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Title & Author: Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Genre: Humor, Memoirs
Yes Please is part memoir, part life advice book (some serious and some silly). I didn’t find it as laugh-out-loud funny as Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls (or Bossypants by Tina Fey, to which it’s more similar in style) and the advice wasn’t as…advice-y?…as Tiny Beautiful Things, but it was very fun account by an actress I admire. Amy Poehler, for anyone who’s not familiar, is an actress/comedian who has appeared in numerous movies and television shows: Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation, Baby Mama, Blades of Glory…the list goes on.
When did I first discover Amy Poehler? Probably late in the game, after she had joined Saturday Night Live. I don’t have a memory of first seeing her on the show and thinking, “This lady has my kind of humor!” but it would probably have been during a Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” sketch. [The Tina Fey/Amy Poehler years, and subsequent Poehler/Seth Meyer years, were my favorites for “Weekend Update”.]
A lot of Yes Please covers Poehler’s early years getting into comedy. I had no idea that she’s from Massachusetts because she has that “I’m from Nowhere, America” accent down so well. I also didn’t know that she was in Upright Citizens Brigade, which is a comedy group that originated out of the ImprovOlympic (iO) Theatre in Chicago and had a TV series on Comedy Central in the late 1990s. [I never watched it because it sounded like some kind of activist group, though I’ve heard and seen a lot of its members since then.] She writes about her time working on Saturday Night Live and eventually moving to Parks and Recreation.
Yes Please is interesting in that it’s written by a comedian but the purpose isn’t to be hilarious (though it is often funny) or to talk about the inner-workings of the comedy world. Poehler’s also too classy to divulge secrets about her marriage to – or divorce from – Will Arnett. She shares a bit about her personal life but not enough that you feel like you’re now best friends. [Which is good because you haven’t really met her, crazy!] The purpose of the book is more self-help, in my opinion: Poehler wants to remind you that, in a world where going along with the group is often rewarded, it’s great to be unique. She’s here to tell you that you need to find what you stand for, discover your own voice and speak up! She reminds you (or tells you for the first time in case you grew up in the wild) how to be a kind person, a great friend, and a good citizen of the world in general. There are a lot of morals in this book, delivered in a light, funny manner.
One of the most amazing moments in the book, for me, occurred pretty early. Amy Poehler, one of my comedic heroes, wrote a haiku about plastic surgery! It’s not like I think I invented haiku or even write haiku incredibly well, but it makes me think we are kindred spirits or something. Her haiku is funnier than most of mine, but still… (She also wrote an acrostic poem for Tina Fey, another of my comedic heroes, but I don’t think I’ll branch out to acrostics.)
Some of my favorite nuggets of wisdom from the book include:
- “Good for her! Not for me. This is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again.” – I’m working on incorporating both “good for her/him/them/it, not for me” and “yes, please” into my vocabulary. They’re just good phrases to have on hand for a number of situations.
- “It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for.” – This is so true that it hurts! I spend a lot of time saying “sorry” – it’s somehow turned into a kind of filler word in my business lexicon, my own personal “um…”. I will say “sorry” for all kinds of things, most of which aren’t things I need to apologize for at all. [I also say “sorry” for things I am apologetic for – I’m not a completely heartless jerk!]
- “My friend Louis CK likes to say that ‘guilt is an intersection.’ Getting out of it means making a choice and moving forward.” – This is why Louis CK is the best!
- “‘Mama, do you want to know something funny about me? I am afraid of little things but not afraid of big things.’ I think he was talking about bugs and elephants, but I understood what he meant in a very deep way.” – Unlike my friend Kevin, I don’t have megalophobia (fear of large objects), nor do I really fear big life events. The small, stupid things unnerve me. Being in a large crowd [though I was trampled in seventh grade so it’s kind of understandable], giving an unrehearsed speech in front of my amazing and supportive coworkers, or going to the dentist make me incredibly anxious. Moving across the country without a plan? That’s an adventure!
- “You will never climb Career Mountain and get to the top and shout, ‘I made it!’ You will rarely feel done or complete or even successful.” – While this might sound like a bummer quote, I find it true for me. I spend a lot of time thinking how I haven’t done enough. I just have to stop and look behind me at all the things accomplished in my wake.
Though Yes Please could be read at any time, all the wisdom and advice contained within made it an excellent end-of-the-year read. The end of the year (or the start of a new year) is a great time for reflection and getting your sh*t together. The book also shows just how much hard work, time and dedication – not to mention talent – it takes to become successful. Poehler graduated from college in 1993 and promptly went to Chicago to study improv; in 1996 she moved to New York to be part of the Upright Citizens Brigade. It wasn’t until 2001 that she was cast in Saturday Night Live; Parks and Recreation started in 2009, a full 16 years after she graduated college. By that math, I still haven’t hit my full stride!
Verdict: I had a pretty good hunch that I would enjoy this book and, as with most things, I was right! That said, it wasn’t at all what I anticipated. I was expecting an Amy Poehler-style Bossypants and it certainly wasn’t that. It was more introspective and delivered a lot of wisdom in a lighthearted manner.
Recommended for: fans of Poehler’s work on Parks & Recreation, Saturday Night Live, her many movies, or the Smart Girls at the Party webseries/website.
Price: $12.99 (Kindle), $13.59 (paperback) or $14.50 (hardcover) on Amazon