Fur flies in Kemper’s ‘Squirrel Days’
Kemper knows exactly how people perceive her, and she uses that naïve, wide-eyed, perky image to comedic advantage in her new memoir “My Squirrel Days” (Scribner, 240 pp., Kemper, 38, is hilariously self-deprecating while maintaining a refreshingly entertaining and positive outlook throughout the book. It’s a breezy read that has laugh-out-loud moments thanks in part to her nonchalantly sarcastic commentary. She opens up about her various (and often embarrassing) encounters with celebrities, her lead role on the Netflix series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and, of course, her “squirrel days.” Here are five things we learned (and laughed at) while reading her new book:
1. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” had a different original title.
Fans of “Kimmy Schmidt” might have been calling it “Tooken” had the network not nixed the show’s original working title. Kemper saves “Kimmy” until the final chapter, but it’s worth the wait. For those unsure where Kemper ends and her character Kimmy Schmidt begins, just know that Kemper is not a fan of Kimmy’s hot-pink pants.
2. What exactly are “Squirrel Days,” anyway?
When she was in middle school, Kemper wanted to be Sigourney Weaver from “Gorillas in the Mist” and immediately “start communing with nature.” She tries to befriend an overweight squirrel she names Natalie as a way to get acquainted with the wild. When Natalie disappears, Kemper climbs a thick vine to search for the missing squirrel, which promptly snaps and causes her to fall into the creek. It’s not until Natalie reappears and “laughs” that Kemper realizes it’s “every squirrel for herself.”
3. She sort of made Doris Kearns Goodwin fall in public.
Girl meets literary hero. Girl tries to hug literary hero. In a chapter “Gossip,” Kemper spills anecdotes about her encounters with famous people. Her expeEllie rience with author Doris Kearns Goodwin is an embarrassing fan moment. “I leaned in, enthusiastically, to hug her. Unfortunately, the legendary biographer had begun to turn by then, and the weight of my fan-girl body on her delicate, petite frame pulled her, forcefully and unwittingly, to the ground . ... I finally decided the most selfless thing I could do in that moment was simply run away from the situation entirely, and so I did.”
4. “The Office” secrets revealed.
It turns out, the bagels on the set of the show were only for Steve Carell to touch. Kemper, chronicling her time as No. 18 on the call sheet as receptionist Kelly Erin Hannon, found that everyone but Carell had to use tongs while procuring their bagels (she never saw Carell eat one). She talks about working with Bryan Cranston on “The Office” and being mad at him for his portrayal of Walter White on “Breaking Bad.”
5. When she went full Method in “Bridesmaids.”
Kemper details how she became her character Becca in “Bridesmaids,” from her borderline-crazy chipper attitude at the craft services table to offering assistance to help the maid of honor in a wedding she was attending as a real-life bridesmaid. (In reality, Kemper goes out of her way to avoid helping with event planning.) Becca, she writes, “had taken over my body... (her) sunniness was irrepressible, and my zest for life knew no limits.” By chapter’s end, Kemper has reverted to Ellie at home and Becca at work, but it was touch-and-go for a moment.
Ellie Kemper, second from left, was a bridesmaid, Becca, in 2011’s “Bridesmaids.”
Kemper starred as Kelly in NBC’s “The Office.”
Kemper stars in Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”