No one knows how hard it is to be funny than people who do it for a living, especially women.
Women who try to be funny for a living have a even harder time because they are genetically predisposed to be unfunny.
Tina Fey – a scientifically-verified female – seeks to disprove this theory in her new book, “Bossypants.”
She takes on the subject with delicious sotto voce (by which we mean subtle) humor.
“We don’t f----ing care if you like it,” she writes.
This follows a story she recounts when Amy Poehler had a similar reaction to being told that she was the wrong kind of funny. Poehler turned on Jimmy Fallon in the writer’s room of Saturday Night Live when she made a joke that was “dirty and loud and unladylike.”
Fallon told her the joke was “not cute.” Amy, writes Fey, “went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. ‘I don’t f----ing care if you like it.’ “
Poehler is another female who has heroically overcome her gender disability to be unfunny.
Fey was not only was a head writer at SNL but now runs and stars in “30 Rock.” She has some serious comedy bona fides. In her book she concludes thusly about those (men) who believe that women are inherently not funny:
“Unless one of them is my boss… it’s irrelevant. My hat goes off to them. It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don’t like something, it is empirically not good. I don’t like Chinese food, but I don’t write articles trying to prove it doesn’t exist.”
Nonetheless, Fey encountered some gender barriers when first joining the SNL writing staff, a notoriously male-centric environment (as are nearly all comedy writing rooms).
“There is an actual difference between men and women comedy writers, and I’m going to reveal it now. The men urinate in cups. And sometimes jars.”
She discovered this when she reached for a paper cup in the office of an SNL writer, and he leaped to keep it from her grasp. Later a male colleague explained that it was “just something guys did when they were too lazy to go to the bathroom.”
She found this seriously weird (as do most civilized beings, I presume), but then found a jar of piss in the Weekend Update offices.
This was how intrepid she was in facing down this culture. “If you saw the piss jar and dared to ignore it and continue into the room, you were welcomed. Welcomed is too strong a word. You were… one of the guys? Nope, you know what? The more I think about it, I’m just projecting. It couldn’t have been a test, because they really didn’t give a f--- whether you came in the room or not.”
That sounds about right.
Then she adds: “Also, they like to pretend to rape each other. It’s… Don’t worry about it. It’s harmless actually.”
Fey waxes deadpan hilarious about this and many other things - being the center of attention at photo shoots, surviving the improv boot camp, being a working mom, learning to be a boss on ’30 Rock.’ And she shares a lot of self-deprecating stories, reminding us that even though she’s a confident, smart, successful person, she has lots of dark, scary, uncertain moments.
In other words, she sounds deeply human. But funny-human.
By the way, the book is about to debut at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.