Saturday Night Live‘s Amy Poehler and 30 Rock‘s Tina Fey are being called the funniest women on the planet. So, when they were invited to Chicago to be on The Oprah Show, they insisted on traveling in style—road-trip style!
Tina and Amy say they became fast friends after meeting in Chicago in 1992. At the time, both women were performing in famed Chicago improv theaters Second City and Improv Olympic. Later, the duo would go on to work together on Saturday Night Live.
Now, Tina and Amy are taking the big screen by storm, starring together in the movie Baby Mama. In the film, Tina plays a working, single woman who wants to have a family but can’t get pregnant. Amy plays an unlikely surrogate mother. “The last time we got to work together this much, it was driving around in a hot van for the Second City doing shows for $75 a night,” Tina says. “Now, we each had our own camper and we had real good food. It was great. It was just being paid to hang out.”
From an early age, both women say they realized they had a gift for comedy. “I think somewhere around 7th, 8th grade, [I thought,] ‘Oh, I’m not one of the pretty girls. I’ve got to have another move. I’ve got to have something else going on,'” Tina says.
“I would do serious plays and people would laugh,” Amy says. “So I knew.”
Amy says she doesn’t shy away from much in order to get a laugh from the audience. “One time, Tina wrote a scene and I had to fall into a Dumpster on SNL,” Amy says. “I came out of a trash chute into a Dumpster, and I hit my head and I kind of blacked out on live TV.”
For nearly 10 years, Tina was a writer and performer on Saturday Night Live. In 2006, she left to start her hit sitcom, 30 Rock. “Every interim of time they let us keep making [30 Rock], we’re like, ‘I can’t believe they’re letting us get away with this,'” she says.
Tina loves working on her new show, but says she still misses parts of SNL. “So many of my dear old friends work there,” she says. “And I miss the live audience. You forget doing Saturday Night Live is great because you’re just really performing for the audience in the studio, and then you go to 30 Rock and we try to make our crew laugh. That’s all we get.”
When interviewers ask Tina who her dream SNL host or 30 Rock guest star would be, she only has one person in mind—Oprah! “I always say I want Oprah to come on and play my best friend and we’ll hang out,” she says. “I start talking about it so much the reporter kind of backs out of the room.”
Before landing a gig on Saturday Night Live, Amy worked as a waitress in Chicago. Her most famous customer? Oprah! “You were with your staff, and you were handing out little gifts to them and you got a vegetable pizza,” Amy says. “You were, of course, wonderfully nice. Up until now, it was the highlight of my life.”
For Amy, performing on live television is a thrill. “It keeps things dangerous—in a good way dangerous. And the excitement from the audience and it’s like no other job. It’s really addictive,” she says. “It’s the quintessential New York show because it’s kind of messy and scary and thrilling.”
On SNL, Amy has impersonated everyone from Hillary Clinton to Paula Abdul. So who’s her favorite person to play? “Michael Jackson, maybe,” she says. “But I’ve gotten to play so many great people. I like to have crazy outfits. I love wearing wigs. I could have a wig every day. I’ve got like four different wigs on right now.”
Tina’s an Emmy-award winning comedy writer but says she often gets upstaged at home—by her 2-year-old daughter, Alice. “She is the funniest person in the house.” Alice already has a passion for fashion thanks to the time she spends hanging out with Mom in the makeup trailer. “I came home the other night to put her to bed,” Tina says. “She gets real close to me like she’s going to tell me she loves me, and she goes, ‘I like your makeup.'”
Tina’s husband is composer Jeff Richmond, who works with his wife on 30 Rock. “The nice thing is we don’t work directly together all the time, so we don’t get on each other’s nerves,” Tina says.
Their latest project is Baby Mama. “He wrote all this music for [the film], so he had to watch the movie over and over, and he spent, you know, a week watching me kiss Greg Kinnear over and over. He would come home really grouchy,” she jokes.
Amy’s husband, Will Arnett, is a comedic actor who starred in the show Arrested Development and has appeared in the movies Semi-Pro, Horton Hears a Who and Ratatouille. He also has a recurring guest role on 30 Rock.
Despite their busy schedules, Amy and Will have found time to work together. On Arrested Development, Amy played the estranged wife of Will’s character Gob. In 2007, Amy and Will played a brother-sister ice-skating duo opposite SNL alum Will Ferrell in Blades of Glory.
When working with her husband, Amy says she has to change her approach on set. “It was really great to work together, but we kind of had to be nicer to each other. With other actors you’re nice and you have a kind of certain way you treat each other, and with your husband you’re, like, ‘Move over,'” Amy says. “So in the morning we had to kind of shake hands and say, ‘Hello, actor. … Hello, not-my-husband-but-my-fellow-actor-who-I-will-be-sleeping-with-later-on-this-evening.'”
For its May 2008 issue, Marie Claire magazine asked Amy to interview Tina. In the interview, Tina offers some friendly advice to teenage girls who find themselves without many dates. “I always say, ‘Let the boys practice on other girls. Let them give other girls terrible Valentine’s presents. Let them make mistakes,'” she says. “And then, you just swoop in when they’re fully formed at, like, 30.”
Tina and Amy say they have made their mark by focusing on their talents, not their looks. “For comedy, we’re good-looking girls. But in terms of professional good-looking people, you know, I don’t want to run with those horses,” Amy jokes. “They are in a class all their own.”
Tina agrees. “When you’re working on SNL and these women come in. ‘Who have we got this week? Oh, great, Charlize Theron? I can’t wait to stand next to you with a goofy wig on.'”
“That will really put you in your place,” Amy says.