I like books written by funny ladies, it seems. I’m not an overly huge fan of Poehler, in fact I don’t really know too much about her apart from having seen her in a few movies. But I was drawn to this book because I like books written by women that I think might have the capacity to cut through some of the BS and speak with honesty and wit. This book certainly did that.
I’m not sure if this book was meant to be a memoir or a self-help/motivational tome, but it kind of achieves both purposes. While the book recounts Poehler’s lengthy journey through the comedy training ground that is Improv, it also provides plenty of ‘go get it girl’ type moments of encouragement.
Poehler is funny, in an “I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing” kind of way; in fact the first chapter speaks mostly about how much it sucks to write. I can relate. Part of me loves to write and be creative and the other part of me could find a million other things to be doing right now, that wouldn’t be nearly as fulfilling as writing but would be far less laborious. Some days I choose to clean the toilet rather than write.
The quote I loved most, apart from the funny bits, of course, was when Poehler likened manners to “the secret keys to the universe”. I love that. I’m a massive champion for the use of manners in our house by both the kids and the grown-ups. People will regularly forgive people for being naïve or not so smart or clumsy or forgetful, if they still have good manners. Unless you’re being downright mean, good manners can save you from a whole world of complications with others. Ten points, Amy. Love it.
I also like the way Poehler encourages us, I guess women especially, but really anyone suffering from the inner voice that stamps us down, to tell the “demon voice” to “wait”. Perhaps I would go one further and tell the demon voice to bugger off completely, but sometimes, just occasionally, the demon voice is helpful because it makes me get things done and do them just that little bit better.
My grandmother died a week ago. I’ve mentioned her before; she was suffering from dementia and was placed in a nursing home. She finally passed away in her sleep last week, from complications of dementia. I spoke at her funeral, alongside my sister, and it was one of the hardest but best things I’ve ever done. But in the time between writing what I wanted to say and actually delivering it (about two days), I had the biggest crisis of confidence. I too had to tell my demon voice to wait. To tell it to calm down and let me do my thing, so that I could show it that I had it covered. No demon voice at all and I might not have even bothered to try; it just needed to back off and let me be for a while.
Anyway, aside from those bits of serious motivational stuff, the rest of this book is a hotchpotch of autobiographical reflections on her career, and funny relatable bits of womanhood, life, work and comedy. I don’t quite know what she wanted to achieve with this book (captive audience of Amy Poehler fans, expecting a book, in the vein of Tina Fey?) but it was a good fun ride with a bit of memorable stuff too. And, just like Jane Lynch, I’m reminded of just how much hard work goes into building a comedy career, even though it seems from the outside like perhaps they just wake up funny one day and get put into a movie.
What’s the lesson? Have manners. They are the “secret keys to the universe”. Work hard, but keep your sense of humour. Tell that demon voice to wait – not to go away completely, but just to back off.