The Office” like her first book did. I’m an unapologetic fan of that show, so I was more than a little disappointed that I didn’t get more “Office” details. I didn’t get enough in the first book.

Favorite Line – Kaling was asked to give a speech at the Harvard Law School in 2014, and she transcribed the speech in her book. She says to the newly graduated lawyers, “You will defend BP from birds. You will spend hours arguing that the well water was contaminated before the fracking occured.”

  1. “Bossypants” – Tina Fey

Okay, I loved this book. How can someone talk about her work at a dreary YMCA for a solid 14 pages and still make it funny? But I knew I could have loved it a little bit more if I had been understood all the cultural references that Tina Fey, former “SNL” star and writer of the TV show “30 Rock”, threw in, from a time apparently before mine. I guess I’m a little too young to get every joke. When she referenced Lorne Michaels, Cheryl Tiegs and Christie Brinkley within the first 25 pages, all supposedly famous people who I still do not know, I knew I would struggle to keep up with the references.

My other problem was my lack of working knowledge about “30 Rock”, Fey’s TV show. A lot of the story line/memoir material stemmed from the show, and how Fey got to be on the show. However, she split up parts like this with side stories, with stories like how the cruise she was on for her honeymoon caught on fire. Situations only Fey would get into.

Favorite Line – Fey gives fashion “advice” to any young girls reading her book. Her tip? “Oversize t-shirts, bike shorts, and wrestling shoes. To prevent the silhouette from being too baggy, I would cinch it at the waist with a fanny pack. The shirts allowed me to express myself with cool sayings like ‘There’s No Crying in Baseball’ and ‘Universitat Heidelberg,’ the bike shorts showed off my muscular legs, and the fanny pack held all my trolley tokens.”

  1. “Yes Please” – Amy Poehler

I’d like to preface this by saying I love Amy Poehler. Her acting on “Parks & Rec” just kills me, and the character Leslie Knope is surprisingly inspiring for a sit-com. Her Hillary Clinton sketch with Sarah Palin on “SNL” makes me laugh so hard that I cry.

So I was more than a little disappointed at her book, which turned out to be not all that funny, but full of generic, inspirational advice. Poehler prefaces the book with a short blurb about writing the book, in which she says “You just dig in and write it. You use your body. You lean over the computer and stretch and pace…You put your hand on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true…” and that continues (for longer than I was happy with).

Because, Poehler, I really don’t care about that. I picked up your book expecting a quick, snappy memoir filled with sass and embarrassing stories about your childhood. And I get paragraphs upon paragraphs about how to write a book? I don’t want to write a book. I want to read a book.

Most of the book is filled with semi-clichéd advice about growing old, having kids and getting a divorce. I may not have been the right age for this one either. Its saving grace, however, was the section Poehler wrote about “Parks & Rec.” While it wasn’t exactly funny, it was so entertaining to me to be able to read Poehler’s thoughts (of all kinds) on her cast members who I have obsessed over for so long.

Favorite Line – Poehler describes Nick Offerman, who plays the disagreeable, mustachioed  Ron Swanson in “Parks & Rec,” as “incredibly professional but also giggly.”

Photo by Audrey Kesler

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