Don’t Apologize, Funny Ladies!

I gave Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please 4 stars on Goodreads. (Yes, Amazon is the devil, but, yes, I use Goodreads to keep track of what I’ve read and what I want to read.) It really deserves 5, but I have one problem with it.

yes please

Poehler’s book is excellent for so many reasons. You’ve heard about it and you’ve read about it and your friends won’t stop talking about it, and I probably can’t tell you anything new about it, so just go out and read it.

There is so much to love about the book, like the two phrases women need to implement more often: ‘Good for her! Not for me,’ instead of ‘Why her? Why not me?’ which are two phrases I find myself thinking/saying all too often. I also love what Poehler has to say about not taking someone else’s faults onto yourself and feeling like you have to be the one to fix the problem. ‘Practice ambivalence.’ Poehler is giving and generous to her audience, and she delivers with hilarity and honesty. But my one qualm with the book is Poehler’s need to apologize without explicitly apologizing.

The book has an entire chapter dedicated to Poehler’s penchant for apologizing, which is not what I take issue with. I love this chapter. Poehler is a sorrysorrysorry-er (in fact, the chapter is titled ‘Sorry, sorry, sorry’), and so am I. We make mistakes, and our reaction is to say ‘Sorrysorrysorry.’ My theory is this: The first ‘sorry’ is to apologize for how our mistake affected others, the second is to acknowledge it was our fault, and the third is to say it won’t happen again. In this chapter, Poehler writes about when it is necessary and good to apologize and how difficult it can be. What I have a problem with is how, over the course of her book, she apologizes without explicitly saying ‘sorry.’

Poehler’s preface is titled, ‘Writing is Hard.’ It consists of her telling her audience just how difficult and terrible it is to write a book and how authors lie about how they feel about the process of writing. Essentially, by saying ‘writing is hard,’ she is saying ‘If this books is terrible, I’m sorry because it was too difficult an undertaking for me and I realize this, and the final product could be terrible because writing a book is not my thing, but, in a way, it’s not my fault if it’s terrible.’ NO! Unnecessary! Don’t apologize! For one thing, the book is great (aside from the preface – also, this book is printed entirely on glossy paper, which means it cost a lot to print, which means her editors and publishers had faith that it would sell incredibly well, which means her editors should have talked her out of this unnecessary apologizing.)! Don’t diminish yourself by apologizing before you’ve even begun! I found this really disappointing from a confident, risk-taking woman. This apologizing without apologizing is a trend among female comedians/comedy writers when they step out of their comfort zone, or accepted arena of work. It is perhaps unconscious or inadvertent, but it does them a disservice by diminishing their project and their talent.

Something I’ve learned about the audition process as a singer, and Poehler must have learned over the course of her many auditions and risk-taking endeavors, is that when you audition, you never step in front of whomever is there to judge you and say, ‘Sorry I’m a little sick today!’ or ‘Sorry, I’m just getting over a cold.’ You don’t apologize before you’ve even begun. For one thing, they can probably hear it in your voice anyway; no need to draw attention to it. Also, it doesn’t matter because you chose to audition and if you get the part, you’re expected to perform regardless of how you feel; that’s commitment. And Poehler knows this, she’s an improvisor! So yes commit, and please don’t apologize.

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