In her humorous memoir, Yes Please
(2014), Amy Poehler shares stories about her personal life, offering readers serious and not-so-serious life advice. Eagerly anticipated, the book won the 2014 Goodreads Choice Award for Humor and was nominated for the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album. Fans praise the book for its unflinching, frank style and numerous anecdotes. Poehler is a well-known actor, comedian, and voice artist living in New York City. She has starred in numerous popular TV shows and movies, and she won the 2014 Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Musical or Comedy Series.
Poehler’s memoir, divided into three parts, is not a formal memoir, but the journal of someone looking back on her life so far and wondering what she can learn from her mistakes. At the same time, Poehler hopes we will take something useful from her musings, but she doesn’t pretend that this is meant to be an educational or inspirational book. It is purely for entertainment value, as she explains in the introduction.
If there is an overarching message in Yes Please
, it is that powerful women know how to ask for what they want, and they don’t apologize for it. Strong women say, “yes,” because they want to, not because they don’t know how to say no. They also say, “please,” because they don’t need permission to enjoy the things they do. Though Yes Please
is not a feminist book, it is designed to encourage women to go after what they want. Poehler also encourages manners.
In the first section, “Say Whatever You Want,” Poehler looks back on her career in comedy and her love of improv. She learns that it is easier to say what she is thinking if she makes it funny, or if she speaks through a certain platform, like a comedy sketch. For Poehler, her journey to stardom starts and ends with comedy. She includes numerous childhood pictures of her first stage performances for humor.
By speaking her mind on stage, Poehler learns she can say whatever she wants in life. After graduating from college, she is honest with her parents about her chosen career path; she doesn’t apologize for walking away from her education. She recognizes where her talents lie, and she doesn’t need permission to go after what she wants. Poehler encourages her children to speak their mind and be themselves, and she hopes we learn from this.
In the second part, “Do Whatever You Like,” Poehler is upfront about her life choices. Honest about drug use and her sexual activity, she encourages us to embrace our own choices with the same openness. The only subject she avoids is her divorce from her long-term partner, Will Arnett, because she respects his right to privacy.
Poehler is also honest about how her problems with marijuana affect her creativity. While she admits to still using drugs, she doesn’t use them nearly as often as she once did, because she can’t write or perform effectively under the influence. Again, Poehler doesn’t ask for permission to live her life, she doesn’t apologize for the choices she’s made.
While Poehler admits she has had a full and exciting life, she is upfront about the challenges of juggling a busy career and motherhood. Although she discusses motherhood in a light-hearted way, she admits to feeling overwhelmed trying to look after a family. She is very grateful to the women who help her raise her children, and the lessons they have taught her over the years.
In the third section, “Be Whoever You Are,” Poehler reflects on where she is at now and what she hopes the future holds. However, she doesn’t dwell on the future, because she prefers to live in the moment. She encourages us to follow our dreams and go where life takes us without feeling tethered to any one lifestyle. Even though she has a family and a career, she is always open to new possibilities and new adventures.
Poehler offers some lessons to us in this final part of the book. She encourages us to treat our careers the way we treat bad partners and friends—get some space away from them. It’s natural to feel pressure to please everyone, but that pressure is impossible to live up to. She is also open about what show business is truly like—it is certainly not as glamorous as the average person expects. Poehler gives examples, such as what it’s like to face constant rejection and endless amounts of pressure.
To conclude, Poehler considers technology and the impact it has on our lives. She recalls what it was like to live in a world where communication wasn’t instant, but she doesn’t judge whether technology is a good or a bad thing. Instead, she encourages everyone to take time out from social media, text messaging, and the news, to simply live our lives for a change.