Books

Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” Audiobook: A Review

… also, a meditation on my eternal struggle to reconcile the audiobook/print copy book consumptions debate that happens whenever I debate reading anything.

First, some facts:

1) I live in Los Angeles and spend way too much time in a car.

2) I work in entertainment and spend way too much time reading scripts, which makes me miss books.

3) I have a really big crush on Seth Meyers.

4) I love books, probably more than scripts, and want to write a book of memoir essays. Someday. After I finish all these scripts I’m writing. Ergo: in preparation for my magnum opus/memoir debut, I devour female memoir essay collections with the same enthusiasm that I devour the extra stuffing my mom tries to save for leftover sandwiches every Thanksgiving. In the past year, I’ve been on a reading (slash // listening) “streak” of almost exclusively female memoir essays. Some trash (Jenny Mollen’s I Like You Just The Way I Am), some classics (re-reading Joan Didion’s The White Album and Slouching Towards Bethlehem), some bookish and wordy and close to my heart (I Was Told There’d Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley), and some – many of which Amy mentioned reading in preparation for her book – comedic: Not That Kind of Girl, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns, Girl Walks into A Bar, and, of course, Bossypants.

To be fair and just: Amy is a comedy writer, and my analysis of this book shall be one of a comedy writer and performer’s memoir about life making comedy in the entertainment industry. She is not Joan Didion. I never expected her to be. She lived that SNL life – that no sleep, day in day out, jokes on jokes on all-nighters life – and for that she should be applauded and commended, no matter the quality of her memoir. However, she chose to write one, so…

5) This weekend, my boyfriend and I went on a long road trip and listened to Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated! Clever! Funny! Spirited! Yes Please in two days.

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Having purchased the audiobook, I will obviously now go and spend double the dollars to buy a hard copy to put on my Sexy Nonfiction By Sexy Ladies Shelf as if to say: “I have read this. Here it is as proof and also if you want to borrow it.” However, unlike, say, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, or Not That Kind of Girl (about which I had very mixed feelings, but in which there are certain passages that speak so directly to my heart – that is, the heart of a twenty-five year old woman, somewhat spoon-fed but also pretty hardworking and hopefully talented, trying to write, and trying to understand my own *need* to put my feelings on paper or on the internet or out into the world for other’s consumption, trying to do that and get paid for it, hopefully for the rest of my life – that I couldn’t possibly NOT return to it, NOT fold down pages and underline things I want to emulate when I someday begin my own book of essays. Any minute now! Maybe once I finish this blog post!), and unlike The White Album –  the pages of “On Keeping A Notebook” are so scribbled and worn I may have to buy a new copy of the whole book soon – I doubt I will ever pick Amy up again. Physically. To read. In my hands. I would like to pick up the real life Amy Poehler someday, just for a big, squeeze-y, spin-around of a bear hug, but that’s for another time.

Except the preface. I may cut out the preface and paste it on my refrigerator and let it reassure me every day. Because it is amazing. The preface is called “writing is hard” and here is a little bit of it for your pleasure:

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Hacking away with a screwdriver… sounds about right. Thank you, Amy, for this beautiful truth.

After the preface, the book twists and turns its way through Amy’s life, remaining humorous and entertaining throughout, albeit a bit without conflict. Her SNL stories are summed up in a hodge-podge of memories because there are too many to do anything but list, and her Parks And Recreation cast mates are summed up in dainty, simple lists – Thing you didn’t know about Retta? Her Aunt is the President of Liberia. Moment Amy laughed the hardest with Retta? When an errant leaf made its way onto the set of Parks. Amy asked “where did it come from?” Retta responded (in an obvi v deadpan voice): “Outside.”

My favorite essays after the preface were “Treat Your Career Like A Bad Boyfriend,” a sincere, sweet meditation on the insatiability of professional life in entertainment that was chock full of advice on delineating clearly between one’s creativity and passion projects and one’s professional ambition.

I also liked the last essay, “The Robots Will Kill Us All,” which she performed in front of a live UCB audience for the audiobook recording, making them laugh and clap and participate as she explained that her iPhone is trying to kill her, that she once patted herself on the back for jumping in to save her drowning child in a pool and forgot to take her iPhone out of her back pocket. So proud to choose the child over the iPhone. And yet, so devastated to lose the iPhone. I feel you, Amy. I feel you. But the rest of the book didn’t so much feel like essays as it did anecdotes. Anecdotes about someone I’m very interested in, sure, but anecdotes. Unstructured at times. Other times, structured for a joke. Like a sketch.

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HERE’S THE THING THOUGH: She performed them. And her performance was magical. Like The Golden Globes (minus the Clooney seductive bit). She has Kathleen Turner play her whenever she didn’t want to use her own voice, employed her parents’ voices for the section on parental learnings and love, AND brought Seth Meyers and Mike Schur in to read parts of her book and discuss it with her. Her audio booth – which, she claims, she built herself as soon as she had enough money from having a TV show – is located at the base of Mount Rushmore and is an expansive, first class recording studio that is so large people record about a quarter-mile apart from each other.

I mean, even if that isn’t real I’m going to pretend it is.

Amy’s voice is so sweet and humble, that even when she’s bragging, skirting around her divorce with Will Arnett (I mean COME ON AMY why did I even buy this memoir?!), and telling anecdote after anecdote without consequence – anecdotes I may have gotten a little skim-happy with, had I been reading this book on the page, I don’t mind. Her voice is like soothing music. Her laugh is a harmonious cackle that rings through the speakers of my sweet Prius like music to my ears. She is beautiful. She is a performer. She is Amy.

Do I recommend Yes Please? Sure. It’s a good book. Do I *highly recommend* listening to Yes Please. Yes. It’s a GREAT audiobook.

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