Fur flies in Kem­per’s ‘Squir­rel Days’

USA TODAY International Edition - - LIFE - Anika Reed

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.”

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