Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Yes Please, Bossypants
I just finished reading Amy Poehler's memoir, "Yes Please" and I thought; I have some thoughts on how this compares to Tina Fey's memoir, "Bossypants". I should share those thoughts...And then, I further thought, although this is not a case of comparing apples to oranges, more like apples to apples, they are still very different varieties of apples. Think a red delicious against a gala. Depending on your mood, either or both might serve.
My wife observed that Tina's a better writer and Amy's a better performer. I drew in a quick breath to counter that claim, but then I thought, yes, she's right. Amy can seemingly effortlessly carry off so much on screen and stage to glorious comedic effect, and Tina is basically great because her material -which she probably wrote - is so strong. Fey's memoir is funnier because she's a tremendous writer with a keen eye and appreciation of the absurd. This is not to say that Poehler's memoir isn't funny, it's just different, almost angry. Not angry at any one thing, but at a lot of things, including the process of having to write a book. See, this is what happens when you are a gifted comic but not really a writer, and a publisher foolishly comes to you, dangles a big fat advancement check in front of you and you simply cannot resist. I believe that Ellen Degeneres said that's the trap she fell into with her first memoir, "My Point...And I Do Have One". She'd cashed the check, agreed to write the damn thing, spent the money and then when (how dare they!) the publisher wanted the finished product, she had to actually write it. Both Poehler and Degeneres write at length in their books about the pain of writing. Here's a tip to future comedic memoirists: Do not belabor the writing the process. The reader doesn't give a shit how HARD it was for you to get paid a boatload of money to write a book that we just shelled out 28 bucks for. Seriously, how can you whine about this? It's not a high school term paper assignment where you have to compare and contrast Virginia Woolf with Willa Cather (hint, they were both women, and queer, and there all similarity falls off a cliff), for God's sake!
And now I've gone ahead and compared apples, throwing an extra apple into the mix. Just a word to editors who receive a memoir that begins with complaints about writing a memoir, and continuing to complain throughout - unsheath that red pen and cut, cut, cut.