“Good for her! Not for me.”
The above phrase first appears about a fifth of the way through Ms. Poehler’s excellent book. If you’re familiar with her “Smart Girls at the Party” project, it should come as no surprise that she offers up some pretty sweet life advice. I’m almost 35, and I don’t think I’ve seen that sentiment summed up so perfectly. I’m considering having it tattooed on my ass.
Not literally. Well, not actively, anyway. Maybe someday. But for now it is tattoed across my mind.
This book is not exactly what I expected. I was assuming it would be closer to what Tina Fey gave us with Bossypants. I know that comparing one pretty white rich comedian to another pretty white rich comedian isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but these days when I see Ms. Fey I think about Ms. Poehler and vice versa. I picture Amy/Hillary and Tina/Sarah standing at the podium during the Saturday Night Live cold open. I’ve always felt that I know a bit more about Ms. Fey (not that we really know anything about strangers, even after they’ve written a memoir) than Ms. Poehler, although I recall reading in Bossypants the story about Amy very bluntly telling Jimmy Fallon that she didn’t care if he liked something she did or not. That’s awesome.
After reading this book, I feel like I understand Ms. Poehler a bit more. She’s an interesting woman, and a complex one who can be very sarcastic, very blunt, and very sincere in the same paragraph. The sincerity threw me a bit, but I really appreciated it in this book. Unlike Neil Patrick Harris’s book (which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago), this one feels like an exploration. I’m not fooling myself into thinking it’s not a carefully curated version of herself that she’s choosing to share, but she is at least a talented enough writer to make the reader BELIEVE that she’s sharing something real with us.
And what she shares is a mixture of pride, shame, humor, and insight. She tells a story that does not paint her in a flattering light, and while I could take the cynical route and imagine that she did it to absolve herself, I don’t actually think she did. I think she wanted to point out how she screws up, and how sometimes she doesn’t make things right, or spends way too long before she tries to make things right. She talks about hard work, about her marriage ending, and about her childhood. The book jumps around, and at times it isn’t totally cohesive, but it felt real. I imagine that Amy Poehler is someone who would use the phrase “my truth” without irony or judgment. I don’t think I would have believed that before reading this book. I think folks are expecting a laugh-riot peek behind the life of a comedic genius, and while we get that peek into her life, it isn’t all (or even mostly) laughs. It’s funny, for sure, but it’s more than that. I haven’t enjoyed this type of book this much in a while. I plan to read it again, because I think there’s more for me to get out of it.