So, full disclosure, I already thought Amy Pohler was the coolest before reading this. I have fond memories of the era of SNL when she and Tina Fey were the first women to helm the “Weekend Update” segment. I’ve always liked her willingness to go all in on over-the-top, unsexy characters. Finding out she has had relatable career struggles and has fantastic taste in music was the icing on the cake. I’ve never seen “Parks and Rec” and lost track of her work after SNL. I don’t know what prompted me to throw this in my cart but I’m glad I did! Any woman in a creative field might especially appreciate the wisdom in this book.
The book is loosely organized into essays by topic. Some of them are autobiographical, detailing Pohler’s lower-middle-class Boston upbringing and family life, and some are more essays/thoughts on various topics. One chapter might be how Pohler fell in love with improv comedy, and the next might be what to do with that voice in your head that says you’re not pretty enough, but somehow the mishmash of autobiography and self-help works. Pohler’s account of being pregnant while still being a writer on SNL are inspiring and useful. There are some fun guest-writing spots by Seth Meyers and even Hillary Clinton (she wrote a letter to Pohler’s son on his birthday). I’ll admit the chapter with extensive footnotes from the “Parks and Rec” cast lost me, but I’m sure fans of the show will appreciate it (I’ve never seen the show, cue facepalms I know. I fall asleep after about 20 minutes of tv ever since I went north of age 30 and thus have not seen many of the shows people say are good).
My favorite essays were actually the ones where Pohler recounts missteps in her career with grace and humility. In one, she recounts the response when she unknowingly made fun of a disabled girl on the air. It was a misunderstanding and she didn’t know at the time, but still understood that she was not off the hook and doesn’t make any excuses. It’s like a devastating crash course in how to be a worthwhile adult. In the other, she tells the story of being treated badly at an awards show (the staff misser her cue and the audio wasn’t working) and caving to a condescending producer wanting to give her a hug (but telling her friends she refused the hug). This rang so true to me as a woman in the arts that I thought about it for days afterward. Pohler perfectly describes the feeling of not wanting to be seen as a “handful” and how difficult it is to assert yourself.
Overall, this was a lovely and unexpected book that read more like a self-help manual than I expected, but in a good way.