Book Review: “Yes Please” (2014) by Amy Poehler

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Celebrity memoirs are a curious thing. They are usually written by people who are not writers, heavily edited by the publisher (again: not writers), and tend to be strictly paint-by-numbers works. There is a certain formula the public expects you to follow and all you have to do is fill in the blanks.

My childhood was _____ because my parents were _____. I grew up in _____ but always longed for something more. I discovered my passion for _____ when I was _____. I got my big break when I was ____ and now I am best known for ____. Working with ____ was absolutely amazing and I totally fangirled when I bumped into  ____ at the ____ awards. So embarrassing! Anyway, here are some pictures of me as a kid. Look at that hair. What is up with that hair?

Done!

In many ways, Yes Please follows this script to the letter. Poehler writes about dreaming of adventure as a child, discovering the joys of improv comedy in college, working on SNL and Parks and Recreation, and drops a fair number of names that either mean something to you or go completely over your head, as expected. However, where this book gets interesting is the chapters where she goes off the beaten path. Whether you will enjoy this work depends on how you feel about Poehler, of course, but also on your expectations of the comedy memoir.

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Book Review: “One More Thing” (2014) by B.J. Novak

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This book reminded me a lot of a That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch where David Mitchell is planning out the next episode of their show: “I think it should go: hit, miss, hit, hit, miss, miss, miss, hit, miss, hit, hit.” When Robert Webb asks him why they even have to include the misses (because they are such a bother to write), Mitchell replies that they have to “perversely include about 50% deliberately unamusing material” because that is what people expect from a sketch show.

B.J. Novak’s One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories reads a lot like a sketch show, consisting of one “wouldn’t it be funny if” scenario after the other: what if an Ugandan war lord went out on a date? What if there was a Comedy Central Roast of Nelson Mandela?  Appropriately, One More Thing has about 100 pages of misses that could have, and should have, been cut.

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