The ‘sassy female celebrity advice memoir’ has been a popular genre for a while, and I’m sure has played some role in inspiring many a young woman to follow her dreams. Amy Poehler’s 2014 release ‘Yes Please’ follows hot on the heels of her comic partner Tina Fey’s similar collection of life stories ‘Bossy Pants’: both books are made up of random biographical pieces, anecdotes about forging a career in comedy and television, and self deprecating analysis by way of advising women on how to navigate the vagaries of modern dating, marriage and parenting. Poehler is one of my favourite comedians, and her voice in this collection shines through: that perky, bright as a button cheeriness covering an acidic undertone that reminds you at the end of every sentence that she is as sharp as a whip, and is calling bullshit on life. In fact, several of her anecdotes on how she has managed her career are revealing in how powerful a person she really is under that petite blonde façade: she seems very much like the person she imitated so famously on Saturday Night Live, another blonde powerhouse, Hillary Clinton.
I’d hate to narrow this memoir’s audience down to fans but I did think at the end of it that a good knowledge of Poehler’s most successful shows ‘Parks And Recreation’ and ‘Saturday Night Live’ would be beneficial since large parts of the book are devoted to her time on them. However, for the reader who is unfamiliar with her work, the collection also has much to enjoy in Poehler’s ruminations on childhood friendships, university life, parenting, divorce and pursuing a career in the arts. Aside from conventional passages on matters, Poehler uses satire to explore issues with haikus on plastic surgery, ‘If you plump your lips – The words that come out of them – Sound ridiculous’, and imaginary self help books on divorce:
‘Divorce: The Ways Not to Catch It! Divorce is contagious! Haven’t you heard? It’s like cancer but worse because no one really feels that bad for you. This book will teach you how to discuss your divorce with your currently married friends. Some married couples get freaked out when you talk about your divorce and like to tell you how they aren’t going to get one. Usually they point to their hard work through therapy, they’re fear of being alone, or their total acceptance of a dead marriage devoid of sex and love. This book will help you not strangle them when they both stand in front of you and talk about how great their relationship continues to be.’
She also dispenses a practical list of sex advice for young women: ‘6. Get better at dirty talk. Act like a boss lady ordering at a deli. “I want the ham on rye and make sure you toast it!” If your guy is bad at dirty talk tell him to shut up. He might like that. If you don’t like dirty talk, don’t worry about it. It’s pretty hot if done well but it may not be up your alley. Also, try not to stick things up your alley.’
If you like lots of name dropping and insights into Hollywood life in your memoirs, ‘Yes Please’ also provides and I found the sections on how Poehler and her fellow comedy nominees at the Emmy’s contacted each other every year fun to read: ‘We decided that this year Martha and I, along with our fellow nominees should do something similar, but add a beauty pageant element. I emailed my fellow nominees for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Laura Linney, Edie Falco, and Melissa McCarthy, and they were all in of course. I knew my girl Tina was down to clown, because she herself was breast feeding at the time, and as history has shown, this is when a butch is most likely to go OFF.’
‘Yes Please’ is a charming, honest and wry look at what it means to be an experienced woman in 2014; not quite old enough to dispense Maya Angelou style wisdom, but jaded enough to let young women know the pitfalls of life. I think there is no better person to dispense that advice sarcastically than the talented Amy Poehler. We really can’t be told enough times not to take ourselves, and life, too seriously.