This interview originally appeared in the Dec. 20th issue of Entertainment Weekly.
In the mid-’90s, they found themselves on the same improv comedy team. In the mid-aughts, they became the first female duo to anchor the “Weekend Update” desk on Saturday Night Live. A few years later, they costarred on the big screen in Baby Mama. And today? Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are still finding ways to sit or stand next to each other while trading punchlines. In fact, they just tackled the daunting roles of guest editors for a recent issue of EW. The duo’s next reunion will take place on Sunday, when they host the Golden Globes for the second year in a row.
In the meantime, each is thoroughly busy on her own: Poehler stars on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, is writing a memoir, and is exec-producing an upcoming NBC sitcom and Comedy Central’s Broad City, while Fey, creator and star of 30 Rock, will hit theaters next year in Muppets Most Wanted and This Is Where I Leave You, and recently sold sitcoms to Fox and NBC. Since Poehler is based in L.A. and Fey is stationed in New York, EW decided to spare almost every expense and reunite them for a long-distance conversation over three bagels and one muffin, with Poehler, 42, chatting from EW’s West Coast bureau and Fey, 43, joining via Skype from New York. How did their freewheeling conversation come to involve George Clooney in a Ziploc bag, Siamese-twin judges, and a high-flying geisha? Read on.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You say that the reason you try to work together often is because otherwise you’d never see each other. Where’s the first place the conversation goes when you’re not talking about work?
AMY: We talk about our children and our families and our life, we often talk about how tired we are, and we talk about when we got to sleep and how great it was to sleep.
TINA: I actually talk about my upcoming facial surgeries. There’s a new procedure I’m doing a lot where they freeze your fat off you, they make it into a whipped dessert, and you eat it again.
AMY: Mmmm. I’m going to liposuction my face and freeze the fat and turn it into eggs. And have babies made out of my own fat.
AMY: Face-fat babies.
If you guys slept in bunk beds — and we all like to believe that you do — would there be a fight over who’d get the top?
TINA: There wouldn’t be a fight. I feel like I would probably want the bottom? I don’t know what your preference would be.
AMY: You’d want the bottom and I’d be like, “Fine, take the bottom,” and I would take the top. And then at one point at night, you’d wake up and I would be next to you in the bottom.
How solid is the plan to have Tina’s two daughters marry Amy’s two sons?
TINA: It’s out there. I feel like if we push it, they’re going to sense that, so we’re keeping them at opposite sides of the country to create a mystery.
AMY: We’ve learned to undersell that idea until they’re of the perfect age, but if we do have a wedding at any point, Tina and I are going to insist that we write and perform a song that we sing to our children.
TINA: We have committed that we’re both going to wear peach to the wedding. I talked to Faith Popcorn about it, and the trend is going to come around right about the time that they should get married.
AMY: You got Faith Popcorn on the line!
TINA: I have Faith Popcorn on retainer. I’m sorry — what I meant to say is that I have popcorn stuck in my retainer.
What’s the first memory you have of each other?
AMY: We were fixed up, arranged marriage, by Charna Halpern, who runs iO [formerly ImprovOlympic] in Chicago, where we started doing improv.
TINA: We were in separate classes, right?
AMY: Yeah, we weren’t in the same class at the time. Charna put the two of us on the improv team together.
TINA: We were the only two women on this improv team called Inside Vladimir, which was named after a gay-porn movie that was for rent in the neighborhood bodega where we used to practice.
AMY: A lot of people don’t know that every project Tina and I have worked on since has been named after gay porn…30 Rock, obviously. Parks and Recreation, obviously.
TINA: Baby Mama.
When you think about your chemistry, which classic duo comes to mind? Laurel and Hardy? Abbott and Costello? Lucy and Ricky? The Olsen twins? Laverne and Shirley? Stop me at any point.
TINA: I think the closest would be the Olsen twins.
AMY: Yeah, because when we’re next to each other we like to hug each other a lot, like we’re in the womb, and Tina’s thumbprint matches my pinkie, because that’s what we were like in the womb. [Amy presses her pinkie onto the computer screen, and Tina pushes her thumb against it.]
TINA: But I do say the Olsen twins because unlike a lot of comedy duos, we’re not opposites. There’s a lot of overlap in what we like and even in the way we perform, to a certain extent. We’re not Martin and Lewis. We’re like Derek Jeter and A-Rod.
