Poehler's 'Yes Please:' Profound words from a comedy queen

(Image courtesy HarperCollins Publishers) (Image courtesy HarperCollins Publishers)

"Great people do things before they are ready," comedienne Amy Poehler said in a 2013 webcast for her online campaign, "Smart Girls At The Party." These widely recognized words of wisdom, reiterated in her new autobiography "Yes Please," reflect a sense of confidence, poise and energy that Poehler consistently embodies in her work.

Poehler is easily recognized for her roles in "Saturday Night Live" and "Parks and Recreation" on the small screen, as well as big-screen hits such as "Mean Girls" and "Baby Mama." Although Poehler consistently amasses roars of laughter on screen and stage, her fans must not forget the bold authenticity and passion that, as exemplified in "Yes Please," have composed her character since the day she was born.

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"Yes Please" is both a deep look into Poehler's perceptions of her world and a raw description of the events in her life that helped form those perceptions. Many celebrity autobiographies speak to readers by reminding them that success does not come overnight, and that one must work tirelessly and strategically in order to attain it. Poehler, however, goes beyond this and relates to readers on a level that meets them wherever they are and puts common feelings into witty yet emotional words.

She gives a voice to the hypercritical inner demons that haunt even the most confident individuals, and she addresses those demons in a way that understands the fact that learning how to silence them is a process. She recognizes the difficulty of apologizing and reminds us that sometimes it's not all about us. Her stories reflect a spirit that feels deeply and openly, but knows how to be aggressive and persistent. Even her scattered discussions of her divorce from actor Will Arnett reflect a sense of positivity and gratitude in the midst of pain.

When it comes to success, Poehler's description isn't merely a nod to the journey itself; it's a passionate acknowledgment of every kind of soulmate and role model who pushed her to where she is today. For instance, she dedicates several pages to praising and discussing each of her beloved "Parks and Recreation" co-stars. Guest writers include Seth Meyers in one short but sweet chapter, as well as Poehler's own parents.

Poehler's writing is raw yet poised, vulnerable yet private. Readers won't get every gritty detail of her divorce, but they will get descriptions of her struggle and the ways she overcame it. They will get a sense of her pure, overwhelming admiration and adoration for her two sons. They will understand that she is both an assertive businesswoman and a soft-hearted woman of the world.

Even Poehler's reasoning behind the title of her book reflects the overall personality of her words.

"It's called 'Yes Please,' because it is the constant struggle and often the right answer," she writes in the chapter titled "Instructions for How to Use This Book."

"Can we figure out what we want, ask for it, and stop talking?" she asks. "Yes please. Is being vulnerable a power position? Yes please. Am I allowed to take up space? Yes please. Would you like to be left alone? Yes please."

Years of experience endowed Poehler with a great deal of wisdom regarding professional pursuits and how to keep a strong sense of self in the midst of a career.

"You have to care about your work but not about the result," she suggests. "You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look."

Overall, "Yes Please" balances Poehler's gentle introspection ("The more I time-travel the more I learn I am always just where I need to be") with her blunt, honest confessions ("The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not. ... It has been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver").

The way she expresses her world makes readers want to be a part of it. The beauty of Amy Poehler is that she not only tells her own story; she invites readers to say "yes please" to creating an equally powerful story for themselves.

 

Reach the reporter at celina.jimenez@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @lina_lauren

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