Book Review: Yes, Please by Amy Poehler


“The only way we will survive is by being kind. The only way we can get by in this world is through the help we receive from others. No one can do it alone, no matter how great the machines are.”

I’ve always thought Amy Poehler was hilarious, but after reading her new book Yes, Please, I am convinced that she is somehow my big sister. Or at the very least a long lost cousin. But clearly we’re related. Not sure how, but I’m sure it must be true!

I knew that I had to read Yes, Please as soon as I saw that it was being written. I was kind of expecting it to happen. Tina Fey had Bossypants, Nick Offerman had Paddle Your Own Canoe, both of which I devoured and loved and will do posts on as well (though come to think of it I may have already covered Fey’s book, but I know I haven’t done Offerman’s yet, since an unfinished version of it is still sitting in this blog’s draft folder as a type this)… it was all just a matter of time before Amy Poehler wrote a book. And I’m certainly being bold in saying that I believe this book was written to me specifically. Realistically, I know this is crazy and completely impossible… but it was one of those things that I call the “right time” books, meaning that it fell into my hands exactly when I needed its words the most.

The book starts with a preface in which it is immediately clear that this book is going to read like a conversation with Amy Poehler herself or, at the very least, a really awesome talk given somewhere. On how to get the book done she writes, “Well, the first thing we do is take our brain out and put it in a drawer. Stick it somewhere and let it tantrum until it wears itself out. You may still hear the brain and all the shitty things it is saying to you, but it will be muffled, and just the fact that it is not in your head anymore will make things seem clearer. And then you just do it.” For some reason, this quote spoke directly to my inner anxiety issues, which have been raging full force again lately. And the idea of just putting your brain in a drawer is just super appealing.

But let’s not regress into discussions of full-fledged anxiety, or this post will be even longer than it’s already going to be, as I decompress the whole book and share tons and tons of my favorite quotes! Such as, at the end of the preface when Poehler writes, “I tried to tell the truth and be funny. What do you want from me, you filthy animals?”

The whole time I was reading, I could hear her voice saying the words, and so I really hope that there’s an audio version of it out there somewhere… and if Poehler herself doesn’t want to read it aloud, can I do it?! I definitely think I could capture the Poehler essence by reading her book aloud for her.

The book continues to be conversational after the preface. It’s a series of stories, somewhat connected to each other, but more like a random sampling of musings. Some people might find this disconcerting, but it didn’t bother me at all. Each section had it’s own little theme, such as “Say What You Want” and the stories within those themes all related back. I laughed out loud quite a bit at all the little stories she was telling, imagining the people involved (many of them are other famous people I’m familiar with), and trying to delight in the fantasy that I worked with all of these people and they were my friends too! (One day… one day!)

On why the book is called Yes, Please Poehler says, “it is the constant struggle and often the right answer. Can we figure out what we want, ask for it, and stop talking? 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.” It’s brilliant.

As I continued my journey through the book, I marveled at the ways in which we were similar. Sure, she mentions having anxiety and sleep issues, but there were little things too. Here are just some of the areas in which we agree whole-heartedly:

On Theater – “When I would leave the bright sunglight of outside and enter into the dark and empty theater, I would feel like a real artist with a true sense of purpose. Time passed and the world spun, but all that mattered was the thing in the room you were making together.”

On Apologizing – “I have learned an important part of apologizing is not making excuses.”

On Friendship – “…which is one of the many things I love about him. I also love that he is really honest, gives great advice and knows how to drive a boat.” AND “I think if I have established anything in my book, it’s that a key element of being my friend is being comfortable with my forced fun.”

On Sleep – “Sleep and I do not have a good relationship. We have never been friends. I am constantly chasing sleep and then pushing it away… I am also a total drama queen about it. I love to talk about how little slee[p I get. I brag about it, as if it is a true indication of how hard I work. But I truly suffer at night. Bedtime is fraught with fear and disappointment. When it is just me alone with my restless body and mind, I feel like the whole world is asleep and gone. It’s very lonely. I am tired of being tired and talking about how tired I am.”

On Crowds and Parties – “I don’t like crowds because I am small and fear being trampled. My ideal night out is a dinner party in my backyard with a group of like-minded friends whom I boss around in a gentle and loving way.”

On Losing Control – “I started to learn that as much as I chased adventure, I had little interest

Amidst all the humor, there was room for quite a lot of wisdom. And we all know how much I love to quote things that “speak” to me. Pretty much the whole book spoke to me, but I’ll try to limit myself here.

However, some “Widsom From Amy Poehler:”

On Painful Experiences – “Any painful experience make you see things differently. It also reminds you of the simple turhs that we purposely forget everyday of else we would never get out of bed. Things like, nothing lasts forever and relationships can end. THe best that can happen is you learn a little more about what you can handle and you stay soft through the pain. Perhaps you feel little wiser. Maybe your experience can be of help to others.”

On Knowing When to Quit – “A customer told me I was banging the drum ‘too hard.’ She was right. I was angry; I wanted to be gone. It’s important to know when it’s time to turn in your kazoo.”

On Change – “Change is the only constant. Your ability to navigate and tolerate change and its painful uncomfortableness directly correlates to your happiness and general well-being.” AND “I had that nervy feeling you get when you know your whole life is going to change and you realize you’re made of tissue paper.”

On Adventure – “Let’s end by pointing out all the positive ways you can scare yourself and feel alive. You can tell someone you love them first. You can try to speak only the truth for a whole week. You can just out of an airplane or spend Christmas Day all by your lonesome. You can help people who need help and fight real bad guys. You can dance fast or take an improv class or do one of those Ironman things. Adventure can be good for your heart and soul.” (This is obviously what followed her quote from above about being scared of losing control.)

See? Pure genius. I devoured this book in two days flat, and that was with needing to clean my entire apartment. I highly recommend it.

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