AMY: I want to be Jeter right now. I don’t want to be A-Rod. He’s going through it.
When you guys collaborate, who tends to take what role?
TINA: I think we’re both very optimistic. And we both like to pitch. It’s a nice relationship in that it feels very safe to pitch, like we know each other well enough that even if you pitch something that’s too far, you know that person’s going to be reasonable.
AMY: When we get ready for a big event like this, I usually just run around screaming, saying, “We’re never gonna make it!!!” and Tina usually ends up just punching a wall, being like, “I’m disappointing myself and my family!” That’s an everyday writing session for us. [Laughs]
Amy, is there a type of humor you find funny that Tina doesn’t, or vice versa?
AMY: No, I think we got used to who could deliver a joke better when we did “Weekend Update.”
TINA: Not every joke is a natural fit for everybody. Sometimes one person can just get away with something. I was thinking about that great joke written by Sam Means that you did at the Globes about James Cameron — I feel like we got away with that better because you read it. Sometimes people assume that I’m meaner than I am. I’m not mean. My face is really mean.
AMY: People assume that I’m nicer than I am.
TINA: [Rolling eyes] Ugh, tell me about it. Oof.
If you were to add a third person to your duo, who would it be?
AMY: All right, wait — let’s say it at the same time. Okay, ready? One…two…three…Bill Clinton.
TINA: Elaine Stritch.
AMY: She would be great. I feel like if Elaine was there she’d just be like [in a gravelly voice], “Keep it moving!”
You have so many friends in the comedy world —
AMY: Oh my God, we have the funniest friends. A million people.
TINA: A million people. Fred [Armisen], Maya [Rudolph]…
AMY: I feel like we’d probably pick an SNL person because we feel comfortable knowing that they could hang. But who knows? Maybe we give that kid Jennifer Lawrence, who I find a total delight —
TINA: Give her a shot!
AMY: She was hilarious on The Daily Show…Honestly, almost every person we’ve ever worked with, I feel like we’d be super-psyched to see.
TINA: Even people who were good hosts [on SNL]…Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, they know the deal.
[Tina appears to be fiddling with a piece of fabric.]
Tina, what are you doing?
TINA: I’m crafting. You make ornaments out of felt, and a tree out of felt, and the toddler can decorate it.
AMY: That’s great. I’m crafting as well. I’m taking a bagel and putting cream cheese on it, and then I’m shoving it in my mouth hole.
NEXT: Coming back for more (and more)
It was unclear if you’d be back to host the Golden Globes, and then you signed on for not just one more year but two. Why two?
AMY: I think we’re excited about getting to get in a little bit of a groove to do it, and —
TINA: — to not have to answer the question of “Were they invited back?”
AMY: And we like the rule of threes. This second time we’re just going to phone it in because we know we’re doing it a third time.
TINA: The third time we’re going to show a long highlight reel of the two times that we did it.
After the last Globes, there was talk that you should host the Oscars. Were you ever approached about that?
TINA: No. I think that’s just a much harder, much more time-consuming job, and a much more intimidating room. Even though it’s a lot of the same people, they’re just really nervous that night. That night is career-making or -breaking for people. Scary.
AMY: Tina and I together and separately have hosted enough things now that we know that round tables make for more laughing.
TINA: It’s the feng shui.
AMY: Round tables and drinking can help with laughing, and it’s tougher when you’re in stadium seating.
So it sounds like even if you were asked, you wouldn’t want to do it?
TINA: Yeah, I would never want to do it.
AMY: I wouldn’t want to either. The Golden Globes are just loose and weird enough that they fit us.
TINA: There are things that you realize that, even though it’s a big honor to do them, you never want to do them. Like host the Oscars. Give a college commencement speech. Pose for Playboy? [Sighs] Yes, it’s a huge honor, but you don’t want to do it.
When you look back at your Globes performance, what did you like about it? And what didn’t work for you?
TINA: Well, I watch it almost every day.
AMY: I was just about to say, I think I watched it once, and then I just couldn’t stand my face, and I couldn’t watch it again.
TINA: Same thing.
AMY: I think we’ll do somewhat of the same thing. We’ll keep a little war room backstage. It’s fun to think up jokes while the show’s going on.
TINA: The thing that I think was correct to do was that we just kept thinking our job was not to do a comedy show but to facilitate the awards show. Just keep it moving. So I think we’re going to come out even less.
