Amy Poehler Is Better Than You

As promised I have an entirely loving book review for Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, which I only have amazing things to say about. I want to be her protégée. I want to be brave, hard-working, confident, and resilient like she has been throughout her career from the first time she ever improvised on stage as a fourth grader in The Wizard of Oz to now where she is finishing her last season on Parks and Recreation.

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There is something completely endearing about Amy Poehler and the work she has done. To me, she is the embodiment of quality entertainment, creating work that is vibrant, sweet, and hilarious. During my reading of this, and let me tell you, I tried with all that I had to slow down, I awed as much as I laughed out loud. As a writer, she is relatable; as a comedian, she takes risks and doesn’t hold back; and as a person (at least from what she portrays in her book because I, unfortunately, am not blessed to be her friend-yet), she is kind, smart, and passionate.

In the book, she remarks how it never occurred to her that she wouldn’t succeed because she knew she would do whatever it takes to get there. For her, as it should be for all entertainers, it wasn’t about the money or fame, but the satisfaction she takes from expressing her creative inspiration for others to enjoy. Too often we consume entertainment that is all for the fame, or infamy, it can garner, from going viral to having one’s face plastered all over the internet. Listen, I get that, especially for this profession, one needs to get attention in order to be successful, but Amy Poehler is just one of the amazing writers and actors/actresses who create quality content rather than cheap hi jinks.

The book is titled Yes Please because that is her motto in life, personally and professionally. One can never have too many incredible, supportive, passionate people in their lives to get them through anything. There can never be a job or opportunity too small if it offers you experience and important lessons. Part of what she drills home is that she didn’t get to this point in her career all by herself. There were other people surrounding her and they included mutual, beneficial relationships. We can’t think too highly of ourselves or expect to get anywhere by putting others down. As she also says in her book, what’s good for you, might not be good for me, but I respect that (paraphrased). Competition is important, but the secret power to success is support and hard-work.

I won’t analyze every point or comment in this book, but I could if you wanted me to, because I think Amy’s voice and stories will do it better. However, there is one more thing that I found incredibly poignant and relatable and I wanted to address it. In her preface, and throughout the book, she talks a lot about how certain things are hard, such as writing. I’ve said before how writing can so often be seen as coming from a romantic, poetic flow, when really it is a difficult process comprised of many different stages. Amy gets it. She also says something that seems so obvious and yet, I find myself constantly failing to realize.

Talking about or planning “the thing,” is not doing “the thing.” My thing, as it is for Amy, is writing. I find myself getting frequently caught up in the semantics of writing, trying to finds the best apps, the best space, and the best processes to promote my best writing. The truth is, my best writing probably will never come from the first draft of anything. I can plan and blabber and brag all I want about writing, but none of it counts until I’m actually doing the writing. Getting it all down and putting in the time is the only way I can produce anything of substance. If I want my “thing” to be writing, then I can’t just call myself a writer and look like a writer, I have to write. The same goes for anything I do in my life. Putting the time in gets results. Hard-work and effort leads to bigger accomplishments. Doing “the thing” is the only way I can be successful with “the thing.”

Being productive can be hard, especially in this instant gratification obsessed world. Many times when I finally sit myself down to write, and I of course have better days than others, I will write for five minutes then somehow find myself back on Twitter doing nothing of substance. It’s almost a sickness as much as it’s a joy and convenience. Amy admits that it’s hard to follow-through and find time to fit things in, but she is glaring evidence that doing “the thing” works.

Reading this book has only confirmed what I always knew, I want to be Amy Poehler’s best friend, or at least her mentee- actually that’s exactly what I want to be. She has fallen prey to awkward moments like anyone, saying things she didn’t mean, not knowing how to resolve conflict, and living through difficult phases in her life, but she kept constantly working and heading towards something.

Her stories are funny and well-written. She goes from poignant, beautiful descriptions of her love for her family, to weird poems written for Tina Fey. There are discussions of her early career working in Chicago and New York that was sometimes messy but always important, to all the late-night hits or misses on SNL. Relationships are appreciated and respected, even if they never lasted. She doesn’t apologize for being who she is or wanting what she desires, which exudes confidence that can only come from experience, both successes- for example, being nominated for awards and orchestrating funny on-stage moments- and failures- for example, not winning said awards. She doesn’t simply tell her views on life, but she shows it, which is the mark of any great writer.

Though she mentions how being a woman in this culture has sometimes made it more difficult, she doesn’t linger on it. She is one of those people who allow their work to do the talking for her. She is a proud feminist and embodies what many women do and should do-be confident, efficient, and fearless even when you are scared witless. She doesn’t put down other women or men because she knows she doesn’t have to in order to be who she is. That is wonderful. And refreshing.

There are so many more things I could say and reflect on about this book, but I won’t because I think it’s an important read. There are facets on childhood, womanhood, career struggles, career successes, motherhood, and just working so hard at what she loves. Anyone can find inspiration through this and I wish I could read it all again without knowing what it holds. Though I will read it again eventually and am certain I will still enjoy every sentence.

I’m also certain that at some point in the summer of ’89 when Amy worked at an ice cream shop my parents frequented, I consumed ice cream she scooped from my mother’s stomach. If you don’t think that is not equivalent to meeting her, then I don’t think we can be friends anymore.

Read this book! You’ll be sad when it ends, but you will be better, smarter, and happier when you do.

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