I didn't think Tina Fey's "Confessions Of A Juggler" in last week's New Yorker was funny. I thought it was a scream. In both senses of the word.
If you haven't seen it, here's a link to the summary. You can only read Fey in full if you subscribe to the weekly magazine, which validates my quarter-of-a-century (or so) subscription. (No wonder I have so many magazines piled up!) If you don't want to pay up, you can still check out some of the best quotes.
But read it if you can. I'll admit that the piece rambled a bit, and that Fey came off as slightly self-absorbed. But in a good, self-deprecating, way. (Sort of an anti-that other working mom, Gwyneth Paltrow, way.) After all, the raw material of your own life is a major component of comedy. (Of course, sometimes you get to mock other people, too. Click here and here for Fey's Sarah Palin classics.)
And Fey, who struggles in the essay with the unhappy realization that her "last five minutes of being famous is timing out to be simultaneous with [her] last five minutes of being able to have a baby," has a lot of material to mine. Like, large, rich, Manhattan families with kids "named after kings and pieces of fruit" (perhaps Paltrow's daughter, Apple?) and $150,000 elementary school tuition bills. Stress-induced canker sores. Network execs and "sexual adjudication" (think, casting couch). Childhood rum-fused birthday cakes. And "My Working Mom," a kids' book that features a harried hag -- a witch! -- as the working mother. Really!
(The depiction/absence of working moms in children's books could, no, will, be the subject of a whole other post. In the meantime, check out this interesting post-Fey interview with the book's author.)
It's incisive, cutting, and funny stuff. And it's also sobering and serious.
Fey's great at making us laugh but there's a lot more than giggles going on here. She's facing some hard deadlines on a potential second baby project ("Thirty-five turned into forty faster than McDonald's food turns into cold non-food.") and some harder attitudes from an industry that isn't kind to aging women ("Hollywood be damned. I'll just be unemployable and labelled crazy in five years, anyway").
In a section of her essay that seems more of a policy piece than a humorous "confession," Fey contests the "crazy" woman comedian stereotype. She also writes about the choices she's confronting in her work-family calculus:
It seems to me the fastest remedy for this "women are crazy" situation is for more women to become producers and hire diverse women of various ages. That is why I feel obligated to stay in the business and try hard to get to a place where I can create opportunities for others, and that's why I can't possibly take time off for a second baby, unless I do, in which case that is nobody's business and I'll never regret it for a moment unless in ruins my life.
Wow! I know it's none of my business, but I am hoping Fey does both - have a second child and take on the entertainment business - despite her anxieties and ambivalence. Whatever she decides, though, I am looking forward to hearing more from the amusing, arresting, juggling, Fey.
Photo by Gage Skidmore on Wikimedia.org pursuant to the Wikimedia creative commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.