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Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler

Amy Meredith Poehler (/ˈpoʊlər/; born September 16, 1971)[3][4] is an American actress, comedian, director, producer, and writer. After studying improv at Chicago's Second City and ImprovOlympic in the early 1990s, she Co-founded the Chicago-based improvisational-comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade. The group moved to New York City in 1996 where their act became a half-hour sketch comedy series on Comedy Central in 1998. Along with other members of the comedy group, Poehler is a founder of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.

She is best known for starring as Leslie Knope in the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation, for which she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Musical or Comedy Series in 2014 and a Critics' Choice Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series in 2012. She was a cast member on the NBC television series Saturday Night Live from 2001 to 2008 and became co-anchor of SNL's Weekend Update in 2004. She and Tina Fey both won the 2016 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for co-hosting Saturday Night Live.

She is also known for voicing Joy in Inside Out, Sally O'Malley in the Horton Hears a Who! movie adaptation, and Bessie Higgenbottom in the Nickelodeon series The Mighty B! from 2008 to 2011. Poehler is an executive producer on the televisions series Welcome to Sweden, Broad City, Difficult People, and Russian Doll. In December 2015, Poehler received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions in television.

Amy Poehler
Amy Meredith Poehler

(1971-09-16)September 16, 1971
Newton, Massachusetts, U.S.
ResidenceLos Angeles, California, U.S.
Alma materBoston College
  • Actress
  • comedian
  • director
  • producer
  • writer
Years active1996–present
Will Arnett
RelativesGreg Poehler (brother)
Comedy career
  • Television
  • film
  • theatre
  • books
  • Improvisational comedy
  • blue comedy
  • sketch comedy
  • insult comedy
  • surreal humor
  • satire
  • American politics
  • American culture
  • current events
  • human interaction
  • social awkwardness
  • self-deprecation
  • pop culture

Early life

Poehler was born in Newton, Massachusetts, to school teachers Eileen and William Poehler.[5][6] Her younger brother, Greg Poehler, is a producer and actor.[7][8] She is of Irish, German, Portuguese, and English descent with her Irish roots originating from County Cork.[6] She was raised as a Catholic.[9]

She grew up in nearby Burlington, Massachusetts, which Poehler describes as a blue-collar town.[5][8] Poehler credits her father with encouraging her to break social protocol.[8] Her favorite performers included sketch-comedians Carol Burnett, Gilda Radner, and Catherine O'Hara.[10] She graduated from Burlington High School in 1989.[11] While attending Boston College, Poehler was a member of the improv comedy troupe My Mother's Fleabag.[5] She graduated from Boston College with a bachelor's degree in media and communications in 1993.[12]


Improv and Upright Citizens Brigade

Matt Walsh, Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, and Ian Roberts in 2015

Matt Walsh, Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, and Ian Roberts in 2015

Poehler's time studying improv in college inspired her to pursue comedy professionally.[13] She moved to Chicago where she took her first improv class taught by Charna Halpern at ImprovOlympic.[14] Early on, Poehler waitressed and worked other small jobs to earn money.[13] Through ImprovOlympic, Poehler learned from Del Close and she was introduced to friend and frequent collaborator Tina Fey.[14][15] Poehler and Fey joined a Second City touring company at the same time and Poehler went on to join one of Second City's main companies where Fey was her eventual replacement.[15]

The Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) formed as a sketch and improv group in Chicago in 1991.[16][17] Early members included Horatio Sanz, Adam McKay, Ian Roberts, Neil Flynn and Matt Besser, although membership was not static.[16][17][18] McKay left the fledgling group in 1995 and Poehler became his replacement with UCB.[16][17] In 1996, a core group of four UCB members, Poehler, Besser, Roberts, and Matt Walsh moved to New York City.[18][19][20] The "UCB Four" began performing shows at small venues around the city, which after a few months evolved into four regular live shows.[16] To earn money outside of the shows, UCB taught improv classes.[16] Poehler also started making appearances on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, often playing her recurring role as Andy Richter's little sister, Stacy.[9][21]

In 1998, Comedy Central debuted UCB's eponymous half-hour sketch comedy series.[16] During the show's second season, the group opened an improv theatre/training center in New York City on W. 22nd Street, occupying the space of a former strip club.[16] The UCB theatre held shows seven nights a week in addition to offering classes in sketch comedy writing and improv.[9] In the summer of 2000, Comedy Central canceled the Upright Citizens Brigade program after its third season,[18] though the UCB Theatre continued to operate.[22] Poehler, Besser, Roberts, and Walsh are considered the founders of UCB and have been credited with popularizing long-form improv in New York.[16][23][24] By 2011, UCB had two theatres in New York and a theatre in Los Angeles with 8,000 students taking classes per year.[16]

Saturday Night Live

Cast member

Poehler with SNL co-stars and creator Lorne Michaels in 2008.

