Book Review: Yes Please

"One of the things I have learned about me while writing about me is that I am really onto myself.  I have got Amy Poehler's number. I'll tell you.  I also learned that writing topless tends to relax me. Go figure.  Life is a mystery."Amy Poehler

This quote is the typical tone of Amy Poehler's memoir,  Yes Please.

She begins her thoughts on the challenges of writing then ends with an image of her doing so topless. Excuse me? What just happened here? Only a comedian would write this way.

Amy tells her stories in as unvarnished way as possible.  In fact, her parting line from the preface is, "I tried to tell the truth and be funny.  What else do you want from me, you filthy animals?"

Truth and funny is precisely what you get in Yes Please.

Poehler's writing is crisp, and her words ring true.  She is both candid and, as needed, opaque.  She is fearlessly vulnerable.

At several points in the book she describes being bereft over her divorce from Will Arnett.  She gives no details on the specifics of the breakup and doesn't spend any energy blaming or bad-mouthing her former husband.  She only tells nice stories and talks through the grief she's experiencing in the breakup of the marriage. ("The best thing that can happen is you learn a little more about what you can handle and you stay soft through the pain.")

As you can imagine, Amy (may I call her Amy?) is  almost always irreverent and surprisingly sensitive.

And, of course, she is hilarious.

She also drops a TON of f-bombs.  Oh - she also talks about her drug use (she likes pot) and sex life.  If any of these types of stories or colorful language choices are disconcerting for you, definitely skip the book.


However, if you do read the book, you'll be in for a treat in stories and insights and not in ways you might expect.

For while Amy has lots of funny opinions on daily life ("...let's just hope you avoided tattoos, because most are pretty stupid anyway.") and has fascinating stories about her interactions with celebrities (the details about sitting on George Clooney's lap at the Golden Globes  is worth the read alone), what I love MOST are her general bits of wisdom.

For instance, she has several pages where she rifts on how aging is like becoming a superhero with the power to be invisible.

"Getting older is awesome...You use the word 'boundaries.' You can witness bad behavior and watch it like you would watch someone else's child having a tantrum. Gone are the days (hopefully) when you take everything personally and internalize everyone's behavior.  You get better at knowing what you want and need.  You can tell what kind of underwear people are wearing."

Of course, the last line is the best.  That's what happens in this book.  You are getting into the groove about aging and the wisdom of learning, and then Amy throws in a zinger at the end just to make sure you're engaged.

Yes Amy.  We are with you.

She writes about forgiveness and the development cycle at a television network. She touches on the pain of divorce and her fabulous childhood. She writes a BRILLIANT two-page haiku about plastic surgery!

She talks about the importance of getting started: "The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing...Great people do things before they are ready."

The variety of these insights are all over the map and though the effect can be a bit of whiplash, it's a ride well worth taking.

Perhaps my absolute FAVORITE thoughts of hers are about career.

"You will never climb Career Mountain and get to the top and shout, 'I made it!' You will rarely feel done or complete or even successful.  Most people I know struggle with that complicated soup of feeling slighted on one hand and like a total fraud on the other."

Can you relate to that or what???  She continues:

"Here's the thing.  Your career won't take care of you. It won't call you back or introduce you to its parents. Your career will openly flirt with other people while you are around. It will forget your birthday and wreck your car... Career is the thing that will fill you up and never make you truly whole."

Amen sister!

Her final insight is to be ambivalent about your success, to "care about your work but not about the result."  She says,

"Ambivalence can help tame the (success) beast. Remember, your career is a bad boyfriend It likes it when you don't depend on it.  It will reward you every time you don't act needy.  It will chase you if you act like other things (passion, friendship, family, longevity) are more important to you."

Yes. Yes. Yes.  A thousand times Yes.  If we remembered and acted more ambivalent, we would rarely (IF EVER) have to talk about "life balance."

Of course, I recently learned, "the doing is the thing."


Post Script: If you're an e-reader person, you still might want to buy this in hardback.  Beautiful, glossy pics.