Parks & Recreations actress, Amy Poehler managed to set time aside from her two sons and being on set to write this wonderful book. Starting with stories from her childhood and how she fell in love with the idea of improv, she also offers her opinions of various *cough* drugs *cough*
After seeing Sisters, a movie that Poehler starred alongside long time friend and fellow Saturday Night Live cast member, Tina Fey, I was convinced she was one of the funniest people to grace the cinematic screen in a very long time. So when I saw her book, Yes Please, on the recommended read stand at my local bookshop, I didn’t hesitate to buy it.
Sitting on my break at work just hours later and I was immediately hooked by the title of her introduction; writing is hard: a preface. As a fellow writer, I managed to connect to her on a certain level. Despite not having a very busy career and two sons ages four and six (now six and eight) like Poehler, there are always times when the words struggle to be typed, or sentences just never seem to sound right no matter how you word them.
Because, you see, a book? A book has a cover. They call it a jacket and that jacket keeps the inside warm so that the words stay permanent and everyone can read your genius words over and over again for years to come.
After some instructions on how not to use her book, Poehler starts the tale in the past and begins to talk about her childhood town of Boston and how she first fell in love with the idea of improv. Starring in a school production of The Wizard of Oz, Poehler tells her story of her leading role as Dorothy (with a live dog resting in her arms) and how, despite her young age, she pushed through her fears of rejection and improvised over the script.
With the second and third parts to her book also starting with how she fell in love with the idea of comedy and improv, Poehler takes us back in time once again to Chicago and New York. She offers her insight to when she joined the Upright Citizens Brigade, an improv group that performed shows for little or no money. In 1996, the group had dwindled into four, and they made a choice to relocate to New York city, once again writing and performing wherever they could. Each member of the group had their own jobs on the side, Poehler took to being a waitress, something else she found she was good at.
At the Solo Arts Group, the UCB began to offer classes on improv as well as performing in the same space. The classes became really popular, and soon they opened up their own theatre where classes and shows would continue. With her friends and fellow members of the UCB, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh, Poehler opened up two theatres in Los Angles and another in New York.
She also reaches to the audience about something that we all encounter throughout our lives; the demon inside our heads. Explaining how the demon didn’t visit until she started to care about boys in middle school. Poehler also talks about her limited dating life as a youngster, and how hand holding and kisses on the cheek were a very big deal. With what she considered a ‘plain face,’ she talks about how she quieted the demon during her improv and sketch years on SNL, using her face as a canvas to be other people – she even told us that an SNL hairstylist told her she had a great face for wigs! After admitting that she still gets visits from her own demon once in a while, Poehler gives some advice on how to make it go away, even if it is just for a while.
I am glad we have electricity and anesthesia, but I think the Internet is a bad idea. Sorry, guys. So far the only good things I have seen to come out of this recent technological renaissance are video-chatting with your grandparents, online dating, and being able to attend traffic school on your computer. The rest is a disaster. The robots will kill us all.
With her world-class sex advice and insights to her bad sleeping habits, Poehler manages to keep you hooked. I couldn’t put this book down and found myself reading whenever I had a spare minute. It wasn’t just the words on the piece of paper that was keeping me interested, it was the little photo’s that she had included.
They ranged from when she was a teen, her hair curly and sprayed until it was crisp, to photos of her partner in crime, Tina Fey. With Fey helping Poehler to secure a job on Saturday Night Live alongside her as a co-anchor, she writes a little about their friendship and how they have known each other for a double decade. She speaks of fond memories of watching Fey at her desk, always writing. Whether it was a sketch for the show or just a small piece of writing for someone else, Poehler says that it is her way of showing you she cares about you.
Despite liking the whole book overall, there were two chapters that really stood out to me; Sorry, Sorry, Sorry and Time Travel. Whilst one seems crazy and the other seems far too apologetic, the writer digs into her feeling on both subjects.
Whilst people who haven’t read the book think that the time travel chapter is about hopping into a time machine like the TARDIS and flying through time and space, Poehler focuses more on how to savour moments. She feels that if you are in a particular moment where you are happy, or even angry, then that feeling stays with you because it is an important time in your life. But then something may happen a week, a year, or maybe five years down the road and sitting in a moment, it takes you back. You are able to remember all the details; how you felt, who you were with and why you were there.
Another chapter that spoke to me was, Sorry, Sorry, Sorry, because, like Poehler, it’s a word I use far too often. Explaining how she says it whenever she is late to something or she interrupts something, Poehler is also saying how she isn’t a pushover. She also speaks about when the right time to say sorry, and that apologies left too long can hurt someone. I’ve been both people, leaving apologies far too long but also saying sorry for the meaningless things in life, must read but what I think she is trying to say is that you need to stand your ground when you feel you are right. Being a pushover doesn’t get you anywhere, but being stubborn and closed off can limit you too.
This must-read for anyone who wants a change in reading. Amy Poehler will take you on a roller coaster, or time travelling adventure, with her brilliant and well thought out words.
Watch Amy Poehler and Tina Fey on SNL, here.