Amy Poehler’s autobiography makes good old-fashioned hard work remarkably entertaining says Elaine Malcolmson.
You should never meet your heroes. Or, as I recently added, never read their autobiography. The last time I read the memoirs of someone I admired, I went right off them and felt guilty about it for three months.
After reading Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, I feel guilty I haven’t watched absolutely everything she has ever done at least twice (including Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo [a stone-cold classic – Ed]). You can’t help but appreciate someone who has worked hard at what they love and kept going until, well, until they were one of the most successful comedy actors/writers/producers of our time. It makes a change from reading about catching the lucky break train to the right place at the right time.
Yes Please isn’t a chronological history of Poehler. As she says: “Sometimes this book stays in the present, other times I try to cut myself in half and count the rings.” These rings are revealed through anecdotes on everything from divorce and sleeping to waitressing and divided into three sections: Say whatever you want; Do whatever you like; and, Be whoever you are.
These titles hint at the advice and wisdom presented within the stories. Of course, some may think life guidance from a celebrity is a little uncalled for. I mean, why would you take advice from a Golden Globe winner with 15 Emmy nominations who was once named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people?
This advice, combined with the tale of how she got where she is, can’t help but be motivational for whatever you want to do; whether it be winning an Emmy, sitting on George Clooney’s knee or building a park in a pit.
The motivation, however, is hidden by the funny. Especially in interludes such as: plastic surgery haiku; a birthing plan; or reasons we cry on an airplane. There are plenty of showbiz stories here, too, for those that like the celebs, with everyone from Justin Timberlake to Jon Bon Jovi getting a mention.
If you’re a comedy geek you’ll love the early history of the Upright Citizens Brigade and behind the scenes insights from Saturday Night Live. If you’re a person, you’ll love the affection with which Amy describes her children and their moon-hunting adventures. It warmed my heart more than any small boy with a sad stuffed penguin ever could.
In fact, if you are a real comedy geek, you can pretend to be an historian of ha-has and sit down cross-referencing facts and dates between Yes Please and Tina Fey’s Bossypants. It might take your mind off the disappointment that we don’t have an SNL equivalent in the UK.
It’d be good to close this review with a quote from the book that sums it up. Something to keep with you between now and when you read Yes Please. Amy kindly put forward a quote for editors: “I have the Angelina Jolie of vaginas.” That’ll do nicely.
Elaine Malcolmson is a comedian, writer and science communicator. Raised in Northern Ireland, lived in Wales, now resides in Glasgow – bewildering brogue.