It’s here! It’s here! It’s finally here! The last task of the Book Riot 2019 Read Harder Challenge! Can you believe it? Aren’t you thrilled? I’ll finally stop mentioning it! (Mostly. Maybe.) I started this challenge close to the end of February, after the librarian that runs my library’s book discussion group mentioned it and I thought, “You know what? I can probably do that.” And after completing the task of reading a humor book, I’ve done it! I’ve had Yes Please by Amy Poehler (Dey Street Books, 2014) sitting on my shelf for probably about a year, so it was long past time to finally read this book.
Yes Please is part autobiography, part straight talk, and part peek behind the curtain of all the projects Ms. Poehler has worked on (Upright Citizen’s Brigade, Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation, etc). She recounts her childhood and college years, her move to Chicago to begin her career in comedy (which involved a lot of waitressing at first, like any good career in show business), and how she moved to New York and eventually ended up on SNL. While she doesn’t romanticize her hard work (and the financial help she received from her parents!) and some of the rodent-filled apartments she lived in before finding success as a comedian and actress, her story sounds…kind of awesome. The mid-to-late 90’s sounded like a pretty amazing time to be involved in comedy in Chicago, and I found myself wishing I could’ve been there as well, watching her grow and blossom as a performer.
There are sections of advice in here: drugs not to take, things not to do, things you definitely should do. Although she’s obviously uncomfortable doing it, Amy Poehler isn’t afraid to call herself out for mistakes she’s made in the past. A chapter titled ‘Say Whatever You Want’ discusses a time where Amy should have apologized and didn’t, not until five years had gone by. While the mistake, a fairly ugly joke made at the expense of disabled people, wasn’t entirely her fault, she admits she was wrong to do it and wrong to let her ego get in the way of not apologizing for that long. She could have just as easily left this story out instead of memorializing it for all eternity in the pages of her book, but not only does this further humanize her, it provides a great lesson for all of us: don’t let your pride get in the way of making things right. I really admire her for including this story.
I’ve never watched Parks and Recreation (although reading this made me want to!), so I had a hard time getting into the sections of the book about that, but I was a huge SNL fan during her years on the show, so it was a lot of fun to read stories of her relationship with Tina Fey and Seth Meyers. (Nothing in the book about Mean Girls, though; I would’ve loved to read about her playing Regina George’s mom!) And I remember seeing commercials on Comedy Central back in the day for the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, Amy’s improv/sketch comedy group. I never watched the show, so I hadn’t realized until reading this that Amy Poehler was part of the group. How did I miss that???
While I enjoyed this, I did find that it kind of jumped around and went back and forth in time, to the point where it was kind of jarring. There were definitely funny parts- it’s Amy Poehler, how could there not be?- but though I liked the book, I didn’t really *love* it. I did love, however, the parts where she talked about her sons, pregnancy, and motherhood. She’s very real about everything, talking about how difficult it is, how your love for your children is practically enough to rip your chest open, and how she probably had some postpartum depression after the birth of her second son. We need more of this kind of honesty from women with such huge voices, and I was glad she included these glimpses into her personal life.
Something I deeply admire Ms. Poehler for is her organization, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, which helps boost the intelligence, opportunities, and successes of and for young women. I first came across this years ago, when friends of mine liked the org’s posts on Facebook and they showed up in my feed. Holy crap, I like Amy Poehler even more, I thought, and I immediately clicked the ‘like’ button on the page. You can too– they’re also on Twitter!- and you should.
Have you read this? Are you an Amy Poehler fan? I’d love to hear your thoughts!