AMY: We’re going to emulsify. It’ll be the most delicious 45 seconds. I mean, what can they do? Fire us?
What can people expect from next month’s Globes? Is there a tease you can throw out?
AMY: This is the year of big movie stars and tiny spaces. In boats.
TINA: In capsules.
AMY: And then going from a boat to a smaller capsule.
TINA: A movie where Meryl Streep gets stuck in an abandoned refrigerator. That was a good movie.
AMY: That movie where Brad Pitt’s in that sleeping bag. So I think the bigger the star, the smaller the space. There is a movie where George Clooney is inside a Ziploc bag.
TINA: He’s amazing in it.
AMY: I would predict movie stars, as well as television stars. What else can we say, Tina, that’s going to happen this year?
TINA: No singing, but a lot of dancing —
AMY: A lot of dancing, but with no music.
TINA: [Laughs] Without music, that’s what I was going to say!
AMY: We’re going to encourage people to go real long on their speeches.
TINA: I’m going to tell people to find it. Don’t stop talking until you “find it.”
AMY: At one point, we’re going to do some Pink-style aerial acrobatics.
TINA: We’re going to dress like geishas.
AMY: Because that seems to go over well.
TINA: And I’m going to use my feet to tweet things. I’m going to type with my feet and tweet-blog.
AMY: You’re gonna feet-tweet? Oh, that’s the best, because you’re always screwing up and —
TINA: You know when you’re typing something and it’s really screwed up but you keep typing because you think AutoCorrect will probably fix it? That’s what the show is going to be like.
Let’s talk about your plans to work together again. Are you throwing any ideas around?
TINA: Yeah, we’re definitely always trying to get something going, but Amy’s busy at Parks. We don’t have that downtime where we’re pitching tons of stuff. But we want to play Siamese-twin judges on a law procedural.
AMY: We’re talking 17-hour days, stuck together.
TINA: Sitting under one big robe.
AMY: Our condition does not get in the way of our judgment. And that’s what the show’s about: Even though we’re bound together, we’re not bound to each other’s ideals.
TINA: One of us is very conservative and the other is a recovering alcoholic, so it makes for great drama.
AMY: Yeah, we are working on a couple of things together. We’re going to do a dance movie, Step Up 10. We’re going to skip to 10.
TINA: This one’s about the dog steps that go up to your bed. Dog Step Up!
AMY: We’re just going to do the voices of the dogs. We’re also going to do, um…
TINA: Star Wars.
Congrats! Although J.J. Abrams is probably going to be mad that you just revealed that.
AMY: You know what? He can call me if he has a problem with it. We’re in the new Star Wars, we play —
TINA: Darth Vader’s mothers.
AMY: He has two horrible mothers. We know a lot of father stuff with Star Wars, and not a lot of mother stuff. We play these really naggy mothers of Darth Vader.
TINA: [in an elderly New Yorker accent] “Darth, eat! Why don’t you eat?” That kind of stuff.
AMY: “You’re never gonna find a girl when you go out looking like that!”
TINA: Making him practice his Jedi stuff for hours.
AMY: Hitting on all his Jedi friends inappropriately. I feel like the theme of the next Star Wars is going to be: How does a working mother juggle it all? I’m looking forward to that. What I like about all these giant superhero movies is that they speak to the issues that I’m dealing with right now — working mother and time management and how to be an interesting, sexual, curious woman in your 40s. That’s the kind of stuff that I like to see on the screen, and that’s what I see with a lot of the films out today.
Before we go, can you approve my expenses for the bagels, muffin, and orange juice?
TINA: Honestly, I approve the bagels and the muffin; nobody talked about juice. And Dan, this has been explained to you before. You can’t just go rogue here and buy a bunch of f—ing juice.
AMY: Dan, I can talk to you separately at a later time about the juice because I feel like I can get that juice for you if you just get me a day or two. [To Tina] But you’re right, Tina!
TINA: If we could amortize the juice and say that the Anchorman guys drank the juice last week —
AMY: If they could sponsor the juice somehow…
TINA: Or if this could be poured onto a Kia.
AMY: That would be amazing. Or if the cast of American Horror Story could be holding the juice…
TINA: Then maybe we can pay for it.
AMY: But other than that, I’m so sorry we can’t pay for the juice. [Whispering to EW] I will get that juice paid for you.