Wednesday, December 10, 2014

(audio)book review: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please

Written and read by: Amy Poehler

Published: 2014

Synopsis: In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book is full of words to live by


“I have the Angelina Jolie of vaginas.”

I have found my book soul mate.

Am I surprised that I loved Yes Please? No. Of course I loved it. It's Amy FREAKING Poehler. I was guaranteed to enjoy the crap out of this book. But I am surprised that I loved it this much. When I read Tina Fey's Bossypants I had a ball. I laughed a lot and I gained a huge appreciation for her creativity, work ethic and feminist views. But once I finished it and wrote a gushing review that was kind of it. I'd recommend it to friends who liked 30 Rock and I'd occasionally reblog tumblr posts of quotes from it but it isn't like it shook the foundation of my world y'know? But I can't imagine that I'm going to pop Yes Please aside when I finish this review. It's the kind of book I'll keep around so that I can flip to those particular parts that resonated the most when I need a pick me up or a laugh. I've already replayed chapters to Tom so he can understand why I was cackling to myself in the bedroom for 20 minutes.

One of the reasons I love this book is how much effort was put into it. Audiobook memoirs are always better when read by the writer, they take on a much more intimate feel than I think you'd ever get from reading the physical copy. But Amy Poehler's audiobook is insane. It's an actual production. Aside from her reading and yelling and laughing a lot (her laugh is so infectious), she has Patrick Stewart reading haikus and Kathleen Turner reading the chapter titles and narrating the more serious moments. Her parents come by to offer their lists of important things to do as parents. Carrol Burnett drops by to reiterate that Poehler isn't exaggerating about their first meeting. Michael Shur annotates her chapter on Parks and Recreation, adding little nuggets of gold about one of my favourite comedy shows. The final chapter is read live to an audience, and their laughs and applause are the perfect button to the 7 hour journey Poehler leads. It's unlike any audiobook I've listened to. It's like a variety show for your ears.

Narratively, this book is very similar to Bossypants. But as friends who met in their early 20s and have travelled a very similar career path that isn't really surprising. Poehler also talks about growing up and her first forays into improv and "making it" as an actor and then juggling marriage and having babies with this hectic career, and while they approach these subjects from two very personal perspectives (and hey, it's not like there aren't eleventy billion memoirs about dudes doing the exact same thing) this is probably the main reason I would recommend the audio over the physical book. I'm sure it reads well enough as a physical book, but as a book that stands out from the crowd, I think you need the variety show element that the audio introduces. And while I would never want to say a negative word about my book soul mate, there are some rough chapter transitions and clunky sections every once and awhile. I didn't find them to be glaring in the audiobook, but they might have bugged me if I were actually reading them on a physical page. There are also moments that I think perhaps translate better to audiobook, although without reading the physical copy I'm not even sure exactly how they appear in the physical copy. For instance, during the Parks and Rec chapter there is a moment where she addresses each of her co-stars and then mentions a favourite moment or scene with them in the show. In the audiobook this is a really sweet and funny section where she conveys not only her love of the show but  for each of her co-workers. I don't know how well this would read on the page though. Maybe it'd be fine, but maybe it'd feel a little disjointed or filler-ish.

All that said though, I was actually pleasantly surprised at how well Poehler could write. I knew the comedy elements of the book would be fantastic, as would the bursts of outrage or excitement, but there were also some beautifully crafted moments in the book that were really touching. Any time she mentioned her kids her writing softened and glowed. You could tell the moments in her life that have had the biggest impact because the writing was sharper, like she'd been replaying and  rewriting the moment in her head ever since it happened. She's brutally honest about moments in her life that can't have been easy to talk about, like her divorce for instance, but she also tempers those moments by including a section devoted to coming up with self help books for divorcees that are more realistic and, of course, hilarious. This isn't a typical memoir. It reflects Poehler's improv origins, full of short, sharp and eclectic moments. And like improv some of it works while some of it falls short. But the entire package, the entire 7 hour variety show/improv performance is bursting with creativity and heart and far more hits than misses.

Amy Poehler is a really special lady. I'd love to say that I see myself reflected in these pages but when it comes to the personalities of famous funny ladies I probably fall closer to Tina Fey. But Amy Poehler is the kind of girl I would want by my side. There's that Groucho Marx saying that "When you're in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, 'Damn, that was fun'.” Amy Poehler is definitely the best friend saying "damn that was fun" but she'd also probably be the reason you're in there, maybe because she picked a fight with a guy in the airport who told her she shouldn't be in first class because she talked too much.
“All of my lower-middle-class Boston issues rose to the surface. I don’t like it when bratty, privileged old white guys speak to me like I am their mouthy niece. I got that amazing feeling you get when you know you are going to lose it in the best, most self-righteous way. I just leaned back and yelled, “FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YOU.” Then I chased him as he tried to get away from me.”
She's a firecracker, hilarious and tiny with a mouth like a sailor and definitely the person you want in your corner. She's put together one hell of a book, one that is an absolute must read (or must listen. DEFINITELY a must listen) for anyone who fancies themselves an Amy Poehler fan (which honestly, is anyone who has ever heard of her).


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