To Review Tina Fey Memoir, NPR Hires...Janeane Garofalo

April 6th, 2011 11:07 PM

In the midst of Republicans insisting on defunding NPR, the network thumbed its nose at the GOP again on Tuesday night's All Things Considered newscast by having a book review offered by hard-left "comedian" and failed radio host Janeane Garofalo. The book she reviewed was Tina Fey's new memoir, titled Bossypants. Garofalo spent most of the review in a rut of self-pity, but this political passage popped out:

Another area of interest to me was Tina's discussion of what happened when she impersonated Sarah Palin on "SNL" and became a target of ill-founded wrath. Regrettably, it's always been easy to marshal cultural hostility toward women, especially in politics, where double standards and misogyny tend to dominate the conversation. Those are my words, not Tina's.

Was Tina Fey the victim of cultural hostility toward women? Or was she the one dishing it out?

Fey explained in the book that Palin was very nice to her on set (although she was more critical about  Fey profiting from the impression after the campaign was over.) It's hard to argue against the idea that Fey reached a new level of liberal love after the impression and won the Mark Twain Prize for Comedy with all the same kind of premature politicized judgment that "earned" Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. Fey concludes in the book:

"Some may argue that exploiting Governor Palin and her family helped bring attention to my low-rated TV show [30 Rock]...I am proud to say you are wrong. … My TV show still enjoys very low ratings. In fact, I think the Palin stuff may have hurt the TV show. Let's face it, between [co-star] Alec Baldwin and me there is a certain fifty percent of the population who think we are pinko Commie monsters."  

It would be unfair to pair Fey, who's trying to suggest she wants to be nice and be liked, with Baldwin, who's clearly a gutter-tongued death wisher. But let's take one more look at Garofalo and how she made most of her NPR book review about her own shortcomings:

Not sort of switching gears here for a second, I'd like to reach back to the turn of the century, specifically the 1990s. Career-wise things were going very well for me. And I was frequently ashamed by that fact, especially when I met Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Amy Sedaris.

They were always so much funnier than me, and I could only assume they were as perplexed by my success as I was. Now that we are well into the Aughts and their careers have taken off, while I spend more time NyQuil napping and loitering in bookstores, things feel more just, somehow corrected....

Her stories from the Second City theater in Chicago, "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" make it abundantly clear that Tina Fey is adept at negotiating any and all obstacles in the workplace. In short, she is everything I am not.

For example, the first female head writer at "SNL," Emmy Award-winner, Writers Guild award-winner, the recipient of the Kennedy Center Annual Mark Twain Prize for American humor. She has written screenplays and created "30 Rock" while I was nominated Showtime's funniest person in Rhode Island in 1985.

Where she has thrived, I have readily thrown in the towel and shown my belly in the dog park of show business only to awkwardly hobble away with bullet-riddled feet and bridges smoldering behind me.  

Some might find this routine to be humble and self-effacing in tribute to her friend Tina. Most should find it self-absorbed and whiny. Why didn't NPR's editors suggest that this is not exactly the way their regular reviewers like Alan Cheuse discuss books? People want to know if the book's good, not if the reviewer needs a psychiatrist.