America’s funniest mother is about to deliver a new comedy that’s, well, not quite a spinoff of “The Office.” But it’s definitely in the same family
Mothers, as we all know, can be embarrassing. They fuss. They nag. And their rhyming skills tend to be woefully subpar. But when young Archie Poehler grows into the full bloom of manhood, he can hold his head high knowing that his mom not only battlerapped a stunned Sarah Palin into submission; she did it seven days before giving birth. “It never hurts to be pregnant when you step to someone, because no one can really fuck with you,” she says of her now legendary “Wasilla gangsta rap” on SNL last October. “What was Palin gonna do Hit me”
Pintsize, pixieish, and blessed with an unspeakably dirty mouth, the 37 yearold Poehler is not merely hilarious—she’s one of the most inventive comedians in the business. This is a fact that Hollywood took far too long to recognize, though she’s (finally) set to get her due this April, when she stars in Parks and Recreation, NBC’s nonspinoff spinoff of The Office. “It has nothing to do with The Office other than style,” she explains. “Our world seems a lot bigger to me than theirs, actually. But that could just be because I’m a hell of a lot shorter than Steve Carell.”
You might think that one of Poehler’s many recent scores—helping Tina Fey take the wheels off the Palin Express, say, or landing her own mockumentary, or even the sum total of her sevenseason run on SNL—would be the biggest thing in herprofessional world. Nah. Amy Poehler’s lasting contribution, asserts Amy Poehler, is the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, the improv and sketchcomedy venue she cofounded in New York a decade ago. After opening in a dank, fetid former strip club called the Harmony, the UCB soon became a magnet for talent, helping to launch a thousand careers (Ed Helms, Rob Corddry, Aziz Ansari) and serving as a breeding ground for The Daily Show and SNL. It now has an L.A. outpost and is looking to open a second joint in Manhattan.
“Professionally, it’s the thing I’m most proud of, that this little home grew into a thing that’s beyond us in every way. There’s no other word for it than awesome.” She pauses. “Well, that was emotional and nostalgic. Fuck. The guys are going to think I’m so queer.”
She got the fabled invite to join SNL in 2001, quickly became Lorne Michaels’s goto impersonator (Nancy Grace, Hillary Clinton), and was soon anchoring “Weekend Update” with head writer Seth Meyers. (“I think people spend their lives trying to figure out if she’s the toughest adorable person they’ve ever seen or the most adorable tough person they’ve ever seen,” says Meyers, laughing. “I’ve never seen someone with her range. Whether the part was older, younger, aggressive, vulnerable, or Michael Jackson, it didn’t matter. She could kill it.”) But movie stardom eluded her—perhaps because she lacked a character as subtly drawn as Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo—so she had to settle for swiping scenes in Mean Girlsand costarring in Baby Mama.
Now, though, she finally has her own show, the details of which are being guarded like Kim Jong Il’s haircare secrets. Poehler plays Leslie Knope, the head of a parks department in smalltown Indiana who is trying to get a green space built on an abandoned construction site. “When Obama says, ‘Okay, America, let’s get to work!’ Leslie is the one who responds, ‘Great! I have all these big ideas!’ ” Poehler says. “Government shows are usually about people making huge decisions super quickly—those big walkandtalk shots down the halls of the White House. We wanted to explore the small ways in which people try to make a difference…and fail.”
Not that she’d wish failure on anyone, of course. Particularly not on her husband, the brilliant Will Arnett, who happens to have a new show premiering the very same month on a rival network. But just in case: Care to indulge in a little interspousal trash talk “In this economy” she says as Archie howls in the background. “Dude, we’re just happy to both be working.”