For the last week I’ve ”gone to bed” at the same time with my little girl. That means I have gotten addicted to a book – I cannot stop reading and actually go to sleep later than usually. This time I have been reading Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. I fell in love with Poehler as Leslie Knope in the comedy series Parks and Recreation. Already before I had fallen in love with Tina Fey and because Tina and Amy are best friends, it must be very hard for them that I love them both… secretly… from far away.
I have never supported any sports clubs or been a fan of a band or performer. Not even when I was a teenager. I know. How utterly boring. I get uncomfortable just by seeing people cheering for their favourite team in tv. Despite all this I agreed once to go to a football match with my husband to the Amsterdam ArenA. At the stadium there is a corner called Vak 410 for the true fans. From where I stood, it seemed to me that the only responsible thing to do would be to escort these people to a mental institution immediately after the game. Ok, ok, my reactions may have been a little strong, because I had just found out I’m pregnant and we were almost charged over by the mounted police at the entrance when they were escorting the away side’s true fans to their designated place. My husband told me nothing like this had ever happened before when he’d been to games. It immediately made me feel better of course.
Anyway, the point is that I do not fully understand the psychology of being a fan of something. Except when it comes to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler: I’ve read their Wikipedia and IMDb-pages and peeked into the private life section as well to see who they are friends with, whom they date, how many children they have and with whom and looked for juicy rumours. This is what fans do, right? Let me know what other things I can do! I’m new to this business. Did I remember to mention that why I do all this is because I see them as intelligent, powerful women who can do a lot of good for feminism just by being themselves? Well, now I did.
Goes without saying Yes, Please offers lots of good laughs and the more you know about the people Poehler has worked with and productions she has been involved in, the more you will laugh. This is also the challenge of the book, but do not worry, because you can also become a fan like me and read and watch more and then come back to the book again! You can start with watching 30Rock, Parks and Recreation, Saturday Night Life US 2010 presidential elections parodies and read Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants too. But back to Yes, Please. Other than the obvious that it is funny, the book delighted me with two things. First one is that the narrative voice of Yes, Please is completely-absolutely unreliable and postmodern, but at the same time the book strikes as a sincere personal record of becoming a comedian and working, living and loving through this profession. It jumps from imagination to reality back and forth constantly which gives an extra dimension to the funny bits as well.
Secondly, the book is loosely following an idea of a self-help book. I decided to take this part seriously, because I noticed that for me personally this parody of a self-help book works a lot better than any other serious set of advice and lists of how to live your life, because it’s done through (intelligent) humour. I like to talk about difficult things and then laugh at them as if they were nothing to me. Humour allows you distance to the tragedies – or petty problems – of your life and distance gives you perspective. There were two topics in Yes, Please that I found absolutely fantastic. In reality there are a lot more great topics, but I learned in the academia that you need focus in your writings, so two or three will have to do.
First one has to do with children and family and the other one career. Poehler writes about the never-ending and pointless juxtaposition of working and stay-at-home-moms and how she felt as a working mom when people posed her the seemingly innocent question of: How do you do it?
“Let me try to answer the question for real. Do you want to know how I do it? I can do it because I have a wife. Every mother needs a wife. (…) Some mothers’ wives are their mothers. Some mothers’ wives are their husbands. Some mothers’ wives are their friends and neighbors. (…) Every mother needs a wife who takes care of her and helps her become a better mother.” (p. 151-152)
The other great advise from Poehler is: Treat your career like a bad boyfriend! And this is how it happens and why you should do it:
“Pretending to not want something can work. (…) Guess the Buddhists would call this idea healthy detachment. Too often we are told to visualize what we want and cut out pictures of it and repeat it like a mantra over and over again. (…) I’m introducing a new idea. Try to care less. Practice ambivalence. Learn to let go of wanting it. Treat your career like a bad boyfriend. (…) …let me make a distinction between career and creativity. Creativity is connected to your passion, that light inside you that drives you. Your creativity is not a bad boyfriend. It is a really warm older Hispanic lady who has beautiful laugh and loves to hug. If you are even a little bit nice to her she will make you feel great and maybe cook you delicious food.” (p. 222-223)
I love this advice because it is not simplistic. It does not say “just do it” or “eat less”. It says, “practice and learn”. However, for more great advice and good laughs you should just read the whole book yourself!