Amy Poehler on Life, Comedy, & Humping Justin Timberlake

28 Oct

2D274905957270-YesPlease.blocks_desktop_mediumI generally try not to review two lady memoirs in a row (for variety’s sake, if not to avoid alienating my strong contingent of ultramasculine readers) but when an advance copy of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please falls into one’s lap, one does not let opportunity pass them by. One does spend all of Sunday eating mozzarella sticks in bed while laugh/cry/nodding at Poehler’s engaging, insightful and overall A+ addition to the Lady Library, whose other contributors (Fey, Kaling, SilvermanGriffin, Dunham) have graced Sorry Television in the past. One does, after spilling marinara sauce on one’s pillow and accidentally eating a mozzarella stick the cat licked, ruminate on whether one is in fact living her life to the fullest—engaging in behavior likely to engender the sort of chance encounters, dedicated friendships and hard-won professional achievements Poehler documents in her book. One does, briefly, regret not having been a teenager in the 80s, for the #tbt photo possibilities alone. One does, not briefly, feel proud to be a woman.

It would be wrong to try and rank the titles in the Lady Library from best to worst, or funniest to least funny, or most predictable to most surprising. It feels barely not wrong to call it the Lady Library, and I only do so because those books above are in many ways about being female, in a male-dominated world (comedy, Hollywood, America, Earth), and with all the assumptions and expectations womanhood implies. But if I had to rank the ladybooks, like if someone put a gun to my head and said “Quick! What’s your favorite female comedian’s memoir?”—I dunno, it could happen—I’d have to call it a tie: Between, naturally, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

First, an aside: If you are in such a position as to have $28 to spend on a book—or $18 on Amazon—I highly recommend buying Yes Please in hardcover. Rarely do I think this kind of thing matters (other than to one’s personal preference for reading digitally vs. on paper) but Yes Please is, outside of its contents, a really lovely book, with bright splash pages and heavy, glossy paper that makes it feel like a collector’s item or something you could buy at a museum gift shop. There are photos and scanned documents and lists and the occasional haiku, and while you may develop a wrist cramp (it’s heavy!), or stress about the coffee you dripped on its pristine white jacket-less cover, it’s worth it. YP makes for a good addition to the old-fashioned bookshelf or, in my case, the old-fashioned “pile of books on the ground.”

Back to business: I’m not surprised to have loved Yes Please. Poehler, like Fey, has a way of eluding the kind of absurd and undeserved controversy that surrounds other female creatives (who, per last week’s post on Lena Dunham, are too often qualified by their appearance, or some misguided and often sexist assumption about their personality). Poehler, like Fey, seems to strike people as universally likable, as smart and normal and down to earth. Which isn’t to say that she’s meek: Poehler, like Fey (I hate to keep equating them, but YP does describe Tina as Amy’s “comedy wife for life”) is at the top of her game, relevant and influential, but still approachable, still game to look ridiculous. FACT: If you asked 100 people who they’d like to be stuck in an elevator with, a solid 42% of them would say Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Maybe 58% of women. 94% of my friends.

Poehler’s approachability carries through in Yes Please. The book is divided into three parts—Say Whatever You Want, Do Whatever You Like, Be Whoever You Are—each touching on her life (childhood, improv, Chicago, New York, SNL, Parks and Rec) and offering insights. Throughout, Poehler seems like a grounded person who isn’t afraid to be who she is, to ask for what she wants, to say yes when it feels right and no when it doesn’t (and to mean it either way). She talks about her divorce (vaguely, but with supreme class) and her children, and has a whole essay dedicated to a years-late apology for a 2008 SNL skit. She talks about caring but trying not to care about awards, and about her parents, her childhood friends and adult friends and the women she looks up to. She expresses gratitude for everyone she’s worked with (by name, and in detail) and shares her insecurities, past and ongoing. Above all, she comes off as both confident and humble, and after reading Yes Please, I’d definitely still like to be stuck in an elevator with her. Tina Fey can come, too.

