I had been dying to read Amy Poehler’s new memoir Yes Please because I love Amy Poehler. Have you seen Parks and Recreation yet? If not, you really should, because it’s hilarious, and Poehler’s character Leslie Knope is totes kickass. Amy is just really damn funny. She is one funny woman. And she’s a feminist, too, which I love.
Last year I read Tina Fey’s memoir Bossypants. (Tina and Amy are, according to Amy, “life partners.”) (No, they’re not gay.) In Bossypants, Tina says the following about Amy:
Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and “unladylike.”
Jimmy Fallon […] turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it.”
Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit.
With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.”
Right then, reading that, is when I fell in love with Amy Poehler.
(Bossypants is hilarious, by the way. Go listen to the audiobook.)
So with that so-called introduction to Amy, I dove into Yes Please.
As I’ve mentioned before, I love memoirs. Every memoir I’ve ever read has contained at least one little nugget of hard-earned wisdom or insight from the author. It’s like a self-help book, but less pretentious, not quite so holier-than-thou. (Note to self: Make a list of memoir wisdom.) And Amy’s book was no different. She had tons of wisdom & insight nuggets, like this::
You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.
Telling me to relax or smile when I’m angry is like bringing a birthday cake into an ape sanctuary. You’re just asking to get your nose and genitals bitten off.
However, if you do start crying in an argument and someone asks why, you can always say, ‘I’m just crying because of how wrong you are.’
Sigh. I love her.
But while I do think that Amy is a beautiful, smart, funny, kind, wise, ridiculously strange woman, I did not love her memoir.
To be fair, Amy is not a writer. She’s a performer. She’s (obviously) good at improv and comedy. She can think on her feet. Her genius does not, unfortunately, translate well to the printed word. There were parts of Yes Please that were indeed funny, but overall I did not find the book to be nearly as funny as Bossypants. And yes, I realize this is an unfair comparison: Amy and Tina are obviously not the same person. Furthermore, Tina Fey is a writer. So, it’s unfair of me. But still.
The book jumped around a lot. Childhood! Her parents! SNL! A humiliating story! Sex! Her sons! Parks and Rec! ‘Shrooms! Her trip to Haiti! There were entire emails pasted in. There were old poems she’d written as a child. (Okay, they were cute.) Snatches of it were written by her mom, her dad, one of her Parks and Rec coworkers, a fellow actor. She kept talking about how hard it is to write a book. She talked about that too much. She didn’t seem confident enough. I always imagine her as fierce. That’s not how she came across in her book.
It felt pieced together. It felt like it really was hard for her to write, and as a result it didn’t turn out that well. It felt like she really didn’t have the proper time to devote to it. And there were about five million celebrity name-drops. Like, seriously. Name after name after name, many of which I didn’t even recognize. And there wasn’t much story behind the names, either. It was just the names.
The parts I loved were about her childhood (the old, toaster oven-sized message machine, her family’s love of television, playing her grandpa’s organ), and her sons (going out in their pajamas to look at the moon together, the way she said her youngest son smells like a “love cookie”). (What’s a love cookie? I want one!) They were heartfelt and interesting and detailed and had depth and honesty to them. They told me things about Amy I never would have learned through a Google search. They’re the parts I’ll remember about Yes Please.
So, if you’re a diehard Amy fan, then by all means, read her memoir. It’s enjoyable. I love her more after reading it. It even inspired a dream in which she and I met at a Lions game and became best friends. But if you’re just looking to see what she’s all about, then watch her SNL reel instead. Or check out season two and up of Parks and Rec.