After reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Neil Patrick Harris’s Choose Your Own Autobiography almost a year ago, I decided that reading books written by funny, award-winning writers/actors was just as interesting, entertaining, and enjoyable as memoirs and biographies written (or co-written) by musicians and people in the music business. So when I found Amy Poehler’s Yes Please in paperback I picked it up immediately and am happy to report that it was as clever and well-written as I thought it would be. Similar to my experience reading books by Fey and NPH, I could hear Poehler talking which is my favorite kind of voice. I appreciate someone who writes as they speak but still maintains a professional, fluid, and thoughtful tone.
Although I assumed I was going to enjoy Poehler’s book because she’s hilarious, I had no idea how insightful and relatable her writing would be. It’s easy to tell the different between a memoir written by a writer and someone who relayed the information to someone else. No offense to the Steven Tylers and Axl Roses of the world and the ghost writers they hire (I have read those books and they are great and ghost writers have a tough job) but it’s not quite the same.
Rock and roll stories are fascinating and need to be told but there is a reason the covers say something like “by Steven Tyler with [insert author here]” rather than just Steven Tyler. There is no “with” on the cover of Yes Please because before she was an SNL favorite, television star, and movie star, Poehler was and always has been a writer. She clearly has not lost her touch or her honesty – in fact, her preface is called “Writing is hard” which is something I tell my CMC students on a weekly basis.
Throughout the chapters, she talks about various facets of her life including her family and upbringing, her discovery of improv, meeting her best buddies in the business (i.e. Seth Meyers, Mike Schur, Del Close, Matt Besser, Rachel Dratch, Louis CK, and of course her partner in crime Tina Fey, among many others), marrying and divorcing her husband Will Arnett, becoming a mom, hanging out with famous people, her likes and dislikes, etc. While her writing is mostly chronological, there are moments where she is able to skip around without confusing the reader. In fact, her various leaps are more like anecdotes that are meant to keep the reader on his or her toes.
Some of my favorite lines:
“Sometimes this book stays in the present, other times I try to cut myself in half and count the rings.”
“Is there a word for when you are young and pretending to have lived and loved a thousand lives?”
“I like picking fair targets. I don’t like calling babies on websites ugly or comedy that relies on humiliation.”
“I am interested in people who swim in the deep end.”
“Watching great people do what you love is a good way to start learning how to do it yourself.”
“I need to conserve the amount of real estate I let people take up in my heart and brain.”
“Do work that you are proud of with your talented friends.”
“If I have learned anything from hip-hop, it’s that there’s nothing sexy about a baby that ain’t yours.”
Poehler has the ability to call herself out in a way that is genuine and introspective rather than self-deprecating. She will talk about hosting the Golden Globes and her trip to Haiti in the same sentence without it sounding like a way to tell her readers about her various triumphs. I also like that she makes several random references to Prince and Purple Rain. Her final anecdote about every book needing an angel and publicly thanking her angel is fantastic. If there was any question before reading this book that Amy Poehler was a real person I would want to hang out with (there wasn’t), that last anecdote solidified my opinion.
If you like reading, enjoy smart writing, and appreciate witty humor, pick up Yes Please. My bet is that you will blow through the pages at an alarmingly fast rate and enjoy Poehler’s capacity to be a relatable celebrity who is both unapologetic and compassionate. Even though I like reading about the craziness that earned Motley Crue and Van Halen headlines and number one albums, it’s refreshing to take in words written by someone who doesn’t have major demons to conquer but still has exciting experiences to talk about and cheerful wisdom to pass on.
Thank you Ms. Poehler for your insight, unconventional yet charismatic writing, and your ability to be thought-provoking while describing a Hollywood party you attended where you listened to the founder of the Worldwide Orphans Foundation speak, watched Bill Clinton introduce Maya Angelou, and then said to yourself, “What the fuck am I doing here?” There is no question that you earned that #1 New York Times bestseller designation.