Poehler with SNL co-stars and creator Lorne Michaels in 2008.

Poehler joined the cast of Saturday Night Live (SNL) at the start of the 2001–2002 season. Tina Fey had tried to recruit Poehler for SNL for years.[15] Poehler made her debut in the first episode produced after the 9/11 attacks. Poehler was promoted from featured player to full cast member in her first season on the show, making her the second cast member,[1] and first woman, to earn this distinction.[25][26] Poehler's recurring characters included hyperactive 10-year old Kaitlyn, reality show contestant with one leg Amber, and Bronx Beat talk show co-host Betty Caruso.[18][27] In addition to her original characters, Poehler performed a number of impressions including Hillary Clinton, Kelly Ripa, Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, and Kim Jong-Il.[18][27]

Beginning with the 2004–2005 season, she co-anchored "Weekend Update" with Tina Fey, replacing Jimmy Fallon. Fey and Poehler became the first female co-anchors of the longtime SNL staple.[15] Poehler, Rudolph, and Fey were among the shows biggest stars that season and contributed to a shift in the show featuring more female driven sketches.[18][26][28] When Fey left after the 2005–2006 season to devote time to the sitcom she created, 30 Rock, Seth Meyers joined Poehler at the anchor desk. In 2008, Poehler was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series,[29] the first year SNL cast members were allowed in the category.[30]

On September 13, 2008, the SNL season premiere opened with Fey and Poehler as Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton, respectively, discussing sexism in political campaigning.[31][32] The sketch, which Poehler co-wrote with Meyers, became the biggest viral video of the year.[31][33] Days after the season premiere, NBC announced Poehler, pregnant with her first child, would not return after her upcoming maternity leave.[34] On the October 25 episode, Meyers announced during "Weekend Update" that Poehler was giving birth. At the end of "Weekend Update", special guest Maya Rudolph and cast member Kenan Thompson sang a custom rendition of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" for Poehler.[35] Poehler had been rehearsing for that week's show until the day before the baby was born.[35]

Poehler appeared during a pre-taped special on November 3, the "SNL Presidential Bash '08", as Hillary Clinton.[36][37] Although it had previously been announced Poehler would not return after maternity leave, Poehler returned for the December 6 show.[38] The following week on December 13, during "Weekend Update", Poehler announced that it would be her last show.[39] Saturday Night Live aired a special, "The Best of Amy Poehler," in April 2009.[40] For the 2008-2009 season finale, Poehler returned to co-host "Weekend Update" and joined host Will Ferrell's "Goodnight Saigon," which included celebrity guests Tom Hanks, Maya Rudolph, Norm Macdonald, Paul Rudd, Artie Lange, Anne Hathaway, and Green Day.[41][42]

Off camera, Poehler was a prolific writer. She often collaborated with writer Emily Spivey.[43] Meyers described Poehler as "the most generous laugher" during sketch read throughs.[8] Poehler would also take it upon herself to welcome guest hosts during rehearsals and try to make them feel comfortable during their stint SNL.[8]

Guest appearances

Poehler returned to the "Weekend Update" desk in the fall of 2009 with Meyers, for two "WU" Thursday episodes, which led directly into Parks and Recreation. She also returned to Saturday Night Live for a special Mother's Day episode on May 8, 2010, hosted by Betty White.[44] Poehler returned to Saturday Night Live on September 25, 2010, to host the Season 36 opening episode with musical guest Katy Perry.[45] She returned once again for the Saturday Night Live special, "The Women of SNL" in November of that year. Poehler also returned sporadically for appearances on Weekend Update with Meyers, as well as in sketches when Jimmy Fallon (2011) and Maya Rudolph (2012) hosted.

