I feel like I need to start this review by sharing: I am not familiar with Amy Poehler’s body of work.
I respect her work, and I know what she has done through Amy Poehler’s Strong Girls, but I have never seen Parks and Recreation, I never saw Upright Citizens Brigade, and I barely have seen any episodes of Saturday Night Live. I might have seen one sketch with Amy in it… But I know she’s funny. And that’s all that matters.
Why is this important? It means that going into this memoir, I didn’t have any preconceived notions. This is not a standard memoir. Had I known more about Amy Poehler’s career prior to listening to the book, I might have wanted to hear specific things, and I might have been disappointed. Instead, I was just pleasantly surprised with some amazing life advice.
With that off my chest, we can get into the meat of this review.
Yes, Please is a memoir. A memoir that Amy didn’t want to write. And, strangely enough, which doesn’t particularly feel like a memoir. It feels more like a collection of essays. Some of these essays are self-help-focused, some are memoir-esque, and some are just comedy. But the one consistent theme throughout is that Amy reinforces you are not any one thing– you are just you. Love yourself, love the people around you, and keep a smile on your face.
The parts of this book which stick with me after are mostly in the vein I’d describe in more of a self-help vein. And I don’t mean self-help in the traditional way. This is an accidental self-help book. Which, apparently, is the best. These essays are not preachy, or even intentionally heavy. However, there are some real gems of advice Poehler has laid out for the reader. My favorite essay, Treat Your Career Like A Bad Boyfriend elaborates on how making sacrifices for your career will never gain you anything.
“Your career won’t take care of you. It won’t call you back or introduce you to its parents. Your career will openly flirt with other people while you are around.”
Poehler is reminding everyone not to get too hung up on outcomes. It’s important to care about your work and how it makes you feel, but not how your peers think you are or how good you look. Also, that you’re not stuck with your job. You can always leave if the relationship gets abusive– and you should. Ambivalence is key. You will never feel like you’ve “made it”, and that’s okay. Just recognize it.
In the same essay, Poehler addresses the distinction between career and creativity. Since I can’t do her justice:
“Creativity is connected to your passion, the light inside you that drives you. That joy that comes when you do something you love. That small voice that tells you, “I like this. Do this again. You are good at it. Keep going.” That is the juicy stuff that lubricates our lives and helps us feel less alone in the world. Your creativity is not a bad boyfriend.”
This is an essential distinction. It’s important to identify that the satisfaction you get at work is not tied to the company you work for or the people you work with. That comes from an intrinsic place where a specific task motivates you. Too often, I find people stuck in unhappy careers because they are afraid to lose what they love. But you can take that with you. There are so many places in the world where you can find and utilize your creativity. Your creativity is not a bad boyfriend.
While Poehler also discusses many moments of her own life, she doesn’t get into much detail. The self-help ideal is never far, and often these ideas even get dropped into her life stories. For example, Poehler also addresses many other self-help-y topics such as self-esteem…
“Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are a lot happier and sexier.”
…judging other women…
“Good for her, not for me.”
“My phone does not want me to have friends.”
…being a strong woman in a male-dominated society…
“It takes years for a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for.”
And many other brilliant things:
“How a person treats their waitress is a great indication of their character.”
Now, I listened to the audiobook version of this novel. I’m quite glad that I did, too! Yes, Please! won an Audie award and featured Carol Burnett, Seth Meyers, Michael Schur, Patrick Stewart, Kathleen Turner, and Amy’s parents. The audio was chockful of obvious improv moments and ridiculous things. Hearing Amy Poehler explain everything in her own voice was essential to my full appreciate of this content. Since I don’t know much about her, I imagine that reading the physical copy might have been harder to understand; there is quite a bit of sarcasm within these pages.
That said, I hear the physical book is also chockful of amazing and ridiculous things! Large glossy photos and word art with her more amazing sayings. Both versions sound brilliant– I will probably re-read this as a physical book some day. Heck: I should probably own a copy of this.
This book is divided into three sections: Say Whatever You Want, Do Whatever You Like, and Be Whoever You Are. That clearly to me makes the key takeaway from this novel Your enjoyment is what matters, not other people’s opinions. If that is something you struggle with in any way, well, I recommend you read this book.