Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready
I will start this by saying that I have been looking forward to reading this book the second I heard it was coming out. Amy Poehler is AMAZING. She is smart and funny, and kind and resorceful and if you don’t know what I mean, check out this list of 19 pieces of sound advice she’s given at Buzzfeed, I’ll wait.
Back? Good! # 7, right? She’s so awesome!
In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book is full of words to live by.
So I devoured this book. I read it in a weekend, laughing and crying and yelling out random lines at The Boy while he tried to work from home. It was a wonderful edition to my Funny Feminists author bookshelf and even The Boy, who shies away from giving celebrties any praise, had to admit, from the lines I read outloud, that she was pretty spot on. The book itself reads like a very long conversation over coffee – with you saying, “So, Amy – tell me about yourself?” And then she just pulls out these great memories, sometimes very tangentially related to the whole of the story, from her life and just entertains you, and brings you to tears over how real and funny she is. She writes that she wants it to read as a sort of scrapbook of her life – with all the wisdom and random thoughts that she’s gained from living it. As such, there is a lot of the tangentially related stuff – but it’s never so out there that it all doesn’t make sense, and it adds to the feeling that we’re all just having a long, whirlwind conversation between friends, more than a biography.
My favourite part was between Chicago and New York (the book is split up, in some ways, between geographical places, tracked by her career and moving from place to place) where she began in improv, met Tina Fey and then moved to SNL. There’s a lot there, and it’s peppered by going forward in time and backwards reflections that root it very much in the place of being “transitional” but also very permanent in ways. Rather, you can see it as a true sort of foundation. Also, the stories around her first pregnancy are hilarious and bear reading just on their own.
It would be impossible to sum up Poehler’s book in a neat synopsis – not physically impossible, but rather it would be spiritually inadequate. There’s just so much in it that would be left out. As such, I thought I would gather a few stray thoughts I had while reading, and then again when reviewing it in my head in order to write this post, that I thought I would share:
Feminism. Amy Poehler is a feminist. I don’t think anyone can dispute that, what with her character Leslie Knope on television, her organization Smart Girls at the Party and her general comments and say-so. Her feminism isn’t quiet, but it’s not a loud declaration either – rather, it’s in everything she does. Every time she points out that society treats girls differently, or that sexism exists, she does so in ways that are natural and wonderfully normal everyday activities. Like having good female relationships and sharing them on the platform she has. Like writing strong female characters we like to watch. Like when she encourages girls to get involved, take chances and reach for the stars. She breathes her feminism, and that makes it that much more for us.
Dreams. Dreaming. She has dreams, goals – whatever, and she goes after them. And she encourages you to, too. Honestly, a huge takeaway fro me from this book was that the things I want in life are possible with enough thought and determination and gutso. She began life in a small New England township, worked her way through school, college and then waitressing while learning improv. She found something she loved and knew she didn’t want to give it up, so she didn’t. She applied herself to the task and she excelled. As she says: “Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier.”
Inspiration. Poehler is very good at giving credit where credit is due: she goes on at length about the people who have inspired her – comedy legends to her family friends, she finds inspration in all sorts of people and she hodls them up and applauds them in a way that is genuine and sometimes funny, but always sincere. She is the living breathing definition of a good friend and student, and she takes the opportunity of her book to tell all those people who helped her get to where she is now, thank you. And here’s a quote to keep that idea going: “Watching great people do what you love is a good way to start learning how to do it yourself.”
Letting Yourself Down. There are a couple of parts in the book where she admits she did something rash or thoguhtless, and is dissappointed in herself and really puts herself through the ringer. Patriculrly, there is a bit near the beginning of the book where she recounts a skit she did on SNL where she is playing Dakota Fanning, and a joke is made of a disabled girl who turns out, is a real person. Poehler then recieves a sternly worded letter admonishing her for her role and even though her intention was never to hurt anyone, Poehler goes through a guilt-ridden existential crisis that was both painful and liberating to read. I won’t spoilt it, I honestly think it is worth reading, if only for the tears, and at the end you think – my gawd, I have done the same things! But I, too, can do better! It really is a study in how uncomfortable you can be with your own politics – how far you can go, when going any farther means potentially admitting to yourself that you screwed up. Worse, that you were mean. Given the humour nd levity of the rest of the book, this bit really does stand out as note worthy and cringe-inducing – not because it’s awful, but because it’s painful (in a good way), poking at your own scabs while revealing hers.
Optimism. Poehler has it. The one thing that really shines through the book is her optimism – she’s generally a sunny person, which I suppose makes sense for someone in comedy. She tends to look on the bright side of things and she is generally endearing in her earnestness. I keep thinking of her role as the cool mom on Mean Girls – even when she plays at being terrible, there’s just something so endearing about her. Anyway, the book is rife with times when Poehler could have been defeated or just wiped out, but instead of wallowing, she got busy, she made changes in her life, and she moved forward. I think the ability to move forward is the trademark of an optimist – because you always tell yourself, this is a good place, and I wouldn’t have gotten here if not for the bad stuff, so it’s good the bad stuff happened. Also, it’s addictive.
In sum, Poehler already had my undying support due to countless interviews, soundbits and Parks and Recreation, as well as my laughs. Now, after reading this book, she also has my respect. This woman is exactly what I want to be when I grow up – in spirit if not in practice, as I don’t think I’d be any good at sketch comedy – someone who respects those around her, does not get pushed around, goes after what she wants, and loves to the fullest. Also, who makes people laugh – I feel like that is an important trait to have.
Go and read this – it is well written, entertaining (the pictures alone!) and poignant. Even the Boy wants to read it, and he doesn’t take to any books outside of the hard Sci Fi genre very often. So go buy it – read it and let me know what you think! It’s a great gift for the holidays too! For every feminist in your life who likes a good laugh.
Also, this line, because I have totally thought this at some point: “I recently hurt myself on a treadmill and it wasn’t even on. I was adjusting my speed and stepped wrong and twisted my ankle. I felt a moment of frustration filled with immediate relief. I didn’t have to actually work out, but I still got credit for trying. It was a gym snow day.”