Comedic powerhouse Amy Poehler's debut book, YES PLEASE, is a bit like the sketch comedy show that made her famous: a little of this and a little of that, mostly funny, sometimes hilarious and always whip-smart. It is not exactly a memoir, though it does share a lot of personal stories about her life. But these stories are combined with a look at her experiences in the world of entertainment from college improv groups to gala Hollywood award ceremonies. Added to all of that are stray observations and thoughts about motherhood, friendship, marriage and divorce, aging, and being powerful, smart and confident in a society that still, sadly, doesn't expect women to be so.
"Poehler is able to swing wildly between the totally crude and the incredibly tender, remaining likable and honest, though a bit guarded, throughout.This terrific book is exuberant, sassy, sharp-witted and so much fun."
Poehler's professional journey began with elementary school plays, and she became passionate about improv in college in Boston. Eventually she co-founded the Upright Citizens Brigade, worked her way to films, “Saturday Night Live” and the starring role for seven years on “Parks and Recreation.” Today she is also involved with the popular website Smart Girls at the Party and is raising her two young sons. The insights she shares in YES PLEASE are often about the people with whom she has worked and come to love and admire, a refreshing change from the usual entertainment autobiography.
There is lots of name dropping here, but it is done in such a sweet and humble way that it is hard to fault Poehler for what may seem braggy from anyone else. In this way, the book is about important relationships (note that her parents, grandfather, brother and even ex-husband are introduced with kindness and appreciation for the roles they have played in her life) as much as it is about her singular successes. As serious and accomplished as Poehler is professionally, YES PLEASE is a work of comedy. And it is the best kind of comedy --- intelligent and thoughtful, irreverent and strange.
Arranged into three sections --- “Say Whatever You Want,” “Do Whatever You Want,” “Be Whoever You Are” --- YES PLEASE is further divided into short, discrete chapters that jump around in time as well as thematically. There are color pictures, images of handwritten notes, and Poehler's parents, friend and fellow “SNL” alum Seth Meyers, and “Parks and Recreation” creator Mike Schur also contribute. This mash-up works well because Poehler's comedic sense pulls it all together, her jokes recur just often enough, and it mirrors improv and sketch comedy in pace, energy level and intent. It seems clear that Poehler is being very much herself --- not a traditional writer, but a writer of jokes and scenes, and a keen observer of herself and her audience.
It is perhaps a cliché to say that a book is great for gift-giving, but YES PLEASE truly would make a wonderful gift. Printed on thick, glossy pages, it’s also nice to hold and look at, which is no small thing. Poehler is able to swing wildly between the totally crude and the incredibly tender, remaining likable and honest, though a bit guarded, throughout. This terrific book is exuberant, sassy, sharp-witted and so much fun.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on November 14, 2014