& Review: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please by Amy Poehler.  Autobiography. Publisher: It Books

Yes Please by Amy Poehler.
Autobiography. Publisher: It Books

The Book Itself: Surprisingly heavy! Cracking open the front cover reveals why: the book is printed on lovely, thick, glossy paper, the kind photos are printed on. The cover material is the kind that fingerprints can stain easily, so keep that in mind if you’re throwing it in your bag a lot, to take it places. Poehler throwing up the peace sign on the cover is nice, although not really explained. It’s not a gesture that implies asking someone for something (as the title suggests), but Poehler looks great, the neon sign above her, bright and eye-catching.

My Review: 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.

The Funny People Essays era has begun (Poehler, Tiny Fey, Mindy Kaling, Nick Offerman, and also very recently, Neil Patrick Harris). Fey and Kaling’s works sit on my shelf, for when I’m in the mood for a funny, pithy piece of writing. Neil Patrick Harris’ is up near the top of the to-read shelf.

Yes Please is fantastic. As with any collection, there are strong installments and weak installments. But sometimes even better than the stories and the essays are the frame-worthy sayings Poehler emblazons every few stories: “Figure out what you want. Say it out loud. Then shut up,” “Nothing is anybody’s business.” Each section features a picture of Poehler dressed up as various characters, á la SNL: an old lady, a scruffy looking man with a come hither look, holding a rose. And with the added bonus of pictures from her improv days, stills from SNL, and family photos, Yes Please is far from a typical book of essays from a funny person. It is personal, at times it is intensely deep, and of course, it is laugh out loud-able (a phrase? It is now).

My favorite essay is one in which Poehler details the one SNL skit she wished she could take back, and what happened when someone wrote to her about how it hurt them. Entitled “Sorry, Sorry, Sorry,” the story is sad, touching, frustrating, and very, very familiar. As I read Poehler’s reaction to this scathing email (her initial feelings were indignation and frustration with the situation, while still feeling a little shame), I thought yes! I’ve thought and felt exactly this! And it was equal parts awful and vindicating and all-consuming! The story comes full circle, with a satisfying conclusion, but after that one I had to put the book down for a bit, so close to home did it hit.

Some of her pieces do feel a little inside joke-y. Her recollections from the set of SNL, and especially her memories from doing improv in various cities feature a lot of name dropping, and a lot of moments that are neither particularly funny or familiar. I suppose to get the full effect, I should YouTube the improv shows, Google who these people are that she performed with. But I also feel that I shouldn’t have to do that, to get the feel for a situation in a novel or short story. I haven’t seen every SNL episode there is to see, but I’ve seen enough to understand the names and situation Poehler drops in her book. These allusions are far more accessible, I feel. Although most readers probably know Poehler from SNL, right? Any exclusively Parks and Recreation fans out there, who didn’t get the SNL references at all?

So I think it has a little for everyone. Those familiar with Poehler’s works will have a better time, I think. But for the most part, the essays are strong, and the meaning behind them endearing and special.

My Grade: B+

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