The Annotated Wisdom of Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler has a pretty solid resume as both a comedian and a person. After spending time studying at Second City and iO in Chicago, Poehler moved to New York with friends Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, and Ian Roberts to found the Upright Citizens Brigade, which has since grown into the massive community of learners and performers of long-form improv and sketch that it is today. In more recent years, on her off time from her TV work on SNL and Parks and Recreation, Poehler and friends Meredith Walker and Amy Miles started Smart Girls at the Party, an online network to encourage and educate young women about being smart by being themselves. Along the way, Amy Poehler has proven in countless interviews, podcasts, and articles, that she is smart, kind, and funny, about every topic from feminism to Hell to old TV. Check it:


It’s nice to be short, because people expect less from you. [Smart Girls interview with Irma Kalish, 2013]

Being Cool

What worries me the most is this trend that caring about something isn’t cool. That it’s better to comment on something than to commit to it. That it’s so much cooler to be unmotivated and indifferent. Our culture can get so snarky and ironic sometimes and we kind of wanted Smart Girls to celebrate the opposite of that. [HuffPo, 2008]


I just love bossy women. I could be around them all day. To me, bossy is not a pejorative term at all. It means somebody’s passionate and engaged and ambitious and doesn’t mind leading, like, “All right, everybody, now we go over here. All right, now this happens.”  [Glamour, 2011]


If I wanted to give you advice as a Bostonian, I would remind you that: (with accent) “Just because you’re wicked smart it doesn’t mean you are better than me.” [Harvard College Class Day speech, 2011]


It’s very hard to watch comedy for me, when I’m doing a comedy show, because I either watch a show and I love it, and I’m jealous, or I watch a show and I see all the problems with it, and I’m angry that I watched it. But that’s for my shrink, not for you… [Fresh Air, 2009]


I hate Halloween. I hate dressing up. I hate – I wear wigs, makeup, costumes every day. Halloween is like, my least favorite holiday. [NPR’s Morning Edition, 2011]


They say that sibling relationships are the most important relationship in your life, because they know you for every period of your life. They know you when you were a baby and as an adult, and, hopefully, they know you in your old age. Your parents leave too early, your lovers come much later in your life, but your sibling has been with you. [How Was Your Week, 2011]


My least favorite part is when women ask me how I do it… In my case, I’m a lot luckier than some people who have to work two jobs and, you know, I sometimes get to bring my kid to work and all that stuff. But this woman was like, “Oh, my God, your hours! You just work so hard! How do you do it?” And I realized that, “How do you do it?” really means “How could you do it?” …There’s an unwritten rule that women who stay at home are supposed to pretend it’s boring, and women who work are supposed to pretend they feel guilty, and that’s how it works. [BUST, 2010]

Fictional Characters

Laverne and Shirley was physical and broad, and I loved those characters. Law & Order’s Lieutenant Anita van Buren is a great example of a tough lady among men. Omar Little from The Wire—one of the best bad good guys, or good bad guys, on TV. Animal from The Muppets, who taught me when in doubt, go crazy [laughs]. And Cliff, from Cheers. [NY Mag, 2011]

Focus Groups

As an actor, you can certainly, at any moment and at any time, discover 400 people who think you’re stupid, fat and ugly. But focus groups – they can be poisonous as well as informative, I guess. (HuffPo, May 2012)


I would love to do a serious period drama. Oh, absolutely. I mean, you’ll find most comedians want to do more serious stuff, most musicians want to be comedians, and most serious actors want to be musicians. [, 2008]


I really like playing Leslie, because it’s like the Sisyphean task of trying to get a park built is very emblematic of what’s happening anywhere someone’s just trying to make change happen while everybody tells them it’s not going to happen. She’s one of those people who believe that one person can make a difference; that no matter how small your job is, you still matter… I’m kind of a sucker for pathos, and I was looking forward to turning down the volume a little bit and trying to play someone who—even though she’s kind of grade-A bananas—could maybe exist in the world. [Glamour, 2011]


[Responding to Taylor Swift’s jab at her and Tina Fey in Vanity Fair] I feel bad if she was upset. I am a feminist, and she is a young and talented girl. That being said, I do agree I am going to hell. But for other reasons. Mostly boring tax stuff. [The Hollywood Reporter, 2013]


I know from my experience that the people that preceded me certainly paved the way, and I came into the business at a time when there was a real balance, and women were in all positions of power. Television has always been a great place for women.  [Smart Girls interview with Irma Kalish, 2013]


I’m gonna say there’s really no bad suggestions, because even the stupidest suggestion that you’ve heard a million times can inspire something. And you’re supposed to go with what you’re given. I think the idea that somehow a better suggestion makes a better show isn’t always the case. [The A.V. Club, 2008]

I moved to Chicago in the early 1990s and I studied improvisation there. I learned some rules that I try to apply still today. Listen, say yes, live in the moment, make sure you play with people who have your back, make big choices early and often. Don’t start a scene where two people are talking about jumping out of a plane. Start the scene having already jumped. If you are scared, look into your partner’s eyes. You will feel better.  [Harvard College Class Day speech, 2011]

Sometimes when you get too worried about how you look, or about how something’s gonna go, you kind of lose what made you special in the first place. I think that ASSSSCAT will really do that to you, really remind you that things are supposed to be dangerous, you’re supposed to feel uncomfortable, you’re supposed to enjoy not knowing, trusting your partner, and not falling back on the same stuff, and I think that that does that for me. It’s the kind of thing that every time, even 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.  [The A.V. Club, 2008]


I love All in the Family; I think it’s the best sitcom to ever be on TV.  [Smart Girls interview with Irma Kalish, 2013]

