Eye on Emmy: Parks and Rec's Amy Poehler On Her Awards Hopes and the Power Of Cleavage

Could Amy Poehler possibly have more in common with Tina Fey? They’re both brilliant and beloved Saturday Night Live alumni who’ve moved on to movies (like Baby Mama, in which they co-starred) and they both head up hit NBC comedies (30 Rock for Fey, Parks and Recreation for Poehler). But the parallels end at their trophy cases: Fey has seven Emmys; Poehler, none… yet. Will this year’s awards change that? Let’s see how optimistic Leslie Knope’s real-life counterpart is.

Emmys 2011: A Look at the Lead Comedy Actress Race — Including Our Dream Nominees

TVLINE | How are you enjoying your Parks hiatus?
I’m loving it. I was just saying, “My God, this has been an especially good hiatus.” And my husband [Arrested Development star Will Arnett] was like, “Well, it’s the first one that you haven’t given birth during since 2008.”

TVLINE | That always helps.
It does. It makes you a little less tired.

TVLINE | Since you’re well-rested, let’s start this interview at the very beginning of your career. Back then, was there anyone’s career that you hoped to emulate?
I used to be really into Bill Murray and Gilda Radner, so I started learning about where they used to study, and they were at Second City. So, at the time, I was just emulating the people I knew from SNL and comedy movies. I loved Steve Martin, but I didn’t do anything the same way he did. I think I was a little lost, so I just kind of walked in their footprints for a long time.

TVLINE | Was the goal SNL at that point?
No. My aunt says she has a Christmas card that she wrote to me when I was 12 saying, “You’re going to be on SNL.” And I was like, “The Secret!” But I went to school for acting, so I thought I would be an actor first. I hadn’t done any stand-up, and I didn’t really know how to make a career out of doing sketch comedy. Those were kind of the two ways to get to SNL, and I hadn’t really done either one of them. So I just started acting. I don’t know if it was necessarily something that I verbalized, but maybe it was always kind of in the back of my head as a dream [to join SNL].

TVLINE | And when you were on SNL, were you thinking big picture, like, “Now, do I want to go the sitcom route or be a movie star?”
The first year or two, I was head-down trying to learn my job. I wasn’t thinking that macro way. But I watched Will Ferrell very closely, not only because I was such a huge fan, but I’m drawn to benevolent captains. I work well under their… tutelage. I was going to say under their reign, but that makes them sound like they’re dictators. Anyway, I just loved the way Will handled his career at that time. He was just doing what was fun and funny, with people that he liked to work with. So I learned a lot from him as far as how to manage being on that show and doing other things.

TVLINE | After Tina left and did so well with 30 Rock, were you itching to do the same?
Actually, when the idea of doing Parks came to me, I didn’t think I would be interested. I love television, but I was just coming off of a big eight-year run doing a TV show, and I thought I wanted to do more film and write more. So it really was like most things in my [career]: It was because of the writing [that I did it] rather than this big master plan.

TVLINE | Did you feel pressure before Parks debuted that “Wow, I need this to be a success?”
Tremendous pressure. I still feel pressure all the time. And we started in a really weird way, because there was all this misreporting that we were a spinoff of The Office, and we had to wait because of my pregnancy, so I had to do whatever I could to kind of drown that out. But certainly, I felt a weight to [do right by] the people who were trusting me with their idea.

TVLINE | The show wasn’t a huge critical success out of the gate. When did you feel like the show really hit its stride?
When we were back on the set shooting Season 2’s first episode, with the gay penguin marriage. I think everybody felt a really good sense that they had a lot of good ideas and stories to tell.

TVLINE | What did the first Emmy nomination for Parks feel like for you?
Unlike SNL, where it’s like you’re not trying to bring focus to this upstart show that is garnering an audience, with the Parks thing I felt like it could be good for the show, and that was a good feeling. It was awesome. It was totally awesome.

TVLINE | Sometimes the Emmys are slow to recognize new shows, especially if they’re not huge mainstream hits. Are you hoping that the nomination for you last year will maybe snowball into more this year?
Certainly for our writers and cast and our producers and stuff, I am. It’s also a blessedly crowded field — so many strong ladies in [my] category. Television has always been such a good place for women, but especially right now, I think. [Anyway, a nomination] feels good because those things can matter when you’re still feeling like you’re not totally sure about the future of your show. Now I’d like to think that we have some security and that we’ve kind of slowly earned it. So, it feels nice, the possibility. But if I’ve learned one thing it’s that, good [or] bad, you can never predict what’s going to go on that evening.

TVLINE | Do you find yourself not wanting to get too invested in the whole Emmy process because you set yourself up for disappointment?
Yeah. In 2008, I definitely thought SNL was going to win the Emmy. The Daily Show won. I was really surprised. I just thought the election stuff [SNL] did that year was off the hook. So it was a lesson of life. I will not be burned again. Fool me once….

