Kindred comedy spirits
SNL vets Tina Fey and Amy Poehler reunite just for laughs in Baby Mama
Critics who enjoy the new Tina Fey-Amy Poehler comedy Baby Mama are likely to talk up the chemistry between the film’s two female leads. It’s kind of hard to miss.
But it’s easy to understand. The two Saturday Night Live veterans go back to 1993, when they first met in Chicago at the Second City, a school for up-and-coming comic talent.
“I’d heard about Tina on the streets!” said Poehler of that time, during an interview with Fey to promote Baby Mama, which opened Friday.
“We both had moved from where we were going to college to study improv. We performed together on an improv team named after a bad porn. … A gay porn movie. Not necessarily bad.”
“No, excellent,” Fey said.
“So we knew each other when we were just big-eyebrowed, poor, ugly ducklings,” Poehler said.
Said Fey, “I think we’ve always had a mutual respect for each other because we both took improv superseriously at the time.”
“Yeah, we did,” Poehler agreed.
“And still kind of do.”
“We still kind of do, yeah.”
During the 2004-05 season of SNL, Fey and Poehler began co-anchoring “Weekend Update,” the longest-running sketch on the comedy series. It had never featured two women before.
That arrangement ended when Fey moved on to write and star in the NBC sitcom 30 Rock.
Former SNL writer Michael McCullers wanted to reunite Poehler and Fey for a feature, which is how Baby Mama came about.
In the film, Poehler plays a working-class woman who agrees to become pregnant with the first child of a career woman played by Fey.
The story for Baby Mama was the creation of McCullers, who also directed the film, which is set in Philadelphia.
Fey had her first child in real life just three years ago and, as a resident of New York City, knows all about big-city parenting.
“My daughter starts preschool next year, so I just went through the process of taking her to her preschool interviews,” she said.
“Did she wear a little power suit, with a teeny-tiny briefcase?” Poehler asked.
“She had a teeny-tiny résumé, made of candy. That you don’t find in the suburbs,” Fey said.
When asked if she wanted to become a mother, Poehler, who is married to actor Will Arnett, answered, “To Sigourney Weaver, yes. I’d love to cradle Sigourney Weaver and tuck her in, and whisper quietly and sing to her.”
In the film, Weaver plays the owner of the surrogacy center who arranges for Fey’s character to meet her surrogate in Poehler.
“One of the things I admire about the movie is that there are things included in it that are true and really humiliating for women, like the doctor who says your uterus is upside-down or it’s shaped like a shoe or your eggs have crossed eyes,” said Weaver, who became a mother for the first time in her 40s.
“I remember when I was carrying my daughter they referred to me as ‘elderly.’ I felt like I had her just in time, before I turned into a pumpkin.”
Continued the actress, “I really do believe what my character says, that there’s no wrong way to have a family as long as the welfare of the child and the health of everyone is kept in mind.”
“I do think it would be slightly disrespectful to people who are dealing with all these issues in a real way to just play it jokey or harsh,” he said. “It’s not how I see the world, and Amy and Tina don’t either. I think they were both looking forward to the chance to show a more grounded, more emotional side.”
“I think it’s harder to make comedy when you can’t curse and stuff; I take great pride in operating within the boundaries of the standard rules,” said Fey, who constantly finds herself straddling that line in 30 Rock and being surprised by how the line can sometimes shift on her.
Baby Mama is rated PG-13, so it can’t get too raunchy. But in the delivery scene, Poehler’s exasperated character lets loose with an especially creative profanity.
“A lot of birthing movies never really talk about how foul people’s mouths get. There were extras who were kind of genuinely startled with me yelling and stuff,” Poehler said.
“I think the take that’s in the movie was the last take of the night,” Fey said.
“Amy asked if it was the last one, and she pulled the Christmas tree down; she pulled out an IV. She didn’t want to wreck the props until it was the last take, and then she tore the place up.”