Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Review of "Yes Please" by Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler is an American actress, comedian, and writer. She gained television fame as a cast member on 'Saturday Night Live' and is probably best know for her role as Leslie Knope on the sitcom 'Parks and Recreation.'

I listened to the audio version of this memoir, narrated by the author. The audio book also has 'cameos' from a handful of celebrities and dialog with Amy's family, friends, and colleagues. Thus there are snippets from Patrick Stewart, Carol Burnett, and Kathleen Turner as well as contributions from Seth Meyers (from Saturday Night Live), Michael Schur (showrunner of Parks and Recreation), and Amy's mom and dad. All this adds to the charm and humor of the book

Amy talks about growing up in a Boston suburb (she demonstrates her original Boston accent - which is way earthier than that of of John F. Kennedy) and how she became interested in acting and improv as a youngster. Amy's first foray into improv was in grade school when she played Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz' and did 'a bit' with the dog who played Toto. Amy's rise to fame required a lot of hard work and practice/training with improv groups while she made rent by waiting tables. During these times Amy sometimes lived in shabby apartments in scary neighborhoods but she makes it all sound rather fun. Amy also notes that she met a lot of now famous comedians/actors during this time, some of whom became good friends and colleagues.

The book is not a linear narration of Amy's life and achievements. It skips back and forth in time and is a conglomeration of many subjects including autobiographical sketches from Amy's youth; anecdotes about 'Saturday Night Live' - including the Hillary Clinton impersonations; chat about helping to create the Upright Citizen's Brigade Improv Theater; talk about 'Parks and Recreation' - with a humorous tribute to each cast member; a chapter about attending Boston College; a section about assisting in Haiti after a deadly hurricane; confessions about teen drinking; a mention of the sadness caused by her divorce from Will Arnett; snippets about pregnancy, motherhood and her sons; a chapter about her sleep problems; fun descriptions of award show skits performed with an array of comedy actresses; how she enjoyed (finally) winning an award ('getting the pudding'); a self-assessment of her appearance; and much more. Through it all Amy comes across as a personable gal with plenty of talent, drive, and ambition.

Amy's rise to fame wasn't all sweetness and light however. Along the way she had to deal with manipulative producers and diffciult people - and Amy makes it clear she's no pushover. Get on her wrong side and she'll let you have it! This is a side of Amy I didn't anticipate, but quite admire. An important lesson in the book - perhaps aimed at aspiring performers - is not to expect overnight success.

Some parts of the book are laugh out loud funny, some are moving and insightful, and some drag along. Overall, however, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to readers who enjoy celebrity memoirs.

Rating: 4 stars