Friday, November 7, 2014

Nonfiction: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Like every other fan of Amy Poehler, I was ridiculously excited when I found out she was coming out with her new book, Yes Please. My reaction was a mixture of raising my fist in the air Homer Simpson-style and yelling "Woo-Hoo," and sighing with a strange sense of relief and thinking "well it's about time." Seriously, there was just way too much time between Tina Fey's Bossypants and this book.

Genre, Themes, History: This is of course a nonfiction book that could probably be best categorized as a memoir since Poehler is only 42 and therefore, at least in my mind, far too young to write an autobiography. Poehler talks about her childhood in the northeast; how she fell in love with improv and with comedy in general; the rough beginnings that would eventually lead to the Upright Citizens Brigade, Saturday Night Live, and of course, Parks & Recreation; and everything in between such as the her family, the people (famous and not famous) that she met along the way, her friendship with Tina Fey, and her eventual motherhood. She even touches a little bit on her divorce from fellow actor Will Arnett. If there were one general theme I could take away from this book it would be that we have to work hard for the things we want. Yes she is the famous and funny and beautiful and talented Amy Poehler, but she wasn't just goofing off in a coffee shop somewhere and Lorne Michaels walked in and decided he had to have her for a little show he puts together (she pretty much gives this exact example as something that pretty much never happens). It was a long and tough road for Poehler. And fortunately for us she doesn't mind telling us about it.

My Verdict: Yes Please is just as funny, inappropriate, irreverent, enlightening, and honest as Poehler fans would expect it to. At it's simplest, it is like a dirtier version of Tina Fey's Bossypants. But it goes beyond just being a fun memoir by one of the funniest people alive today. The book is funny all the way through, but also manages to be serious where it needs to be, but without ever taking itself too seriously. One of the first things Poehler mentions is how hard it was for her to write the book, and how those who romanticize the act of writing are lying to us. She's up front about her faults, but also confident in the things she does like about herself, and is okay with letting people know what they can do with themselves if they don't agree with her. She talks about the people she knows readers want to hear about (like Tina Fey and Nick Offerman), and gives some anecdotes about the shows through which many of us have come to love her (like SNL and Parks & Recreation). She talks about sitting in George Clooney's lap, what is was like standing next to Hilary Clinton while dressed as Hilary Clinton, and what it was like being pregnant while working on SNL. In short, the book is funny and honest. And really, that is exactly what we should expect from a memoir like this.

Favorite Moment: When she goes through her Parks & Recreation co-stars one by one and discusses them in detail. It's always fun to learn more about the guy who plays Ron Swanson.

Favorite Quotes: 

On writing: "Everyone lies about writing. They lie about how easy it is or how hard it was. They perpetuate a romantic idea that writing is some beautiful experience that takes place in an architectural room filled with leather novels and chai tea...No one tells the truth about writing a book...The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not."

On change: "Your ability to navigate and tolerate change and its painful uncomfortableness directly correlates to your happiness and general well-being. See what I just did there? I saved you thousands of dollars on self-help books."

On believing in people: "The only way we will survive is by being kind. The only way we can get by in this world is through the help we receive from others."

Recommended Reading: This should be obvious, but I'll say it anyway: Bossypants by Tina Fey.     

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