Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Celebrity Almost-Encounters: Amy Poehler

Greetings, Unpro-ites!  Hope your Memorial Day weekend was everything you hoped it would be.  So far, I have gone to IKEA with my parents.  And it was really funny seeing my truck driving ex-football player dad get all excited over a little table.

Also, I scored a paid blogging gig with RedEye, a supplement of the Chicago Tribune.  I'm blogging about movies in my neighborhood of Lakeview.  Check it out here!

So this week's post is all about celebrity crushes.  No, this is not another Joel McHale post.  As I am an equal opportunity crusher, I want to talk about my almost encounter of yore, with a woman I am in serious lady-love with: the divine Ms. Amy Poehler.

In college, I was all about TV sketch shows.  Kids in the Hall rocked my world.  I was still mourning the loss of The State (this was before most of the gang resurfaced in Wet Hot American Summer and Reno 911!).

And then there was the Upright Citizens Brigade.  Three hilarious dudes and one tiny, crazy, spazzy chick.  They'd originated in my very own city, Chicago, and my sophomore year of college, came back for a show at ImprovFest.  I took my then-boyfriend as a birthday surprise.

When the show started, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh came in from the back of the theatre.  Ian Roberts ducked down right beside me and my boyfriend, looked directly at us, and made the "shhh" sign.  A very cool moment.

I have to admit, I don't remember much about the show.  I know it was a mix of the long-form improv UCB made famous, plus a few of the sketches from their Comedy Central show.  Of course they were all incredible, but Amy was transcendent.  I once heard an interview with a comedian who said, "Amy Poehler is, without a doubt, one of the best improvisers in the world."  I wholeheartedly agree.

After the show, there was a buzz in the audience: the UCB just might be at ImprovOlympic (now re-christened iO because the actual Olympics got mad.  I'm not kidding).  My boyfriend and I eagerly got our asses in gear.  We were standing in line outside iO when...there she was.

Standing in the doorway, just ten feet away from me, animatedly chatting with another woman.  I was an openmouthed groupie in a stretchy pink dress, nudging my boyfriend and muttering "Look!  Look!"  Because even then, before Saturday Night Live, before Parks and Recreation, before UCB became two theatres and a training program all its own, even just standing there talking . . . Amy gave off this energy.  She was cute and blonde and chirpy, but she was also funny and intelligent and clearly gave two whole shits about what anyone else thought.  She was a miniature powerhouse, and you could follow or get the hell out of the way.

In other words, she was everything I wanted to be, then and now.

I've talked about this before, but it bears repeating: it's not easy being a short yellow-haired female.  I started swearing at twelve for a reason: it gave me an edge and was unexpected from someone who looked like me.  (Hey, at least I don't have a perm anymore.)  I've been called loud, aggressive, pushy and intense, and if I were a guy?  I'd just be called confident.

In my late teens and early twenties when I was still like this but way less secure, I had found a role model.

A year later, I was at a friend's apartment watching the season premiere of Saturday Night Live, which had been delayed for weeks because of 9/11.  In the opening credits was none other than the lady who had recently rocked my world as a summer camp drama coach (which had been my job that summer a swell).  I think I gasped, "Omigod, it's Amy Poehler from UCB!  I looove her!"

And as Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation, she shows a whole new side.  Leslie's silly but capable and professional.  She likes candy and Gossip Girl AND earns respect from her colleagues.  She's a feminist who's not a bitch.  And whether she's hilariously stalking a high school vandal or sadly choosing between her relationship and her hometown loyalty, Leslie is always, always genuine.  Just like Poehler.

That same boyfriend who accompanied me to the UCB show said this to me once: "You're always genuine.  You never act like someone you're not.  And most people can't say that for themselves."  I'm a Leslie Knope.  I'm proud of it.

And maybe someday, I will be an Amy Poehler.

Do you have any celeb role models?  Any funny celebrity encounters?  Leave a comment!


  1. Zooey Deschanel was going to be my girlfriend. I went to her concert at Park West where Lavender Diamond was her opening act. At the break or intermission or whatever you want to call it, I went to the men's room. Coming out, with my hand on my fly making sure I had zipped up, a man resembling Wilford Brimley came up to me and said, forcefully, "get back!" I said "what?" a little dazed with my hand still on my crotch, and Wilford placed his sausage patty mitt on my chest, pushed me against the wall and said again "get back!"

    At that moment Zooey walked passed me, about six feet away, possibly less, and rolled her eyes.

    Wilford let go of me and a dreamy looking dude walked out of the men's room, without his hand on his zipper, and said "hey, great set" to a now passing Lavender Diamond. She looked back seductively over her shoulder and said "thanks."

    I'm almost certain those two banged later whilst being filmed by Wilford Brimley.

    I haven't seen Zooey since.

  2. DS, that is HILARIOUS! And kind of sad. It is truly tragic you missed your chance to steal her away from Ben Gibbard. Love your art!