Amy Poehler - Mischief
When Amy Poehler strides into a room for yet another interview, you immediately sense a bit of mischief to her wry smile and ebullient manner.
It’s the same kind of cheeky bravado that propelled her to fame while serving on the popular American late-night comedy show, Saturday Night Live. That’s also where she became fast friends and frequent sketch partners with fellow comedian, Tina Fey. Their raucous chemistry earned them three consecutive hosting gigs on the Golden Globes awards, where they skewered fellow showbiz personalities with delicious delight.
“Tina and I have been friends for 20 years and she feels like a sister to me, a chosen sister,” Poehler says. “Neither of us have sisters in real life, so this film gave us the chance to create the kind of sisterly relationship that we never experienced.”
Directed by Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect), the R-rated comedy sees Poehler play the serious, sensible, and recently divorced Maura, while Fey takes on the role of eternal bad girl, Kate. After getting together for a sisterly reunion, they are left mildly shaken by their parents’ plan to sell their childhood home. When mom and dad assign them the chore of bringing their former shared childhood bedroom into more marketable shape, Kate and Maura take the opportunity to throw a wild party that produces plenty of chaos and hilarity. Sisters also boasts a formidable cast that includes John Leguizamo, James Brolin, and John Cena, as well as SNL alums, Maya Rudolph and Kate McKinnon. Previously, Amy Poehler has built her reputation in a variety of movies, including Blades of Glory and Anchorman 2, alongside former SNL alum, Will Ferrell, as well as in the cult TV series, Parks and Recreation. The 44-year-old Poehler had been in a relationship with comedian Nick Kroll for about two years, during which she appeared on his TV series, Kroll Show, but the two have since split. She was previously married for ten years to actor/comedian Will Arnett, with whom she has two boys, Archie, 6, and Abel, 4. This past summer, Poehler voiced the character, Joy, in the wildly successful Pixar animated film, Inside Out. These days, she’s donning auburn locks and a bit longer style than in her previous blonde incarnations. For our chat, she was wearing a print Stella McCartney dress.
STRIPLV: Amy, it must be very special to be able to work together again with your longtime friend and colleague, Tina Fey, on a project like Sisters…
POEHLER: It was a lot of fun getting to spend several months with Tina. We don’t have that much chance to see each other when we’re not working, so we love being able to catch up when we do a project together. We’ve always gotten along very well personally, and we have a wonderful shorthand working together. It’s such an advantage for us to know how to play off one another, and playing sisters gave us a chance to create a different kind of rapport from what we’ve done in the past.
STRIPLV: Even though you’ve worked on the Golden Globes shows recently, it took seven years for you to make another movie together after Baby Mama. Why the wait?
POEHLER: We’ve been doing our own individual projects and we were waiting for the right project to come along—and this was it. But we have this secret witches’ pact, where we have to work on a film together at least once every seven years, or one of us ages dramatically. (Laughs) What’s special about our collaborations is that we try to only do something that we really like and we don’t want to disappoint audiences, just like we don’t want to disappoint ourselves. We have such a good time when we get together that we only want to do something that excites us and we know we’re going to love working on.
STRIPLV: How would you describe the “sister” characters?
POEHLER: We’re playing two women who have kind of lost their way in the world. They had very different ideas of how their lives would turn out and neither is where they want to be in life. Both of us wish we had found the kind of togetherness and happiness our parents in the film have enjoyed. What was kind of ironic for me is that James Brolin and Dianne Wiest, who do such amazing work in the film, often reminded me of my own parents.
STRIPLV: Does it feel like you’re a female comedy team when you work together?
POEHLER: The first time I got to know her and her work, I thought she was an incredibly bright and sharp woman. We met in Chicago (at The ImprovOlympic workshop) and I heard that she once wrote a play about Catherine the Great fucking a horse. Anyone who has the kind of inventive and inspired comic sensibility to be able to do that kind of work must be pretty talented. That’s why I wanted to get to know her and start working with her while we were taking (improv) classes together. But an interesting thing about the beginning of our friendship and professional collaboration was that the improv scenes we would do together were basically dramatic and not funny at all. Neither of us ever imagined that we would make a good comedy team in some way or work together doing comedy sketches on SNL. It’s just wonderful that it all worked out that way.
STRIPLV: You both gained tremendous acclaim and attention for hosting the Golden Globes together. What was that experience like?
POEHLER: It’s been so much fun. Because we know each other so well from SNL, we can tell where our jokes are going to take us. Some things we’ll ad-lib, but usually we try to work about our lines together in advance, and the only tough thing about that is that we tend to want the same jokes. So we have to agree beforehand to divide the funniest lines between us. But Tina is so brilliant that I just love every moment working with her and also just hanging out together as friends.
STRIPLV: Why have you two decided not to do the Golden Globes again, after hosting the awards show for the past three years?
POEHLER: Sometimes you need to know to quit while you’re ahead or at least before things get much worse! (Smiles) We’ve accomplished pretty much what we wanted to do with the show and now it’s time for someone else to take up the challenge. But we’re very proud that we were the first women to co-host an awards show like that, and that’s a good sign that women should keep getting these kinds of opportunities.
STRIPLV: Have you always known that you have a natural talent for comedy?
POEHLER: When I began doing theater in high school, I saw that I could get laughs from people, but I didn’t really connect that to going on and becoming a comedian. I was interested in acting and while I was at Boston College, where I was part of an improv group, which had a long history and has been known as one of the best college improvisation groups in the U.S.—that’s where I started working on the kinds of skills that you need for comedy. It’s about being creative and learning to use your gift for being able to let loose and be very unselfconscious. It took me time though, before I was really able to get comfortable doing that.
STRIPLV: Why was that?
POEHLER: I had to come to terms with how I saw myself. I had to understand that I wasn’t pretty or beautiful like most actresses and that I shouldn’t care about whether other people found me attractive or not. It seems a strange thing, but once I was able to get past that kind of self-image problem, I was able to open up in my comedy work and just go all out, take chances, and have fun with the performance aspect of that.
STRIPLV: You’ve received great reviews for your voice work as Joy on Inside Out…
POEHLER: It’s been a lot of fun creating this character using your voice, as well as working in terms of the designs and drawings they show you in many cases where you have an idea of how to come up with a very distinctive voice. I also love being able to do something that kids and families can enjoy, because I have two children of my own and I want them to grow up watching all the fabulous animated movies and cartoons that I loved to watch as a kid.
STRIPLV: You’ve admitted to being a feminist. What does that mean to you?
POEHLER: Women need to take charge of their lives and be as dynamic and active as they can be. I know that some people feel that there’s a negative connotation to the notion of feminism, like it has some hidden ugly undercurrent. But it’s ridiculous. My mother was a feminist, and she was very politically-minded and always anxious to defend women’s rights and advance a lot of social issues for women. I just want to help other women achieve as much as they can in society, without restraints being imposed on us. It’s the most natural and normal thing to want to defend your rights to equal opportunities, equal pay for equal work, and everything that comes with that.
STRIPLV: Have you noticed whether your two sons have inherited some of your comic flair?
POEHLER: It’s still kind of early to say, although they sometimes get into mischief. But I would rather see them pursue careers outside of show business (where you need a lot of luck and patience and a lot of talented people never make it). I hope they become responsible citizens and maybe get involved in something that helps build a better and more just society.
STRIPLV: How is your life going these days?
POEHLER: I feel very blessed. I have the chance to do so much interesting work these days, in addition to enjoying my life as a mother and making my kids’ world as happy and joyous as possible. I think of this time in my life as one where I can just move forward and enjoy everything that’s coming my way.