Glammed up in a satin dress and 3-in. heels, Amy Poehler is so not ready for her close-up. “I hate when I have to look nice,” says the Saturday Night Live star, who arrived at an April 19 Manhattan photo shoot wearing an American Apparel sweatshirt and Juicy Couture drawstring pants. “I need to be hit over the head to capture a still moment. I’m always in motion.”
For more proof of her admirable energy, just turn on the TV or go to the movies. In the new big-screen comedy Baby Mama, Poehler, 36, plays Tina Fey’s juvenile-minded surrogate mother. Starting April 26, she voices a clever 9-year-old in The Mighty B!, a Nickelodeon cartoon she co-created. But the role that’s gotten the most attention? Her SNL impression of presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. “Amy keeps me laughing,” Clinton tells PEOPLE, “even if she’s doing her version of my laughter.” This crop of projects, Poehler says, “is like a great, perfect storm.”
One preceded by seven years of playing side-splitting characters on SNL. “She can pick the show up,” says producer Lorne Michaels, “put it on her shoulders and run with it.” Plus, “she’s fearless,” says Fey, who met Poehler in a 1993 Chicago improv class. “Not only is she not afraid to look silly, she’s not afraid to let you throw her in the air like a basketball and catch her.”
Poehler says her sense of humor was honed in a laughter-filled home in Burlington, Mass., with dad Bill, now a financial planner, mom Eileen, a special education teacher at Poehler’s high school, and brother Greg, 33. “You had to hold your own at our table,” says Poehler. “I was a big-time ham.”
After moving to New York City in 1996, she began performing improv with her comedy group, Upright Citizens Brigade. (She still performs with them every Sunday night.) Says Poehler: “I’m a sucker for live laughter.”
So is her husband, actor Will Arnett, who caught her first New York show. “I immediately had a talent crush on her,” says Arnett, 38, who costarred with her in ’07’s Blades of Glory, “and a crush crush.” They met through pals in 2000 and wed three years later.
Though the couple lead a quiet life in Manhattan, Poehler does experience the occasional perks of her rising fame. A recent Oprah appearance “was huge,” she says. “Walking onto her set, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m not playing a person on Oprah, I actually am one.'” Moments like that are enough to make even Poehler pause. “This has been an awesome spring,” she says. “I’m taking a lot of mental snapshots.”