This past October, two-time Emmy nominee Ellie Kemper joined the ranks of sitcom stars to pen a humorous memoir when My Squirrel Days was published.
Before Kemper starred in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on the Netflix sitcom, American audiences knew her from The Office and Bridesmaids. With her roles in NBC sitcom and the Paul Feig-directed film, it would only be a matter of time before the actress would be starring in her own sitcom. Sure enough, the Tina Fey and Robert Carlock-created sitcom came along and the rest is history.
Broken down into many chapters over 240 pages, My Squirrel Days actress takes us back to her beginnings in St. Louis, Mo. To say that there are jokes on every page would not be an understatement. There are footnotes throughout the book because let’s be honest, no book should be without footnotes.
After sharing her story of growing up with the stuffed walrus Waldo given to her by former student teacher Ms. Romanoff, Kemper delves into her stories about famous people she once encountered. This section fulfills the rule required in memoirs written by comedians or sitcom stars. Without it, Kemper’s book would be deemed as a failure and the world as we know it would end. But because the section is included, the world lives on until the next sitcom star releases their memoir. To my surprise, New York Times film critic Mahnola Dargis is mentioned in this section. There’s also the story of how Ellie Kemper accidentally fell onto author Doris Kearns Goodwin at a party. One for the history books!
Things I learned about Ellie Kemper while reading this book: she played field hockey while growing up. She shares her experiences of attending Princeton even though the field hockey coach wasn’t active in her college recruitment. It’s funny how things work out. Kemper’s field hockey experiences paved the way for her to join the campus improv group, Quipfire, whose alumni also include Rob Kutner.
Kemper writes about spending the summer of 2001 in Chicago. This was no doubt an important experience for Kemper. Chicago is a “hotbed of comedy” in her words and you won’t get any disagreement from me. While taking on an advertising internship, Kemper enrolled in a Level 1 improv class at iO taught by none other than T.J. Jagodowski. Improv folks like myself know who TJ is but if you’re unfamiliar with his name, you’re probably familiar with his work on the Sonic Drive-In commercials.
As with every aspiring improv comedian, one has a choice to make after college. Do they continue with comedy or not? Kemper decided to do so but LA was off the table. Chicago may have been an option but she felt that New York offered more opportunities to book TV and commercials. This led to classes with the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB), Peoples Improv Theater (PIT), and more.
We haven’t even gotten to The Office yet. Kemper started contributing to both McSweeney’s and The Onion. There were a run of shows at the UCB and elsewhere before landing an audition in a Saturday Night Live showcase. While SNL didn’t happen, Kemper would get the opportunity to meet with The Office‘s Greg Daniels and Mike Schur. That’s not to say that she doesn’t walk us through the audition process because she does. It’s a must-read for comedy fans especially those of you dying to know what goes on during the audition process. This book of course wouldn’t be complete without discussing Bridesmaids and a certain scene in the film.
There’s so much to process and take in. Kemper has a witty way of discussing some of the events in her life and gets serious when she needs to be. All in all, the book is a fun read that offers us insight into her life.
If you’re looking for the perfect comedy book for the comedy fan in your life, Ellie Kemper’s My Squirrel Days ought to merit consideration.
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