In a way that reminded me of Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, and of Bossypants, and I suppose a little bit of Lean In, YP feels like a letter to women, not proffering knowledge necessarily, but sharing experience—”This is what I’ve learned and this is how it worked out or didn’t for me.” A theme that appears throughout is not worrying so much about being liked, having the confidence to express a negative reaction when you experience it, knowing your boundaries and making them clear. It’s an important message, one we hear all the time but forget just as often. It’s one that becomes more relevant the more successful you are, the more often you get to choose between following your instincts and letting yourself be overwhelmed by others’ opinions. Poehler’s book is about her, but it’s also about knowing how to stay in touch with yourself, and finding people and occupations that help you do that.

In one of YP’s earliest essays, Poehler talks about “the demon,” the voice in our heads that tells us we aren’t pretty enough or good enough, that we don’t deserve happiness. I think everyone has that demon, but women’s demon is bigger, or louder, or meaner. Our demon comes from within but also has influence on the outside; he whispers at us from movies and commercials and billboards and the pages of Cosmo and Vogue. Our demon doesn’t just say demon things; he advocates for the demonic, he convinces us that having a demon—someone to check your confidence and remind you of your failures—is right, is how you stay humble.

Very few can shut down their demon entirely. I talk to mine every day; we argue over breakfast, in front of mirrors, at work, in bars, around cute guys. And even though my demon only talks to me, every so often I recognize him in the experiences of others, and I remember—for that minute or hour or afternoon—that we’re all in this together, this whole life thing, that we all fight demons.

Women will recognize their demons in Yes Please, (and men will think it’s pretty great, too). Poehler is a Golden Globe winner; she’s starred in blockbusters and met Hillary Clinton and sat on George Clooney’s lap. She’s someone it would be easy to envy, but Yes Please makes it much easier to learn from and love her.

3papercutsTITLEYes Please
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AUTHOR: Amy Poehler
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PAGES: 352 (in hardcover)
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ALSO WROTE:
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SORTA LIKE: Bossypants
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FIRST LINE: “I like hard work and I don’t like pretending things are perfect.”

11 Responses to “Amy Poehler on Life, Comedy, & Humping Justin Timberlake”

  1. eb October 28, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    CAN’T WAIT TO READDDDD IT

  2. TIND October 28, 2014 at 9:20 pm #

    Mid-way through your review I had a sudden ten-minute immersive daydream in which I was stuck in an elevator with Poehler and Fey and it was the best ten minutes of my life, fantasy or no.

    • Kira Bindrim October 30, 2014 at 8:36 pm #

      Pretty sure I would try to surreptitiously emergency-stop any elevator I found myself in with either of them!

  3. evakop93 November 2, 2014 at 6:53 am #

    It’s definitely on my to-read list!

  4. lutheranliar November 3, 2014 at 7:08 am #

    Best review yet, Kira. Will follow your advice and buy in hardcover. Speaking of advice, and since I enjoy your writing, I’m taking a chance here and asking for your opinion on mine. When you get a sec, could you grab another mozzarella stick or two and check out my blog? You might enjoy this piece on my Food Theory of Books: http://alicewhitmoresblog.com/2014/08/tolstoy-is-so-tasty/

  5. nesafd November 7, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    Reblogged this on nesafd's Blog and commented:
    👌

  6. Jade St Clair November 17, 2014 at 5:14 am #

    I can’t wait to read this!

  7. Karen January 9, 2015 at 9:34 pm #

    Your review is just as sharp, clever and witty as Amy Poehler herself! Cheers.

  8. Meredith January 15, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

    1. I just found your blog through WP’s recommended blogs and I love what you’re doing here.
    2. I actually listening to YP on Audible (though I do plan on buying physical copy soon), and I really enjoyed listening to Poehler narrate. I probably would have read the book in some approximation of her voice (it’s how I read both Mindy Kahling and Tina Fey’s memoirs), but actually listening to Poehler felt like getting advice from a cool older sister. I think this maybe my preferred mode of cool lady memoir consumption (assuming it’s narrated by the author.)

    • Kira Bindrim January 16, 2015 at 8:38 pm #

      Huh! That’s so interesting. I’ve found myself unable to get into audio books, but I can see this being an exception to the rule.

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