There is no doubt that Amy Poehler is hilarious, and not even in the sense that she’s hilarious for a woman. I enjoy a lot of her work and writing. Except Parks and Rec. You’ve heard me ramble about my thoughts about The Office. Although I feel like I would enjoy Parks and Rec more than The Office, those shows don’t strike me as particularly funny.
But I didn’t start writing to ramble about white people TV shows that I don’t watch. I wanted to process my feelings about Amy’s book Yes Please. Because I’m having a lot for just such a supposedly simple read.
Celebrity memoirs tend to be pallet cleansers for heavier books, which I had been coming off a pretty long strand of serious, heavy, and/or dense books. I’m also trying to work backwards on my hella long TBR list. I thought this would be a good way to kick off women’s history month.
My conflicting feelings about comedy started to resurface.
Honestly, I think I started bristling at how easy her white-woman life has seemed (I’m not sure if y’all have caught on to my slight bias against white women hollering in distress yet. Working on checking this bias), and I appreciate her constantly acknowledging her privilege in having a cushy life growing up, but sometimes it seemed as if that acknowledgement came across as a joke at the expense of people who face all kinds of trauma due to classism, racism, homophobia, etc. This is just my perception and I will give her the benefit of the doubt and say she was being genuine.
Then she talked about that one time she made fun of a little girl with disabilities on SNL and was called out for it. I also appreciate her recognizing her bias in that moment, issuing an apology to the parties affected, and showing her learning from the experience. This is model behavior for comedy going wrong.
Comedy often goes wrong and is often at the expense of disadvantaged folks. I don’t say this for me to be a buzzkill for all jokes out there. I won’t admit to the internet at the awful things I have laughed at (I stay woke, but I ain’t hardly perfect). I just think jokes are often the first step on the slippery slope (or slipping on a banana peel for laughs. That was my attempt as a bad joke, one I think of often when I’m on a run and I see a banana peel, which I see quite often for some reason) of dehumanizing people.
What does it say about the person who is telling the joke to be funny? What does it say about the people who laugh, real belly laughs or polite, awkward chuckles?
And then there are these little parts throughout the book where I think “Hmm, that doesn’t sound like consent to me.” The real kicker is her raining praises onto Louis C. K., a whole ass predator. You don’t have to be a man to perpetuate rape culture and uphold patriarchy.
This is something I struggle with: people who are friends with people who have done bad things. It goes back to my age-old battle within myself of separating art from the artist. Are their friends and supporters guilty by association, accomplices in their crimes? Should we cancel them too?
Don’t get me started on being ganged up on that one time when I thought the Gayle King interview of Lisa Leslie on Kobe Bryant was justified.
I’ll come back to this thought another day. I’ll settle with the notion that people are complicated, not all good and not all bad. Please don’t judge me on the meme pages I follow on Instagram.