Sunday, August 23, 2015

No Thanks

I just finished reading Amy Poehler's book, Yes Please, a more-or-less autobiography of her life.

I say more-or-less because it's difficult to classify it as much more than a few disjointed chapters. But we'll get to that in a moment.

I've never had a problem with Amy Poehler. I think she's a perfectly capable comedienne and I've enjoyed her in everything I've ever seen her in. I haven't been a fan of Saturday Night Live for over a decade now, so my exposure to her there has been fairly minimal. Still, at the end of the day, in my experience I've always preferred her partner, Tina Fey, over Poehler.

Still, I find Parks and Rec, the sitcom Poehler starred in, to be incredibly enjoyable, and quickly catapulted her to the top of my list of entertainers I enjoy.

So I figured I would enjoy this book. Sadly, I have to say I was quite disappointed.

First off, it's barely a book. Well, maybe that's a bit harsh. It clocks in at a healthy 350+ pages, but a significant portion of those pages are scraps of half-finished sketches and page-gobbling aphorisms even the kitschiest Hallmark store wouldn't carry. Not only that, but she pressed Seth Meyers, her parents, and other staff members to write entire chapters for her. It not too much of a stretch to claim that a third of this book is Poehler notwriting anything at all. To her credit, she flat-out mentions at the beginning that she was having a difficult time writing the book, but that doesn't let her off the hook.

But, you may think, at least she has some good stories about SNL and Parks and Rec, right? The answer to that is: not really. Parks and Rec gets maybe a chapter, and even the content about SNL isn't much longer. And neither are particularly interesting. She does go into her history of the improv scene, most notably the Upright Citizens Brigade, which is interesting and probably new to most people. Still, she weaves all this with a lot of talk about her childhood, not uninteresting but is so clumsily transitioned between childhood, improv, and stardom it's difficult to enjoy very much.

Added into all this are quite a few "bits" that feel a lot like the sad sort of sketches that might crack the last half hour of SNL. Maybe they aren't that bad, but they certainly feel like fillers.

And, at the risk of perhaps blowing it a little out of proportion, a lot of the stories that she does end up writing about don't exactly make her out to be all that nice of a person. Sure, I'd rather someone write honestly--who wants to read a book by someone who just whitewashes their own lives?--but I have the sneaky suspicion that she doesn't think a lot of the stuff she thinks about Hollywood is particularly wrong.

At the end of the day, Yes Please reads like a book that the author did not want to write and hated the thought of doing. All of the self-referencing of that fact doesn't make it any more enjoyable.

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