The debut book from the Emmy-nominated actress.
It’s clear within the first chapter of actress Kemper’s memoir that the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star is still playing a character. Her role in the text is that of clever, albeit controlling, comedy writer disguised as the girl next door. Strategically revealing only what she wants the reader to see, the Princeton graduate’s English degree—and her experience as a writer for the Onion—is on full display. The author begins by portraying herself as a precocious child, with a rambling chapter about her obsession with her second-grade student teacher, a Russian woman named Ms. Romanoff. “I hung on every word that came out of her mouth; her voice sounded how my Eggo syrup tasted,” she writes. From there, Kemper picks and chooses choice anecdotes to describe her life, from feckless Ivy League field hockey player to improv workaholic to unsuccessful Saturday Night Live auditioner to cast member on the American version of The Office. What she doesn’t include is the typical celebrity tell-all. For the author, the hero’s struggle is more Anne Shirley than Lisbeth Salander. Imagining what she will tell her children about her obsession with SoulCycle, she writes, “son, there was a time in my life…when I agreed to pay money to take a bicycle-riding class in a studio lit by candles and filled with songs of Coldplay, Pitbull, and E.S. Posthumus.” Everything here is played for laughs, and some setups work better than others. When Kemper sticks the landing, the results are uproarious, as in her encounter with Office creator and star Ricky Gervais, who somehow misunderstood Kemper as saying she played him on the American version of the show.
A little Lucille Ball, a little bit Tracy Flick, Kemper proves that good comedy starts with good writing. It's no Bossypants, but it’s an entertaining celebrity memoir.