In 2015, during Saturday Night Live's 40th Anniversary show, she returned to anchor "Weekend Update", this time with Tina Fey and Jane Curtin.[46]

SNL celebrity impressions

Among others, Poehler's SNL portrayals and impressions of celebrities have included: Hillary Clinton, Dakota Fanning, Avril Lavigne, Michael Jackson, Nancy Grace, Katie Couric, Sharon Osbourne, Paula Abdul, Kelly Ripa, Britney Spears, Kim Jong-Il, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julia Roberts, Rosie Perez, Sharon Stone, Katie Holmes, Greta Van Susteren, Dolly Parton, J. K. Rowling, Fergie, Madonna, Anna Nicole Smith, Jenna Bush, and Pamela Anderson.[18]

Parks and Recreation

Poehler with Parks and Recreation co-star Aubrey Plaza at the 2012 Time 100 gala

Poehler with Parks and Recreation co-star Aubrey Plaza at the 2012 Time 100 gala

Poehler at the 2012 Peabody Awards

Poehler at the 2012 Peabody Awards

Following the success of The Office, NBC ordered a new series from producers Greg Daniels and Michael Schur.[47][48] Schur and Poehler were friends from their time together at SNL where Schur worked as a writer.[48] In July 2008, Variety magazine reported that Poehler was in final negotiations to star in a series from Daniels and Schur, set to air on Thursdays before The Office, starting January 2009 on NBC.[49] Signing Poehler, who was pregnant with her first child, meant the new series would have to forgo a promised post-Super Bowl debut and cut its first season short, but Daniels and Schur chose to push back the series for Poehler.[48][50] On July 21, 2008, NBC announced Poehler's new series, Parks and Recreation, saying the project would not be a direct spin-off of The Office, as previously speculated.[47]

An ensemble cast including Aziz Ansari, Rashida Jones, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Paul Schneider, Nick Offerman joined Poehler.[48] Poehler played Deputy Director of the Parks Department, Leslie Knope, in the fictional city of Pawnee, Indiana. After the first season received mixed reception, the show's second season received more positive reviews.[51] One key change between seasons one and two was to distinguish the character of Leslie from Michael Scott, the central character of The Office.[48][51] Parks decidedly down-played Leslie's ditziness from season 1 and instead emphasized her intelligence, work ethic, and earnest nature.[48][51] A second-season episode, Galentine's Day, included a new holiday Leslie created celebrating female friendship on February 13. Galentine's Day has since transcended the show with real life celebrations.[52][53] Adam Scott, and Rob Lowe joined the show at the end of season two with Scott playing Leslie's eventual love interest Ben.[54] At the end of filming season two, Poehler was once again pregnant. The show began producing the first six episodes of season three without a break to accommodate the pregnancy.[54][55][56] Poehler was again nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy in 2011.[57] In 2011, the show won a Peabody Award for "developing a hilarious venue to explore the good side of American democracy in an age when that side is so rarely on display."[58]

By season five, the show was a success with critics but its future was still uncertain. Two episodes were written that could serve as series finales if it were cancelled, including the mid-season episode where Leslie and Ben get married. The show was ultimately renewed for a sixth season in May 2013.[54] Poehler was nominated for an Emmy Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy in 2013 for her work in season five. Season six included the show's 100th episode, "Second Chunce" co-written by Poehler and Schur.[59] In 2014, she won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Series – Comedy at the 71st Golden Globe Awards, which she co-hosted with Tina Fey.[54] In the middle of season six, Poehler and Schur agreed it felt like the right time to plan the end of the show. They met with representatives from NBC who agreed. The show was renewed for a final season with thirteen episodes.[54] Poehler co-wrote the final episode of the series, "One Last Ride" with Schur, which aired on February 24, 2015.[54]

In addition to starring on Parks and Recreation, Poehler was also a producer.[60] Behind the scenes, Poehler started a tradition of inviting the show cast and crew to a group dinner the last night of any location shoot.[8] Poehler would start impromptu dance parties in the makeup trailer on set.[61] Poehler wrote several episodes throughout the series, starting with the season 2 episode "Telethon".[62][63] Other episodes she penned include "The Fight" (season 3),[63] "The Debate" (season 4),[64] "Second Chunce" (season 5), "One Last Ride." Producer Dan Goor praised Poehler's writing as "exceptionally good" and theorized, "[i]f Amy Poehler submitted a blind script to any staff, she would be hired."[65] Poehler's writing of "The Debate" was recognized with nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series and the Writers Guild of America Award for Television: Episodic Comedy.[29][66] In addition to writing "The Debate," Poehler also directed the episode.[64] Additionally, she directed the episodes "Article Two" (season 5)[67] and "Gryzzlbox" (season 7).[68]

Golden Globes co-host

Poehler and Fey hosted the Golden Globe Awards ceremony for the first time in 2013. Their first co-hosting appearance was watched by 20 million viewers representing a 17 percent increase in viewers over the previous year.[15] The pair co-hosted again in 2014 as part of a three-year contract.[69][70] Gilbert Cruz, of the Vulture website, wrote: "They killed it last year with their opening monologue and they did so again this year."[71] The 2014 show garnered its highest ratings in ten years.[72]

