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031 : books : memoir : Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler

cover of Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler

Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler (amysaysyesplease.com) is a witty, non-chronological series of essays by actor and comedienne Amy Poehler.

Before I go on, even though it may sound silly to point this out, let me say that this is a wholly different book than Bossypants by Tina Fey. Yes, many of us naturally associated friends and co-stars Tina and Amy, and each have now published autobiographical books that reference the other. The differences between them do come out in these books quite clearly: in writing style (Tina is more linear!), tone (Amy swears more often, and you can completely imagine those short asides in her voice!), organization... They really are different people with distinct viewpoints! (If you haven't already read Bossypants, run out and do that - it is a delightful book.)

Poehler's running joke in this book is that it is extremely hard to get a book written, and requires constant pep talks, threats, and deadlines to get done. That theme also extends to Poehler's career in comedy: it is a helluva lot of hard work, day after day, to accomplish anything in show business. Show after show, day after day, the logistics of operating a theater, the cat-herding effort required to organize a troupe, the logistics of going on a tour, the effort required just to keep getting up on stage and refine a sketch, night after night...

Poehler also writes extensively about life. Normal life: worrying about money, trying to please people, trying to live without being eaten alive by a desire for the approval of others, having young children, getting divorced, jobs she had in her teens, the complexity of being female and aging in our society (complete with haiku about plastic surgery)... These sections are illustrated in scrapbook-like fashion, and have some good advice on standing up for yourself and surviving in the modern world.

The "Yes" part of the title is a clear reflection of both the improv philosophy of always supporting your partners in their spontaneous efforts AND Poehler's inherently positive encouragement to others. She says early on in the book that "Yes, Please!" is both polite and powerful, and that decisive good manners are important to get ahead in the world. She has special remarks on how this applies to women, and the experiences she has had where she was treated differently because of her gender, and had to assert her humanity to be treated the same as her peers.

Poehler comes through as a determined person with a great sense of humor and a desire to encourage others. I'm glad I read it.

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images and text Copyright © 2015 A. E. Graves, book cover images are the copyright of their respective owners

(posted November 14, 2015 refreshed February 2019)

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