TVLINE | Have you thought about which episodes you would submit from Parks this season should you secure a nod?
I don’t know. There’s a really nice feeling to have more than one choice for that. I’ve had some people say that they liked the flu episode because it’s stand-alone and jokey, and then some people say they like the one about Jerry’s painting, because it’s Leslie being kind of feisty. So, I don’t know. It’s almost like I’d like someone else to make that decision for me. Perhaps you.

TVLINE | Submit the painting episode.
OK. Copy that.

TVLINE | You were never better than in that episode.
Good, good. And there’s a little cleavage in that one. That never hurts.

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  1. Spencer says:

    First, i LOVE YOU AMY!!!!! <3 second, i hope Amy wins!! Third, first post!

    • evs says:

      me too. this season absolutely killed. it was my 2nd favorite thing on thursday nights (which is a big thing when you consider everything airing)… also in love with Aubrey and Adam Scott.

  2. Amanda says:

    Lady hero.

  3. Corinne says:

    Leslie, I mean Amy, completely deserves the Emmy win this year. The only competition for her would be the ladies of Modern Family, but I believe they are submitted for supporting roles. Parks and Recreation had a stellar year, looking forward to next season.

    • Dave says:

      I really think Amy is going to win it this year. She was nominated for Parks and Rec last year, and she was nominated previously for SNL. The Emmy voters obviously like her. I think it’s her time, and she truly deserves it. Parks and Rec just came off a stellar, critically-beloved season, and the ratings went up too (thanks to that comfy post-Office timeslot). Her biggest competition will be from Showtime’s dramedy women – Edie Falco, Toni Collette, and Laura Linney. As much as I love all three of them, Amy deserves it this year.

      • Corinne says:

        I did forget about the ladies of Showtime. I would be ok with Laura Linney winning instead, based on acting merits, but Amy is hysterical.

  4. Reese Mitchell says:

    Amy Poehler is such a classless act. Perfect prego clueless waif in that movie she did with what’s her name, you know, the fat girl. She was ok on SNL if you like that laughing thing other than that, did you see…….

    • Maggie says:

      First off, what are you even saying. You’re last sentence made absolutely zero sense. And second, she was brilliant on SNL. You are probably one of the 10 people in the world that don’t like Amy Poehler.

    • Ms. MM says:

      Oh shove off.

    • Genevieve says:

      1) with your first sentence, were you referring to the movie she did with Tina Fey? because, first of all, she was incredibly good in that movie, and happened to be TRYING to be classless there, and came off that way because, oh yeah! she’s talented! Secondly, just in case you didn’t notice, it is incredibly stupid and random referring to Tina Fey as ‘the fat girl’ seeing as she is both incredibly skinny and more importantly also very talented. and 2) Amy Poehler was hilarious on SNL and finally 3) have you read your final sentence? I would work on your grammar… and maybe try to make a little sense next time.

  5. Iggi says:

    Amy totally deserved to win the Emmy. It’s true, there are a lot of strong and deserving actresses in her category, but I see all those shows (30 Rock, Nurse Jackie, U.S. of Tara) and I can assure you, Amy is simply the best. Specially this year. I’m hoping for at least 3 nominations for Parks and Rec (lead actress, supporting actor, comedy series).

  6. TrueT says:

    No Amy, submit “The Fight.” That’s your winning episode!

  7. TrueT says:

    Or Flu Season…but not the painting. Also, her stiffest competition is Laura Linney. If Linney submits the pilot of Big C, she might be unstoppable. I hope Poehler wins tho. She delivered the best performance all season long.

  8. Emma says:

    First of all, Amy totally deserves that Emmy this year, but I also think “The Fight” would be a good episode. She played funny, crazy drunk and serious/sad in that one.

    But, really, Ausiello, did you have to start off the article by comparing her to Tina Fey? Really!?! Did you not see where she flipped the Harvard kid off for calling her “blonde Tina Fey”?

    I look forward to the day where an article can be written about Amy WITHOUT comparing her to Tina. Both ladies are extremely talented in their own right and do not always need to be linked together or compared.

  9. Linda says:

    If ANYONE deserves an emmy it’s Amy Poehler! She’s just one of the most brilliant actors, comediennes out there. Her comedy NEVER feels forced, like it’s already written down. People always think a lot of Parks & Rec is improvised, but it isn’t. And I think that is one of the biggest compliments you can recieve on a comedy show.

    So, if Amy Poehler decided she would run the world one day, I’d totally be all for it!

  10. Tannie says:

    Jerry’s painting? Great, but mostly for Ron’s art show speech. I caught “The Flu” one night by chance and it made me sit down, listen, laugh, and think “huh, I underestimated this show.” Now it is the only show on TV I actively watch. I also loved “The Fight,” but wonder if those unacquainted with the characters will only see it as over the top drunken antics. In my opinion, the safe bet for new Emmy viewers – “The Flu.”

