Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Do Your Thing and Don't Care if They Like It"

As you can probably tell (I don't know how), I love Tina Fey. Sometimes, when I'm feeling particularly improv-crazy, I pick up her book and read a chapter so that I can take a deep breath and realize that I'm not the only person who feels that way. I should also note that since it came out in April, I have had two copies of Bossypants because my dear friend Kelly ripped one up in her sleep. That's right. RIPPED IT UP. (I'm not mad, I think it's hilarious.)

I'd like to share this chapter titled "I Don't Care If You Like It (One in a series of love letters to Amy Poehler)." It's so great and wonderful. Not only do I love this chapter because it proves a really good point and paints a good example of how women in comedy should approach their comedy. It's also really great to see such a smart and hilarious performer praise and idolize another woman! So many wonderful things about this book. Read it, idiots.

I dedicate this excerpt to Kelly. Because she's my Amy Poehler! And... she cannot rip up this blog post in her sleep! I also want to let her know that she doesn't have to be appropriate all the time, and if anyone gives her shit... who fucking cares if they like it!

Amy Poehler was new to SNL and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers’ room, waiting for the Wednesday read-through to start. There were always a lot of noisy “comedy bits” going on in that room. Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and “unladylike.”

Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it.”

Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit. (I should make it clear that Jimmy and Amy are very good friends and there was never any real beef between them. Insert penis joke here.)

With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.

I was so happy. Weirdly, I remember thinking, “My friend is here! My friend is here!” Even though things had been going great for me at the show, with Amy there, I felt less alone.

I think of this whenever someone says to me, “Jerry Lewis says women aren’t funny.” or “Christopher Hitchens says women aren’t funny,” or “Rick Fenderman says women aren’t funny.... Do you have anything to say to that?”

Yes. We don’t fucking care if you like it.

I don’t say it out loud, of course, because Jerry Lewis is a great philanthropist, Hitchens is very sick, and the third guy I made up.

Unless one of these men is my boss, which none of them is, 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.

So my unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.

If the answer is yes, you have a more difficult road ahead of you. I suggest you model your strategy after the old Sesame Street film piece “Over! Under! Through!” (If you’re under forty, you might not remember this film. It taught the concepts of “over,” “under,” and “through” by filming toddlers crawling around in an abandoned construction site. They don’t show it anymore because someone has since realized that’s nuts.)

If your boss is a jerk, try to find someone above or around your boss who is not a jerk. If you’re lucky, your workplace will have a neutral proving ground - like the rifle range or the car sales total board or the SNL read-through. If so, focus on that.

Again, don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions. Go “Over! Under! Through!” and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares?

Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.

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