Amy Poehler is one of those actresses I was vaguely aware of but to whom I’d never really paid much attention. She occasionally cropped up in movies like ‘Blades of Glory’ and Mean Girls, usually playing someone blonde and kooky.
Later I associated her with Tina Fey, as her friend, and as one half of the legendary Saturday Night Live Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton “I can see Russia from my house” sketch.
It wasn’t until I started watching sitcom Parks and Recreation, that I truly came to appreciate the comedy genius that is Amy Poehler. And by the time she and Fey formed The Ultimate Funny Lady Tag Team to host the Golden Globes I was a solid fan.
It’s from this perspective that I came to read her book Yes please.
I’d already tried Fey’s autobiography Bossypants, and despite a love of the 30 Rock creator’s humour, I found the book something of a letdown. Yes, there were reminisces about SNL. Yes, I learned some things about her childhood (like how she got that scar on her chin – random knife attack by a stranger), and yes there were jokes, and feminism, and a chapter devoted to Poehler, but it was all a bit, er, cold? I felt, as a reader, that I was being kept at a respectful distance. Stand-up as an arena show, with Fey present but rather far away.
In Yes please Poehler covers similar territory but, hey reader, wanna bring it in for a hug first? Come on, tough guy. Get on over here.
If Fey’s book is a gig at Horncastle Arena, Poehler’s is a small, intimate, comedy club where the tables are so close to the stage performer and audience can see each other sweating.
And “Yes please” is not at all a straight out autobiography. It’s that but it’s also part self-help manual in which her experiences (which include waitressing, improv, performing a rap number live on TV a few hours before going into labour, motherhood, divorce, visiting an orphanage in Haiti) all feed into reflections and wisdom, all with a sharp, self-deprecating, “I know what my crap is and I own it” attitude.
You feel as if you just made a new best friend and she’s dishing all her dirt to you and you love her because of it. Poehler admits her mistakes, celebrates her triumphs, and tries not to be too hard on herself. And she encourages you to do the same for yourself.
But don’t just take it from me. Listen to Amy.
On comedy as a career.
Doing comedy for a living is, in a lot of ways, like a pony and a camel try ing to escape from the zoo. It’s a ridiculous endeavor and has a low probability of success, but most importantly, it is way easier if you’re with a friend.
On being “older”.
Once a woman turn forty she has to start dealing with two things: younger men telling her they are proud of her and older men letting her know they would have sex with her. Both of these things are supposed to be compliments but can often end up making this particular woman angry.
On being “older” at parties.
You can witness young people embarrassing themselves and get a thrill that it’s not you. You can watch them throw around their “alwayses” and “nevers” and “I’m the kind of person who’s” and delight in the fact that you are past that point in your life.
On being healthily ambivalent about your career.
You have to care about your work but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look.
On being true to yourself and your sensibilities.
If it’s not funny you don’t have to laugh.
An acceptance speech that she totally forgot to use.
To the love of my life, George Clooney, a man who wore me down with letters and phone calls until finally I gave in and let him have sex with me. You’re welcome.
On not taking yourself too seriously.
Nobody looks stupid when they are having fun.
Well, I certainly had fun reading your book, Amy. So not so much stupid over here.
I’m always on the lookout for books by funny, sassy women. Got any recommendations?