Poehler and Fey hosted the Golden Globe Awards ceremony for the third successive time in 2015, confirming prior to the event that the third time would be their last.[70] Rolling Stone magazine wrote afterward that the pair "left no superstar unscathed during their riotous opening monologue", in which they "casually roasted the assembled masses".[73]

Making It

In March 2017, NBC ordered to series a Poehler produced crafting series, then-titled The Handmade Project.[74] The show, retitled Making It, debuted on NBC in July 2018 with Poehler and her Parks and Recreation co-star Nick Offerman as co-hosts.[75] The debut episode tied for the highest rated premiere of summer 2018.[76]


In 2001 Poehler set up her own production company called Paper Kite Productions.[8][60] Paper Kite is part of Universal Television. As of 2019, the production company's staff is all female. To describe her success as a producer, The Hollywood Reporter called Poehler "a powerful arbiter of sophisticated comedy."[8]

Poehler co-created, produced, and starred in an animated series for Nickelodeon titled The Mighty B!, about Bessie Higgenbottom, a "sweet, merit-badge-obsessed girl scout".[77][78] The character of Bessie was inspired by a character Poehler performed doing improv.[79] Season 1 averaged 3.1 million viewers and ranked as one of the top five animated programs in television. Nickelodeon renewed the show for a second season.[80] In 2009 and 2010, Poehler earned Daytime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program.[81][82]

She has been executive producer on series such as Difficult People[83] and Broad City.[8] Hulu ordered the comedy Difficult People in 2014 as the streaming service's first ever scripted series.[83][84] Starring Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner, Difficult People ran for three seasons.[84] Broad City grew out of a web series starring Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. Jacobson and Glazer used their connections at UCB to approach Poehler about starring in the finale of their web series. Poehler agreed to appear on the web series and then joined Jacobson and Glazer to executive produce a television series.[85] After initially selling a script to FX, the project ultimately landed at Comedy Central where it aired for five years until its 2019 series finale.[86] Poehler appeared in the season one finale.[87]

Welcome to Sweden is a Swedish sitcom that premiered in March 2014 and began airing on NBC in the United States three months later. It is based on the experiences of Greg Poehler, who moved with his girlfriend to her native country of Sweden in 2006.[88] The series was canceled by NBC on July 28, 2015 after two seasons, due to low ratings.[89] Amy Poehler makes cameo appearances in multiple episodes as herself as a celebrity client of her brother's character, a former New York tax accountant. She is also co-executive producer with him.[90]

Poehler, along with Natasha Lyonne and Leslye Headland, created and executive produced comedy-drama series Russian Doll for Netflix.[91][92] The series premiered on February 1, 2019.[93] The genesis of the series started seven years earlier after Poehler remarked Lyonne was always "the oldest girl in the world."[92] Poehler and Lyonne liked the idea of a female character being many things at once, but joked the only way to have a female character that complex would be to re-do the part repeatedly.[91] The idea evolved into the series where Lyonne's character dies repeatedly on her 36th birthday.[91] Poehler, Lyonne, and Headland put together an all female team of writers and directors.[91][94] The series debuted on Netflix with a 100% fresh rating on the ratings aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[92]

In June 2016, BBC America announced it is developing a scripted series called Zero Motivation. The project is being executive produced by Brooke Posch and Poehler.[95] Poehler is an executive producer on the upcoming series Three Busy Debras, a comedy series being produced for Adult Swim that stars Mitra Jouhari, Alyssa Stonoha, and Sandy Honig.[8] In addition to serving as producer, Poehler will also provide the voices for two main characters in the series Duncanville expected to premiere on Fox in the 2019-2020 television season.[96]

Film career

Tina Fey and Poehler at the premiere of Baby Mama in New York, April 2008

Tina Fey and Poehler at the premiere of Baby Mama in New York, April 2008

In 1999, Poehler had a small role in the movie Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.[97] The following year, Poehler was cast in the film Wet Hot American Summer.[98] Wet Hot American Summer was the first film from David Wain, who cast Poehler based on her work with Upright Citizen's Brigade.[98] The film, which cost only $1.8 million to make, was not a success initially when it was released in 2001. It gained a following after its release on DVD.[98] Poehler also appeared in the 2004 movie Mean Girls, written by Tina Fey.[99] Fey wrote the role of self-described "cool mom" with Poehler in mind, however Fey and director Mike Waters had to push for Poehler's casting.[99][100] The studio had been wary of casting too many SNL cast members and were concerned that Poehler was too young to play the mother of Rachel McAdams, who is only seven years younger than her. Poehler filmed the role in Toronto during the week while filming SNL.[99] The movie grossed $129 million at the box office worldwide and saw its popularity continue to rise after its release on DVD.[101]

