After reading books like Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, and Chelsea Handler’s Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, I was excited to read this latest one by a comedian. I’m a die hard fan of Saturday Night Live. I tend to love the work that comes from their alums–probably because they know all the good writers. Of her SNL bits, I mostly loved the ensemble skits she was in. Leslie Knope, the character she’s gone on to play in Parks and Recreation, is just great. When it comes to Amy Poehler, I like her, but I think she’s best in collaborative efforts.
Her book was not a favorite. If you’re a die hard fan and will read anything related to SNL, then read it. Otherwise, it’s okay to skip this one. There are funny moments, there are insightful moments, there’s biographical information, and there’s behind the scenes stuff from her work in comedy. But, there’s also a difficult self consciousness that doesn’t always work. Throughout, she complains about how hard and terrible it is to write a book, and those feelings begin to wear off on the reader. The book is repetitive in some ways that don’t seem intentional. The book’s organization is baffling. More importantly, the pages are thick and weird and glossy. What is probably supposed to be “good quality” comes off as too slick, and it makes the book too heavy. It will hurt your wrists while you are reading it in bed.
Here are a few lines for further discussion:
- “Make sure he’s grateful to be with you” (202). This wisdom is via Poehler’s mother. It’s simple, but it resonated with me. I’ve had a few relationships for which I am (and was) very grateful. Like, look around at the sun shining and birds chirping and thank my lucky stars kind of grateful every day. With other people, not so much. Your level of gratitude for the other person says a lot.
- “Hairspray was king, and the eighties silhouette…was big hair, giant shoulder pads, chunky earrings, thick belts, and form-fitting stretch pants. My silhouette was an upside-down triangle. Add in my round potato face and hearty eyebrows and you’ve got yourself a grade-A boner killer” (207-08). See, there were plenty of lolz! (Also, I want to reintroduce “grade-A boner killer” into more of my conversations.)
- “And I count myself very lucky. That is what “very lucky” feels like. Oof” (235). These sentences ended a long paragraph on the various violences Poehler has endured–muggings, physical and sexual harassment, sexual violence–but never rape. She makes a powerful point here.
- “‘Smile’ doesn’t really work either. Telling me to relax or smile when I’m angry is like bringing a birthday cake into an ape sanctuary. You’re just asking to get your nose and genitals bit off” (236). I like this for two reasons. One, being told to “smile” is a weird thing that men say to women. To be on the receiving end of this kind of command feels icky. Two, I love making jokes about ape violence despite the fact that it rarely draws laughs. I’m glad to see Poehler going for it here.
- “[I]f you do start crying in an argument and someone asks why, you can always say, “I’m just crying because of how wrong you are” (237). This one made me laugh, and I hope I have the wherewithall to use it sometime.
**Edit: There’s also this place where she tells a story of having a casting director ask her to share her most embarrassing story. Poehler refused and didn’t get the job. Then, she told the reader that you don’t have to tell people your most embarrassing story when they ask. I liked that.