Amy Poehler starts off her new book, Yes Please, with a typical tongue-in-cheek warning. She tells us “writing is hard” and that she “had no business agreeing to write this book.” She then admits this self-deprecating perspective, while genuine, might also be a ploy to lower our expectations before dazzling us with her “sneaky insights about life and work.”
It’s this spirit of playfulness and sincerity that Amy Poehler embodies for me. Ever since I became a Parks and Rec regular, and learned Poehler was the real-life (now ex) partner of the idiotic but lovable Gob Bluth, I’ve counted myself a fan. Who can resist this infectious cackle? How can anyone not love such a down-to earth star who spends her spare time empowering young women?
So on October 28th, when Yes Please was released, I echoed the title line and clicked purchase on my kindle. I cuddled up on the couch with a mug of hot coffee and waited to both laugh and cry at those before-I-made it stories, those SNL, Amy and Tina are BFFLs memories, a few quirky, semi-intimate factoids about the authoress, and some real girl-power type heart-to-hearts.
For the most part, Yes Please delivers. We get to read about how a very normal, carefree childhood led to Poehler’s flair for the dramatic and her obsession with “tragedy-porn” stories. We learn about her compulsion to snoop in others’ houses, her unexplained idolization of Judge Judy, and how she has “a great face for wigs.” Although she remains elusive on her personal experiences of divorce and post-partum depression, she spends a whole chapter describing a personal confrontation that happened after an insensitive SNL sketch. And, she’s full of smart, heartfelt advice on topics ranging from parenting to building self-esteem to sex (my favorite is the “plain girl vs. the demon chapter).
At a few points in the book, Poehler wanders back to that opening theme that writing is hard and seems to go on temporary hiatus. Seth Meyers guestwrites one of the chapters to “give Amy a break” from writing. Poehler’s mom chimes in to narrate Amy’s birth story. Some chapters feel like a laundry-list of happy incidences, with too little storytelling and too much name-dropping (like that time “I watched Robert De Niro wiggle into spandex pants as Siegfried”). These behind-the-scenes glimpses at other A-list Hollywood comics and stars are entertaining at first. This is why most of us pick up celebrity memoirs, right? But towards the end, the continual references to Poehler’s famous friends and acquaintances make the book feel vaguely like a drawn out acceptance speech.
In this way, Yes Please did not feel to me as well-crafted or personal as Tina Fey’s Bossypants or Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?. It’s stronger as a self-help book than a memoir if you take away the celebrity status card. But anyone already familiar with Poehler will find much to delight in: lots of chortles and a hearty dose of the you-can-make-it-too attitude she’s known for.
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