In 2008, she starred in Baby Mama. Baby Mama reunited Poehler with friend and SNL co-star Tina Fey.[102] Poehler plays trashy Angie Ostrowiski who is hired by Fey's Kate to be her child's surrogate mother.[103] The film opened on April 25, 2008 and was the number one movie at the box office its opening weekend.[104] The film went on to gross over $60 million at the U.S. box office.[105] Poehler has also worked with Fey on the film Sisters (2015).[4] Other film credits include Envy (2004), Southland Tales (2006), Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006), Blades of Glory (2007), Mr. Woodcock (2007), Hamlet 2 (2008), Spring Breakdown (2009), A.C.O.D. (2013), and They Came Together (2014).[106]

Poehler has also voiced several characters in animated films. Her voice over credits include Shrek the Third (2007), Horton Hears a Who!, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, (2009), Monsters vs. Aliens, (2009), Hoodwinked Too!: Hood vs. Evil, (2011), and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, (2011), The Secret World of Arrietty (2012),[2][107] Free Birds, and Inside Out (2015).[106][108][109] In Pixar's Inside Out, Poehler provides the voice for the emotion Joy living inside an 11-year-old girl. Poehler also received a screen credit for writing some of Joy's dialogue.[110] The film has a 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomotoes[111] went on to gross $857 million worldwide.[112]


Poehler made her film directing debut with Wine Country, which premiered on Netflix on May 10, 2019. She also stars in the film along with Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Paula Pell, and Emily Spivey. The screenplay is loosely based on a real trip the actresses took together to Napa Valley. Also for Netflix, Poehler is set to direct the film adaptation of the 2017 novel Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu.[113][114]

Other work

In September 2008, Poehler began producing a digital series with two of her friends, Meredith Walker and Amy Miles, titled Smart Girls at the Party. Launched by the Texas-based ON Networks distributor, the official press release stated that the show "aims to help girls find confidence in their own aspirations and talents." In each episode, Poehler interviews a girl with a "unique talent, community interest or point of view." The first season of Smart Girls at the Party premiered online November 17, 2008, with Mattel's Barbie signed on as the lead sponsor.[115] Smart Girls at the Party returned in 2012 as part of the YouTube Original Channel Initiative that focused upon the creation of new content. The new Smart Girls at the Party YouTube Channel went live on July 2, 2012, including new episodes of Smart Girls at the Party along with additional shows by Poehler, Walker, and Miles.[116]

In 2014, the Smart Girls at the Party project was acquired by the Legendary Entertainment company in mid-October. Poehler said to the media: "We at Smart Girls are excited to be working with Legendary and look forward to providing funny and inspirational content for all of the goofballs out there." By the time of the deal, the terms of which were not disclosed, over five million views were registered on its YouTube channel and over 550,000 fans had liked the initiative on Facebook.[117] On the Smart Girls YouTube channel, viewers have the opportunity to ask for life advice from Poehler in segments called Ask Amy.[118] Smart Girls celebrated its 10th Anniversary in 2018.[119]

Poehler's memoir, Yes Please, was published on October 28, 2014.[120] She explained in a promotional interview with National Public Radio (NPR) that she was "used to writing in characters and not really writing about myself ... it was easier to share the early parts of my life rather than my own current events." Topics covered in the book include body image, parenthood, and learning about the limitations of physical appearance.[121] The book debuted at number 1 on the New York Times best-sellers list.[4]

In 2011, Poehler was included on Time's "100 most influential people in the world".[122] She also delivered the Class Day address to Harvard University's class of 2011.[123] The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited Poehler to become a member as part of its 2017 class.[124]

Personal life

Poehler married actor Will Arnett on August 29, 2003.[125] Poehler and Arnett met in 1996 when he saw one of her performances; they started dating four years later.[13] During their relationship, Poehler and Arnett worked together on several projects including the series Arrested Development, the 2007 film Blades of Glory, Horton Hears a Who!, and The Secret World of Arrietty. Together, Poehler and Arnett have two sons, one born in October 2008[126] and the other in August 2010.[127] Poehler and Arnett announced on September 6, 2012 that they were separating.[128] Arnett filed for divorce on April 8, 2014.[129] Poehler lives with her children in Los Angeles.[8] Poehler praised her children's nannies as part of her Time 100 speech for helping to take care of her children and allowing her to balance her career and family.[130] From 2013 until 2015, Poehler dated fellow comedian Nick Kroll.[131]



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