It might be unorthodox to begin a book with the words “writing is hard,” but then again Amy Poehler is not your average writer, and Yes Please is far from your average book. The star of Parks and Recreation makes no secret of the fact she wrote her memoir in a sleep-deprived state, penning snippets on subways and planes. She freely admits that Yes Please is a “spontaneous overflow in the middle of chaos,” which ordinarily might lower readers’ expectations, but Poehler isn’t fooling anyone. The former Saturday Night Live cast member infuses her writing with an unabashed candour that is not only refreshing to read, but wholly absorbing. Poehler lifts the veil on the I-don’t-know-how-she-does-it mysticism surrounding working mothers, and writes truthfully of fitting 12-hour shoots around mothering two children under 7.
This brazen frankness is not limited to her personal life; Poehler narrates her passage to fame — or rather, her decade-long struggle funded by amateur comedy gigs – with a fondness that makes you wish you’d seen Poehler and her anarchic troupe — Upright Citizens Brigade — in action. Here, Poehler debunks another myth: that of the accidental celebrity. “I like hard work and I don’t like pretending things are perfect,” writes Poehler. And the sum of this hard work, grit and tenacity that is so redolent in Poehler’s account of her pre-SNL years is exactly why Poehler graces our screens as the bonkers-yet-brilliant Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation. Scenes from her childhood are woven into hilarious behind-the-scenes glimpses of the SNL writers’ room and poignant vignettes of her friendship with Tina Fey.
This is not a rose-hued fable of celebrity life. This is the reality of life as a sitcom star in the male-dominated world of comedy. This is not an argument for having it all, but instead a formula for how to try to have it all; and the tale of someone who knows first-hand that you can’t.