Smile, Laugh, Love: Amy Poehler’s Yes Please
Amy Poehler has it together. And ‘it’ has nothing to do with fame, money or romance even if she does have all three. You have ‘it’ when you’re happy, which means knowing and loving yourself to the fullest — two things Amy does best.
When I started her new book Yes Please, I still referred to her by her full name. But by the time I finished it, she was just Amy. It’s bizarre how close you can feel to someone you’ve never met, just by reading the stories they chose to share with the entire world. But Amy’s writing voice is so clear and simple that I can almost hear Leslie Knope’s actual voice reading her words aloud.
Amy just seems so real. In the intro she talks about how hard it is to write a book — especially one about yourself — and how implicitly conceited and painfully permanent the whole memoir-publishing process is. So down-to-earth yet somehow sharp and hilarious. Some of the memories she retells are insane celebrity-only kind of stories, but my favorites are the everyday ones. The stories that remind me of my own misadventures.
When she played Dorothy in her fourth grade’s Wizard of Oz, she discovered “on stage” meant “in charge” and improv’d for the very first time. I played Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web in the fourth grade too, but my story ended in the audience’s disappointment instead of delight. I got distracted reading backstage, missed a cue, and realized crowds are the worst and words are my home.
Sure she writes about creating Parks and Recreation and what it was like giving birth to her first son while watching the SNL episode she had rehearsed to perform in days earlier (“Laughing to Crying to Laughing”). But she writes about those things from a perspective anyone can understand. No big words, no convoluted themes, just a girl telling her stories in different ways.
The book’s three parts seem to be in loose chronological order: “Say Whatever You Want,” “Do Whatever You Like,” and “Be Whoever You Are.” “Say” begins with The Wizard of Oz and her birth story while “Be” wraps it up with Parks and Recreation, advice on Hollywood, and the unfathomable love she has for her sons.
The chronology of the three parts align on a larger scope too, with their titles — kids say whatever they want because they just found out they can, teenagers do whatever they want just to prove they can, and adults have the freedom to be whoever they are (the only problem is a lot of people get distracted by shoulds and don’t know who that is).
My favorite essay was “Plain Girl vs. the Demon.” She perfectly captures and personifies the self-doubt that wreaks havoc within all of us:
“And then one day, you go through a breakup or you can’t lose your baby weight or you look at your reflection in a soup spoon and that slimy bugger is back. It moves its sour mouth up to your ear and reminds you that you are fat and ugly and don’t deserve love.
This demon is some Stephen King from-the-sewer devil-level shit.”
Coming to the realization that the negative parts of me don’t have any real control is one of the best epiphanies I can ever remember having. And Amy Poehler knows what that feels like.
Thank YOU Amy, for writing a book for everyone.