Book Title: Yes, Please
Author: Amy Poehler
Style: Chapter Book
Target Audience: Adult
Genres: Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Humor
Page Count: 329 pages
Format: Audiobook (library)
Reading time: 7.5 hours
Date Finished: 2/08/17
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My impressions: I enjoy Amy Poehler as an actress and comedian; she’s smart and funny, and she’s been a part of many things I’ve enjoyed (including some great work on Upright Citizens Brigade and Saturday Night Live, being the voice of Joy in Inside Out, a wonderful guest part on Arrested Development and the starring role of Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation). I thought I might like her audiobook edition of her 2014 book since it’s read by her and has cameo appearances from Carol Burnett, Kathleen Turner, Patrick Stewart, Seth Myers and Michael Schur.
And I… kind of liked it, but I also found it a drag in parts. The first hour and a half was the hardest, because it was terribly self-indulgent and not very funny. A big chunk of that section of the book is spent talking about Amy’s biggest regret and offering an apology for it, something that might have packed a bit more punch towards the back of the book once all the more interesting stuff was out of the way.
Then the book got more entertaining as it focused on her decade and a half of scraping by to perform comedy before becoming known through the UCB, getting offered a chance to be a part of the SNL cast (starting the week after September 11, 2001) and then eventually building Parks & Recreation with Michael Schur and Greg Daniels, as well as a talented ensemble cast. I enjoyed this section, primarily because I could connect to it and it was actually funny and interesting.
Then the book shifts back to the more personal stuff and it’s hit or miss. Some of the ideas are great – I liked the analogy that a career is like a bad boyfriend, and I found some wisdom in her talking about how those who really make it in life aren’t discovered, but really suffer for their art and rely on their shared suffering with others to form the connections that help them rise up and gain traction. Comedy is full of circles of people who came up together as performers and who often spent years or decades in obscurity before they got noticed. It’s only when one of them succeeds that all of them succeed, and her point that you really have to work at it until that happens is well taken.
I can’t help but feel, however, that Poehler really wasn’t that excited to write this book and didn’t really know what she wanted to say. At times, it seems to be written for an audience of people who are aspiring comics; at other times, it seems aimed at young women or at people who really know her work and who don’t need a lot of extra detail. Some of the ideas she floats are really half-baked and don’t seem to have a point besides being elements she felt she was supposed to include (especially her disappointing chapter on Tina Fey). There aren’t a lot of memorable personal stories with other comedians (though there are many references to them!), and she refers many times to the fact that she didn’t really want to write the book in the first place, which shows greatly in the final product.
The cameos, probably the best idea of the audiobook, and really underused, and the laughing that occurs during the final chapter (read in front of a live audience) reminded me of how easy it is for good comedy to fall flat when it’s read into a recording booth instead of in front of a crowd. In those few moments of engaging the crowd before she begins reading, Amy Poehler is way funnier than she is in the rest of the book.
It was a worthwhile listen, but it didn’t give me much depth or insight. I still like Amy Poehler… I just wish her book had been a little less superficial.