I love Amy Poehler. I think her Kaitlin character from Saturday Night Live is hilarious; her Smart Girls website is phenomenal in supporting and encouraging girls to be confident, curious, and themselves; and Parks and Recreation is one of the best things on TV. In fact, Michel says that I sometimes remind him of Amy’s character on Parks and Rec, Leslie Knope. That’s a compliment…most of the time.
I was really excited for Amy’s memoir-so-far to come out. Tina Fey’s Bossypants was brilliant, and reading Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? made it clear that we would have been friends in school. I fully expected Amy’s book to be just as funny, entertaining, heartfelt, and great. And it was, mostly.
In an homage to Amy and to quote Donna from Parks and Rec, the rest of this review shall be in the form of a “listicle.”
Why I Liked Yes Please
1. Amy Says What We’re All Thinking: It’s Hard to Write
Amy introduces her book with a glorious meditation on how hard and sometimes not fun it can be to write. THANK YOU! I love writing. But I only want to write what I want to write, how I want to write it. This lead to several minor conflicts with professors in grad school and a careful and very in-depth thesis advisor selection process so that I could write the kind of thesis I wanted to (something that many of my wonderful and brilliant but decidedly old school professors found to be too modern and casual for academic success). Add hard deadlines to that, and writing became a bit less fun for a while and a bit more like trying to pick up a child who has melted away their bones just to defy you. And Amy acknowledges that right off the bat. This is someone who makes her career as a writer. Yes, she acts and improvises and is generally awesome, but she is first and foremost a writer. And sometimes, she says, writing is hard and boring and stressful and not at all fun. But sometimes it is none of those things, which is what makes pushing through the frustration worth it. So thank you, Amy, for saying it bluntly.
2. Amy Write in Whatever Way She Wants
Amy writes normal chapters. Amy writes listicles (a list article recently made popular by websites like Cracked and Buzzfeed in the last few years). Amy has other people write for her (her mom, her dad, Seth Meyers. I love you, Seth Meyers.) Amy has other people annotate her normal chapters (Mike Schur). Amy’s not afraid to write exactly what she thinks in the way that is most appropriate for those thoughts. It’s refreshing, entertaining, and real.
3. Yes Please Is Hilarious and Heartbreaking and Honest
Amy is funny. You know this if you’ve ever watched 3 seconds of her performances or anything already linked in this review. But she’s also a real person who has lives the ups and downs of life. She fully acknowledges her secure childhood and generally happy life but doesn’t shy away from the hard moments, weeks, or years. What I appreciate, though, is that she doesn’t turn things like her divorce into a nasty, messy, Hollywood tabloid tell-all. Rather, she behaves like an adult, focusing on how divorce feels and the processes of grief and moving forward, keeping the nitty-gritties of her own specific experience private. In doing so, she hits on a topic that her fans in our perhaps unhealthily celebrity-obsessed society probably want to know about while protecting her family’s and ex-husband’s privacy, demonstrating the ability to cultivate a positive co-parenting relationship, and setting an example for her children (and her readers) on how to handle talking about difficult life moments. This is the way she handles the discussion of all difficult moments in her life, including a particularly painful experience where she takes responsibility for and seeks to make amends years later for an offensive SNL skit. She’s not afraid to take responsibility for her mistakes or reveal her short comings, especially if it promotes the positive message or good work of others. In short, a class act.
4. It Shares A Lot About “The Biz”
You know, The Biz. Hollywood. The Film and Television Industry. I think that stuff is cool. I always try to buy the DVDs or BluRays with the most “behind-the-scenes” stuff about how the film was made. And there’s a lot of that in this book. Want to know about what the process of getting a sketch to air on SNL is? It’s in the book. Want to know what the business-side stresses of working on a critical but not popular hit tv show are? It’s in the book. Want to know about forming and growing an improv/comedy troupe and training program? It’s in the book. And this is because Amy herself loves “the Biz”. She’s not just a writer and performer; she likes seeing how the entire product, be it sketch comedy, movie, or TV show, is made. She thinks it’s fun and writes about it in a way that is both informative and fun. Plus Parks and Rec sounds like the best ensemble cast of all time with which to work.
5. Amy Talks Like Me
Amy is writes in monologues (obviously, it’s a memoir), but these monologues run all over the place and digress into oblivion before returning, finally 5 pages later, to her main point from the first sentence. It’s like a conversation between me and my mother. And I am thrilled to see it executed so effectively. No matter the number of topics in between, Amy always circles back to her original idea or point, even if it is hard to see how in the moment. Additionally, none of the digressions are gratuitous. It’s not stream of consciousness exactly, but reading Yes Please gives the reader a good idea of what it is like living inside Amy’s brain. And that’s pretty cool.
What I Didn’t Like About Yes Please
1. Amy Talks Like Me
Oh my gosh, I must be EXHAUSTING to talk to because it was exhausting reading this book sometimes! I apologize to all of y’all who have ever endured one of my digressions. Reading Yes Please, there were several moments where I felt a jolt of surprise when she finally circled back to her main point as I had forgotten the original idea, which is ok once or twice but starts to feel a bit disorienting after the fifth or sixth time. There were moments where the writing felt near-manic and almost out of control. It moved very quickly, even the more reflective parts, and there were times when I wanted her to just stop, take a breath, and slow down. You should still read this book because there is something quite charming and endearing about multi-page long digressions complete with a side of performance art.
2. The Pages Are Too Shiny and Thick
This may be petty, but they are. It’s like that new generation of devices that are too small to be a real tablet but too big to be a remotely useful phone. It’s a regular book sized coffee-table book with too many words. No one likes too many words in their coffee-table books. Trust me.
And thus ends my review listicle of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. Go read it. You will laugh. You might cry. You will want to hang out with Amy. You will definitely enjoy it.