Category Archives: Writing

A Few Thoughts on Amy Poehler’s Yes Please

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I’m not a die-hard Parks & Rec fan (though that may be changing now). I didn’t really know anything about her performances on SNL or with Upright Citizens Brigade. I’ve never seen Baby Mama or watched the Golden Globes award ceremony. But despite my general lack of exposure to Amy Poehler, I’m so glad that I read her book, Yes Please (2014, HarperCollins).

Some sections didn’t make a ton of sense to me because I have only seen a handful of episodes of Parks & Rec, but overall she has some important, funny, and well-written things to say about motherhood, marriage and divorce, Hollywood, relationships, and life in general.

I love how Yes Please alternates between hilarious and heartfelt—maybe that’s due to Poehler’s own belief that going from laughing to crying to laughing helps extend your life. There were so many parts where I found myself smiling, nodding along in agreement, or swelling with admiration for Poehler and her relationship with both her work and her colleagues.

One of my favorite chapters, entitled “Plain Girl vs. The Demon,” covers the thorny issue of self-confidence, especially how it relates to appearance. She starts by introducing this concept of the voice you hear that tells you negative things about yourself: “This voice that talks badly to you is a demon voice. This very patient and determined demon shows up in your bedroom one day and refuses to leave.”

She explains how this demon voice has crept into and out of her life at various stages, and how one of her best methods for dealing with it is through improv and acting, and another technique she recommends is standing up for yourself and talking back to the demon: “Other times, I take a more direct approach. When the demon starts to slither my way and say bad shit about me I turn around and say, ‘Hey. Cool it. Amy is my friend. Don’t talk about her like that.’ Sticking up for ourselves is a hard but satisfying thing to do. Sometimes it works. Even demons gotta sleep.”

I love this chapter because it feels so authentic to me. Us regular people spend a lot of time scrutinizing ourselves for our various “flaws,” but it made me realize how that pressure is so much greater on the women who are in the public eye.  It’s so helpful to reframe that self-criticism as an evil force to be ignored and try to build up the part of you that is a friend.

Another chapter that really stood out to me was “Time Travel,” where Poehler shares her thoughts on this concept (which is not so much about time travel as it is about being present in every moment): “You can control time. You can stop it or stretch it or loop it around. You can travel back and forth by living in the moment and paying attention. Time can be your bitch if you just let go of the ‘next’ and the before.’

And I especially appreciated this part because it certainly resonates with some of my own experience: “People help you time-travel. People work around you and next to you and the universe waits for the perfect time to whisper in your ear, ‘Look this way.’ There is someone in your life right now who may end up being your enemy, your wife, or your boss. Lift up your head and you may notice.”

You might think that a book by a famous comedienne would be full of jokes and witty one-liners, and Yes Please certainly is, but these brief poignant moments throughout the book are like little buried treasures.

And I barely held it together on the train when I read through the list of rejected names for Leslie Knope’s character on Parks & Rec. So if you’re looking for comedy, don’t worry—you won’t have to search too hard.

To Amy Poehler and Yes Please, I say Thank You Very Much.

Copy Crush: Cards Against Humanity

CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY

Let’s get something out of the way: when something bills itself as “a party game for horrible people,” you know it’s going to appeal to the wicked part of you. There will also be some NSFW language contained within this post, FYI.

If you’re not familiar with Cards Against Humanity, here’s a quick summary: You have a pile of black cards that work as prompts (e.g. “War. What is it good for?” or “What did Vin Diesel eat for dinner?”) and a pile of white cards that are responses to those prompts (e.g. “Passive-aggressive Post-it notes” or “Vigorous jazz hands”).

One player draws a prompt card and reads it out loud, while the rest of the players choose response cards and submit them anonymously. The player who drew the prompt reads off all the responses and chooses a favorite. Hilarity ensues.

If you’ve ever played the game, you know that the prompts and responses on the cards themselves range from benign to awkward to downright despicable. But I recently purchased the game for myself and the entire experience was so enjoyable (and the copy so consistently irreverent and hilarious) that I wanted to take a moment to celebrate Cards Against Humanity as my latest copy crush.

When you first click on the “Buy now for $25” button, you get taken to the store, where a little pop-up window at the top says “Our drones tell us that you live in the United States. Are we wrong?” Suddenly geographic targeting seems slightly more entertaining than ever before!

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The bullet points for each of the items on offer combine factual, useful information with random humorous tidbits, like “0% of proceeds go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation” (a great way to ensure people keep scrolling to find out what silly thing they’ll find next).

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But for a company that seems to appeal to the deepest, darkest parts of us, Cards Against Humanity also appears to have a conscience (or at least believe the people buying it will), because the proceeds from holiday expansion packs really do go to a good cause (The Wikimedia Foundation and DonorsChoose.org). A few days after I made my purchase, I received a nice email from a teacher at a nearby elementary school (see, those drones who identified my exact geographic location are good for something!).

When I finished my purchase, a button appeared at the bottom of the screen that read “Go outside.” Of course I had to click on it to see what happened. It brought up Google Maps and showed me all the parks in the area. (Again with those drones!)

The fun and games don’t end as soon as you pay, either. My confirmation email began: “Dearest customer, Thank you for spending your money all over our website.” It hits all the high notes—poking fun at the bland, automated emails we’re inundated with; describing the nature of our transaction with deadpan delivery; conveying sincerity AND somehow mocking it at the same time.

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But my favorite line of all: “You can reply to this email if you have any questions.” Say what??? I can actually respond to this email and a human will answer it.  Somehow this just seems pretty darn humane, doesn’t it?

And keeping in line with that same irreverent yet genuine voice, the letter that came in my package read: “Dear consumer, Thank you for buying Cards Against Humanity bullshit from our store. We’ve worked hard to keep Cards Against Humanity independent so that no publishers, distributors, or viceroys of the British empire can tell us what we can or can’t do with our game. We really like having a one-on-one relationship with our customers, and we hope we didn’t fuck it up. If we did fuck it up, please let us know.” And a bit further down the page: “The Cards Against Humanity store is new, and we’re still working out the bugs. Some customers report having received a burlap sack of broken Soviet appliances instead of their order. If this happens to you, please let us know.”

What a perfect way to complete the transaction and make me feel good about my purchase. Not only do I feel relieved that my money is in no way supporting viceroys of the British empire, but I know that if there had been a problem with my order, someone would be around to help me sort it out (and they would probably have a pretty good sense of humor about it as well).

So to my latest copy crush, Cards Against Humanity, I say: Well played, my friends. Well played.