OVERBOOKED: “Yes Please”

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OVERBOOKED: “Yes Please”

Stephanie Chen, Senior Staff Reporter

OVERBOOKED: “Yes Please”

I hate airports. I had to travel out of town this week, so I spent about 12 hours in airports. My flying ritual is to take out my contacts, put in headphones and listen to Solange on repeat, pretending that I’m in some hip, angelic, retro music video rather than schlumping through the hell-caves of American transit. Without contacts, this works particularly well because I can’t actually see anything five feet in front of me that would point to the contrary.

But not this week.

This week, I had comedian Amy Poehler’s memoir “Yes Please” to keep me company. My roommate finished reading it a few weeks ago, and I spied it in her room being used as elevation for a table lamp. “Yo, I can use that to elevate my MIND,” I thought to myself before borrowing it. (Just kidding, that phrase hadn’t crossed my mind. But I wish it had… although, if I’d said it, my roommate would have flat-out refused to let me touch her books ever again.)

I spent the plane ride to Rhode Island completely engrossed in “Yes Please.” This was partly due to the fact that Poehler’s voice is so charismatic and personable. Her straightforward, taut writing can spitball fart jokes right next to thoughtful meditations on life as a woman, artist and fallible human being.

It was also partly due to the fact that the guy seated next to me on the plane was taking selfies the entire plane ride. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that he was using an actual camera, meaning

  1. He had to take the photo about 169 times because it kept coming out badly, and
  2. He kept holding the camera at an odd angle and I couldn’t tell if he was trying to include me in the shot, so I leaned dramatically against the window (hopefully out of the frame) and buried my head in my book.

See? This book will not only bring you laughs and important life lessons, but you can also use it as a shield (especially the hardcover edition) against the creepy dudes of the world! Rejoice!

Yes, this is a memoir about Poehler’s path to becoming one of the most successful comedians today, but it also feels like a natural extension of her YouTube series, “Smart Girls at the Party.” In the series, she interviews successful women about staying true to themselves and finding a distinctive brand of success. “Yes Please” is also about empowering women through Poehler’s experiences. She’s quick to point out, however, that she’s not the sole arbiter of her success — the communities she’s a part of have helped her become a media powerhouse. And though the book is an affirmation of being a woman in modern society, it also contains chapters of sage advice for both women and humans of all shapes and sizes.

Poehler is the least condescending person you could imagine to write a pseudo-self-help book. I both laughed and cried alone in public spaces, and I felt stupid but invincible. She has a knack for speaking to her readers’ most vulnerable moments while also exposing her own weaknesses — not even Hollywood’s elite escapes the stumbling of everyday life. In one of the most heartbreaking parts of “Yes Please,” Poehler recounts a time she told an offensive joke about a disabled girl named Anastasia and lived with that shame for years.

Saying sorry is difficult, but Poehler doesn’t make it graceful or affirming or easy. I’m terrible at apologizing to the people who I’ve been an asshole to. But reading Poehler’s account, I briefly gained the courage to stop being such a coward in all things. Then, I made a long series of apologies to people in my life, and those people were all confused and hated it. I transmitted a few apologies telepathically as well, but jury’s out on how those were received.

One of Poehler’s greatest strengths is that she is endlessly generous — her warmth radiates from every page. She’s like that aunt who hands you ruby red lipstick and combat boots when you’re lost, and she’s got a story from when she was high (co-starred by SNL cast members) to get you through it. Even with a legacy to uphold, Poehler’s not afraid to make herself look dumb or scared or clueless. She’s writing not only for ambitious women, but also for creative people, people trying to balance their careers and personal lives, and people in their twenties who are trying to “make it” and reality hates them for even trying.

This book included more hard drugs and Seth Meyers interludes than I was expecting, but such is life, and Poehler makes no excuses. She is fearless. I emerged from this book not only feeling like more of a badass than I really was; but also feeling like, if I tried harder, I could be more compassionate towards everyone around me.

Wow. I should cry on airplanes more often.

Next week: “Something Wicked This Way Comes” – Ray Bradbury