I hope and assume that every good comedy writer, no matter the age, has a moment where they discover how great Cheers is. And I would encourage any young person getting into comedy to sit down and watch the best television show that’s ever been on, and see the structure of it. [GQ, 2012]

SNL was certainly a big influence for me in my teen years, but The Carol Burnett Show was by far the first thing I ever saw that not only was a woman running her own show and being in charge, but also being such a magnanimous, benevolent captain, and there being real, genuine love and sense of play among the cast, and I think that most people who watched that show felt like they were a part of it. [Hitfix, 2012]


I would say my interview style is Morley Safer meets Kermit the Frog, with a dash of Christiane Amanpour. And a pinch of Dinah Shore wrapped in the shell of Lois Lane. My goal is to be the Edward R. Murrow of girls.  [HuffPo, 2008]

The Internet

It’s okay to not be looking at what everyone else is looking at all of the time. [Ask Amy, April 2013]


I don’t believe in ironic watching, you’re either watching or you’re not. [How Was Your Week, 2011]


Right now I’m singing along to books on tape. I typically pop in something like Stephen King’s The Stand, and I love singing along to that kind of stuff. [NY Daily News, 2011]

Los Angeles

L.A. is like a campus where everybody has the same major.  [How Was Your Week, 2011]

People talk to you a lot in restaurants [in L.A.]. People ask you, “What are you eating? That looks good.” It’s strange. It is totally unnerving. My first instinct is to make a fist. And then I realize they’re just being nice. [The Daily Beast, 2009]

New York

[On her quintessential New York day] For me it’s waking up and turning on NY1 — checking the local weather, seeing who got murdered — and then it’s going to the deli and getting a bacon, egg and cheese on a roll. [LA Times Magazine, 2011]

New York is my home… Nobody’s interested in you, in the best way. [How Was Your Week, 2011]

There’s something so romantic about being broke in New York. You gotta do it. You have to live there once without any money, and then you have to live there when you have money. Let me tell you, of the two, the latter is far better. [LA Times Magazine, 2011]


I loved doing [Weekend] Update. It completely and in the best way changed my experience of doing the show. Lorne Michaels always said to me that the difference is that you will say your name on the show, and it makes a difference… you’re allowing yourself to be yourself on camera, which is hard for an actor to do but really hard for a comedian to do, I think. You’re not hiding behind a character. [Nightline, 2008]


Always remember your kid’s name. Always remember where you put your kid. Don’t let your kid drive until their feet can reach the pedals. Use the right size diapers…for yourself. And, when in doubt, make funny faces. [The Daily Beast, 2009]

I don’t care if it’s a girl or a boy, I want it to marry Alice Richmond, Tina (Fey)’s daughter. We’d make a lovely mother and mother-in-law of the bride. [USA Today, 2008]

[Answering if her son is funny because of his comedian parents] Actually, he has the personality of a French New Wave film. He’s really serious, very abstract. [BUST, 2010]


Try putting your iPhones down every once in a while and look at people’s faces. People’s faces will tell you amazing things. Like if they are angry or nauseous, or asleep. [Harvard College Class Day speech, 2011]


If you look at the history of SNL, there is certainly a case to be made for the fact that everyone has been hit hard, evenly, equally, and I would say fairly and unfairly, all at the same time. [Nightline, 2008]

What has been fun about playing Leslie is getting to a very local level. Everybody’s macro ideas of how they feel about taxes and gay marriage and whatever fade when you are actually doing the day-to-day work. Both conservatives and liberals watch Parks and Recreation, and they each think the show is for them, which is really cool. [LA Times Magazine, 2011]

[On Parks and Rec] People watch our show and they think it’s a red-state show, and then other people watch it and think it’s a blue-state show. I think there’s something fun about the politics of the show aren’t very clear. [NPR’s Morning Edition, 2011


A little person exists in this little body, and he’s growing, and getting to meet that person is the coolest part. [BUST, 2010]

Being pregnant and doing comedy is like wearing a giant sombrero in every scene. Everyone is just trying to pretend it’s not there. It can be limiting. It gets boring. [USA Today, 2008]


The reason why we liked Blades of Glory so much is that it was such a twisted relationship because they were brother and sister. I think real life couples on screen are kind of deadly. For the most part, they’re kind of deadly. You’d be surprised. Unless they’re falling in love onscreen for the first time, you don’t have quite the same energy for some reason. [, 2008]


The great thing about taking big chances when you’re younger is you have less to lose, and you don’t know as much. So you take big swings. [NY Mag, 2011]


That job is so hard, you get a trench mentality where you all were in the trench together. And anyone who worked there will always be able to go back there with you and talk about their experience. It’s a really cool club to belong to. We’re like a bunch of vets. [BUST, 2010]


Sketch is still uncool… I just remember lugging costumes and wigs and fake blood and stupid fucking props and [standups] putting out a cigarette and walking onstage and talking about [themselves], and me having to be some character in the audience. [WTF, 2011]


I think sometimes with a certain amount of success you get a little disconnected with what it was that brought you there, and you get nervous to take chances. [Nightline, 2008]


When young girls are encouraged to explore what they find interesting, they grow up to be interesting women. [Paste, 2010]


As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. No one is here today because they did it on their own. Okay, maybe Josh, but he’s just a straight up weirdo. [Harvard College Class Day speech, 2011]


But let’s be honest, most TV shows are better than movies. [The Daily Beast, 2011]

Unconventional Families

I think the next thing is moon wives. Like having a wife here on earth and then a wife on the moon. And everybody’s cool with it. They’re like, “You’re my Earth wife, but my moon wife and I are also in love.” [Entertainment Weekly, 2013]


I love, love that age when you’re right on the precipice of teenage years, before you’ve decided that everything’s lame. [LA Times Magazine, 2011]

The Annotated Wisdom of Amy Poehler