Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

yes pleaseYes, Please provides a comical behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood’s comedy scene and a peek into Amy Poehler’s life. The scenes about her career are strong and engrossing. If you’re a fan of Parks & Recreation, you have to love Poehler’s assessment of her co-stars (while simultaneously feeling sad because the show has drawn to a close).

However, there is room for improvement. The overlong prologue rambles on about how hard it is to write a book. Halfway through, my attention wandered and I repeatedly checked how close I was to the next chapter. There are funny moments within the opening, but it felt like it would never end. Condensing and cleaning up would improve the pace.

The rest of the book was equally scattered. An anecdote about starring in a Wizard of Oz production filled a full chapter, not because there was a lot to tell, but because it was filled with tangents. The rambling is Poehler’s comedic style, but would be enhanced with more editing to streamline the writing and emphasize the most interesting parts of Poehler’s story.

Poehler also has a few words of wisdom that are inspiring and others that are just plain ridiculous. Worth the read, but be ready to wade through some slower bits to reach the true heart of the book.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

As a fan of 30 Rock (and Mean Girls!), I was excited when I heard that Tina Fey had written a book. And just from a look at the back cover, it seemed like it would be funny. (“Totally worth it.” ~Trees) Not to mention the very positive review from Entertainment Weekly.

I started reading the book and though at first I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I expected, there were still good moments and funny and even a little illuminating. Despite the slow start (particularly the chapter about her father Don Fey), the book got funnier as it got into more familiar territory (specifically, her time on Saturday Night Live and how that transitioned into 30 Rock).

There is more in here than just a bunch of self-deprecating humor. Mixed in between her humorous anecdotes (her makeup tops, for example) are an interesting look into the male dominated world that is comedy writing. (I have a friend trying to break into this world and she is finding much of what Fey described.) We also get some good tips about how best to manage people (using examples of how she runs the show). Fey shows a sarcastic, determined, funny persona that has helped her become the successful, if quirky woman that she is. She is clearly hardworking and has earned her way.

At the same time, this isn’t a tell-all. We don’t delve deeply into any particular experience (for example she talks about being slashed in the face as a child but discusses how other people bring up her scar more than the actual incident, we get only a cursory look at her time on SNL, etc). There are times when I would have liked to hear more, such as a look into her work on Mean Girls or some more about the people she has worked with (we get a decent amount about Amy Poehler and Alec Baldwin, but few others). Even with that, it was enjoyable and insightful. (This would probably be hysterical as an audiobook read by Fey.) It was nice getting to know a little more about Fey, who seems to be a slightly higher functioning version of Liz Lemon and I would definitely not be opposed to reading more form her in a few years.