Over the years, as I’ve thought about what it means to have character and to be a person of integrity, the word I often use to describe how I want others to see me is this: predictable. Based on the ways they’ve seen me act and heard me talk in the past, I want people to know what to expect every time they are with me. I’ve carried this same philosophy into marriage and parenting, though I admit it’s a lot harder when people are around me all the time.
Basically, I don’t want to surprise people, unless of course I surprise them by being more awesome than they ever imagined.
Generally, this is not the way other people surprise us, however.
That same feeling of predictability is what I found in Amy Poehler’s memoir, Yes, Please, a book I’ve been reading for several months. Don’t blame Amy that it took me so long to read her book, though. It’s been sitting on my bedside table, and lately, life is so crazy that I don’t get too far in a chapter at night before I konk out.
For that reason, Yes, Please made the best possible nighttime reading, because I konked out more slowly reading it than I would have done reading any other book because a.) it’s very funny, b.) Amy Poehler has done some of the craziest things, and c.) her language mildly offended me so often that I couldn’t go to sleep. So, I kept reading.
But that’s what I expected from a book by Amy Poehler. You don’t land a spot on Saturday Night Live because of your serious, understated tone. And nobody but a funny girl from Boston with a bad mouth and a crazy life could pull off the hilarious character of Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation, a show set in the fictional city of Pawnee, Indiana, my own home state.
Truthfully, I bought Yes, Please because I wanted to learn more about what it means to write funny. I could just as easily picked up Bossy Pants by Tina Fey. In fact, I was holding both books in my hand as I walked around Barnes & Noble that day. But, in the end, I chose Amy, mostly because those giant arms in the cover photo of Tina’s book just freaked me out. (I hope this doesn’t come between them since Amy and Tina are friends and all.)
It was that predictability thing that made me love Amy Poehler more after I read the book, though, because while I don’t know her personally, everything in the book only confirmed what I had heard or read or known about her before: she’s a nut, she’s done some pretty crazy stuff, and she loves her kids a lot.
In one chapter about her role on Parks and Recreation, the creator of the show, Mike Schur, added notes in the side margins to fill in the gaps from his perspective. (The fact that this book had side notes plus photographs, drawings, and mini-posters scattered throughout also made it a real gem.) In one comment about Amy’s development of her character, Leslie Knope, Mike did a good job of summing up Amy herself:
“Amy had made her [Leslie Knope] into a completely consistent, heart-on-her-sleeve character who was not embarrassed or ashamed by anything she ever said or did in any scenario,” Schur wrote. “I remember thinking that was great, and from that moment on I used that as a North Star for writing Leslie—it became a mission statement that we would never write a story that involved her being ashamed of how she felt. It’s a pretty badass character trait, I think, and it only works because of the supreme sincerity of the actress who embodies it.”
Amy Poehler isn’t perfect. And her book Yes, Please only confirms that. But at least when we encounter her, we know what we are going to get. And in my book, that means a lot.
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