Amy Poehler: Still Upright after all these years


If you happened to be one of the thousands grounded last week by American Airlines, at least you got a pleasant surprise once you got on the plane.

Is Amy Poehler adorable or what? She’s been in the news quite a bit lately because of her new movie with Tina Fey, Baby Mama, and her dead-on spoof of Hillary Clinton.

Fortunately, we reap the benefits of all of this press and get to learn more about one of our favorite funny people. In the American Way interview, for example, Poehler tells us she’s as much of a loudmouth in real life as she is on Saturday Night Live.

“You know how you get into someone else’s car and turn it on, and the radio is really loud, so you have to turn it down? Well, that’s how I’ll be for the first couple of days [of a film shoot] — loud. So you’ll have to keep adjusting the volume.”

Being loud may not be the best thing for film work, but it comes in handy for characters like Kaitlan on SNL.

And it’s essential for Poehler’s first love, improvisation. Like many of the people who’ve been a part of SNL over the years, Poehler earned her comedy chops at ImprovOlympic in Chicago. That’s where she met the other members of the Upright Citizens Brigade, which scored a three-year Comedy Central series in the late ’90s.

UCB is where Poehler learned to do characters. Like Hairy Lady.

Or a member of the Ugly Club.

When UCB moved to New York, the troupe opened a theater that’s still going strong. “UCB has been a really amazing experience,” Poehler told American Way. “It’s the thing I’m most proud of.” Poehler still performs every week at the theater’s long-form improv show, ASSSSCAT, on Sunday nights. Yes, that’s after she stayed up to do SNL the night before.

UCB just released a DVD, The Upright Citizens Brigade: ASSSSCAT!, which recreates scenes and sketches from the show. It’s brilliant.

In the spirit of full disclosure, however, I have to admit that I’m obsessed with long-form improvisation. I trained with Second City alums and learned just how hard it is. (I also learned how important it is to be loud, which I’m not.) And if you think Whose Line Is It Anyway? when you think improv, you might wonder what UCB is doing in the DVD. Long-form improv isn’t about going for the joke or being funny with props or playing games. It’s organic — and when everything comes together, it’s magical. And that kind of energy is what keeps Poehler going back to improv, week after week.

“Sometimes after a busy week, even an SNL week, it’s really, really great to go to the theater because I find it very rejuvenating. It makes you feel really young,” she explained. “When I’m really tired, or I feel kind of burned-out, or I feel like I don’t have anything — every time I go out and do it, I feel a thousand times better.”

You know, I feel a thousand times better when Poehler performs, too. And at the rate she’s going, she’ll be performing a lot.

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