Monday, 9 January 2017

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Knowing only her public persona, Amy Poehler is one of those people that you joke you'd like to be friends with. She seems funny, accomplished, friendly, and who knows if any of it is true? Just presume a slightly dialed-down Leslie Knope, showing that we often have trouble differentiating actors from their roles.

I'm as guilty as anyone of this - I love Parks & Rec with a fervent passion, a show with an entire cast just as funny as Poehler is. But then you get to her book, and even though it gets sort of but not entirely personal, that feels like maybe more her own voice. Is the mythological beast Amy Poehler the same as Amy Poehler in real life?

I'm not sure I can answer that question any more now than before, but I can say this - I enjoyed Yes Please a hell of a lot, and it did nothing to dissuade me from my overall impression of Poehler.

There was some trepidation, I confess, in sitting down to read it. I enjoy Tina Fey quite a lot as well, but her Bossypants did not tickle my funnybone. It was enjoyable but slight. I've been told since that it gets much funnier if you listen to the audiobook version, and imagining it in her voice, I can see how it would get much more amusing and even laugh-out-loud funny if I heard her delivery.

Would I have the same experience here? Fortunately not. I didn't find this funnier, but it also didn't feel like it was trying as hard to be funny. The parts I was drawn to were Poehler's look at her time training as an improv actor, her stories about her childhood and university years, her work with the Upright Citizen's Brigade, and of course, the stories about Parks & Rec. (Also loved the stories of moonchasing with her sons.)

Rather than just being sketches about things, this book felt like it was Poehler trying to put her experiences into order, to think back to her childhood and early adulthood, impose some order on it, try to figure out what it meant. It doesn't hurt that she had things like Saturday Night Live to propel her along, a show I've only seen the barest amounts of, but hearing her write about the late nights writing, it sounds like a training ground that might do you in, but might also make you more than you were before.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Parks & Rec, where the creator, Mike Schur, annotated what she wrote, giving amusing depth to her more recent memories of the show.

The books steers very clear of parts of her personal life that Poehler obviously does not want to talk about - this is not a "tell-all." Her divorce, in particular, is alluded to a few times, but clearly off the table. There's still a distance between Poehler and her audience, as though she's warning off all those women who think she's her best friend when they don't even know her.

It's intimate in some ways, distant in others, but a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading about projects undertaken with daring and heedless enthusiasm.

No comments:

Post a Comment