    I enjoyed Amy on SNL and seeing her elsewhere in film and on TV, but when I watch Parks, I only see Leslie. Amy completely inhabits the character and gives us a strong, silly, and inspiring female figure to root for every week. Any and all accolades to the Parks and Rec leading lady and such a bright, heartfelt, hilarious show!

  11. Amy says:

    Amy Poehler FTW! She is brilliant on Parks and Rec and deserves a win. Actually the whole show deserves a win. The most consistently funny show this season. “The Fight” is my very favorite episode. It is such awesomesauce I have watched it about 5 times. I hope they submit it as well as The Flu episode, The Painting episode, The Harvest Festival episode, The Time Capsule episode. Okay, really the whole season was amazing.

  12. Cindy says:

    Love, love, love Parks & Rec and love Amy Poehler! Best of luck to Amy and the entire cast and crew!

  13. Ignacio says:

    Parks and Rec is the BEST comedy show on TV right now. And Amy is the best comedic actress.

  14. Scott says:


    10 – Sanctuary – Out of the Blue (NEW) – Suburban neighbors experience similar oddities that bring them together. – SyFy
    10 – Teen Wolf – Pack Mentality (NEW) – Scott and Allison end up in a group date; an animal attack has Stiles’ sheriff father on the lookout. – MTV


    9 – White Collar – Where There’s a Will (NEW) – Peter and Neal must follow a treasure map will to save a kidnapped daughter. – USA
    10 – Covert Affairs – Good Advices (NEW) – Annie is sent to Paris to cultivate a new asset. – USA


    10 – ABC News Special – Caught in the Act (NEW) – no description given, but commercials make it look, “that twit did what? HOW??!” – ABC (duh! heh)


    8 – World’s Dumbest Performers 3 (First Aired: 2-25-2010) – Dumbest performers; Russian pop stars literally fight for airtime; kangaroos exchange blows on a children’s television show; a pole won’t stay erect during an erotic dancing competition. – TruTV
    9 – World’s Dumbest … – Thrill-Seekers 2 (NEW) – Stupidity through bull riders, bike jumpers, and more. – TruTV


    8 – Flashpoint – Fault Lines (NEW) – Team One members must undergo intense psychological testing; Ed, on his way to the hospital for the birth of his child, gets shot. – CBS


    9 – Outcasts – Carpathia awaits the arrival of the last transporter from Earth; loyalties are tested. – BBC


    9 – The Dead Pool (First Aired: April 11, 2011) – Castle and Beckett investigate the death of a champion swimmer; authors Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane give Castle advice. – ABC
    I want to zap trough the commericals on my most lusted after:
    9 – Falling Skies – Pilot (NEW) – A young father struggles to protect his family and humanity following an alien attack. – TNT

  15. Hallie says:

    Amy Poehler is amazing, and I wish she could get retroactive Emmys! But I’ll settle for one this year — this season of Parks was just perfect. She absolutely deserves to win the Emmy for lead actress in a comedy because a. parks is a comedy, b. those showtime shows are not. laura linney, edie falco, toni collette are fantastic actresses in their own right, but their shows are not actually comedies and they aren’t playing comedic roles in them, as Amy does in Parks.

    I’m torn between wanting her to submit The Flu & Jerry’s Painting for the reasons she & Ausiello mentioned, but I also think The Fight was fantastic (and she wrote it! they should just give her the Emmy already, god!) and Harvest Festival, of course.

  16. Katie says:

    Poelher should submit “The Fight” for writing, but for acting I think it’s gotta be “Flu Season” — that’s such a solid half hour of comedy and she is brilliant. “Jerry’s Painting” is great, too — ah, who cares, just give her the Emmy because deserves it more than anyone else this year, hands down.

    And yeah, I’m tired of these Tina Fey comparisons. It’s obvious why they exists, but I think it’s time to start writing articles without them…it’s gotten old.

  17. Jessica B. says:

    Great interview! I feel like Amy always gets the short hand when it comes to award season. Parks and Rec is genius and at times (most of the time) funnier than 30 Rock.

  18. Beau says:

    Submit the flu episode.

  19. dizzylucy says:

    I think she should submit Flu Season or the Fight. Both were brilliant. I completely adore P&R, and hope it gets tons of nominations and awards. And Amy is totally awesome.

  20. Rob says:

    Submit Flu episode for Amy and Ron and Tammy pt. 2 for Nick!!!!!

  21. Audrey says:

    Submit the flu episode, it’s hilarious. Love you, Amy!

  22. Cathy says:

    The Fight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. Sabrina says:

    Amy should win for Comedy Actress, as well as writing for The Fight! And Parks should win Best Comedy!