Amy Poehler and Tina Fey talk Baby Mama and Raising Kids in the CityGwynne Watkins
If Knocked Up started the pregnancy movie trend, and Juno made it official, then Baby Mama is the film that will keep the ball rolling. Written and directed by SNL alum Michael McCullers, the movie features two of America’s finest comediennes – Tina Fey and Amy Poehler – as a successful businesswoman who wants to be a mother, and the working-class surrogate she hires to have the baby. The film, which also features Sigourney Weaver and Steve Martin, contains dead-on jabs at modern parents (“Rumi and Chayenne,” calls a mother to her kids in a city playground, “come play with Wingspan and Banjo!”), cushioned in a surprisingly sweet story about female friendship. Babble joined a group of online journalists as Tina and Amy sat in front of us, “Weekend Update”-style, to field questions about pregnancy, MILFs and baby names. – Gwynne Watkins
Can you talk about the first time you met and what you thought of each other? Was your chemistry instant, or has it evolved over the years?
Amy: I was like, I finally found the woman I want to marry.
Tina: And then I had to break it to her that that’s not legal.
Amy: We met in 1993 in Chicago. I had heard about Tina “on the streets” before I met her. We were both new improvisers who had moved from where we were going to college to study improv, and we performed together on an improv team named after a bad porn movie called Inside Vladimir.
Tina: Gay porn movie.
Amy: Gay porn movie. Not necessarily bad.
Tina: No, excellent.
Amy: Just gay. So we were the two women on that improv team and that’s where we met. So we knew each other when we were big-eyebrowed, poor and badly dressed.
Tina: I think we have always had a mutual respect for each other. We both took improv super-seriously at the time. And we still kind of do.
Amy: And at that time, there was a lot of really fertile talent coming out of Chicago. I know that [Stephen] Colbert, [Steve] Carell, Amy Sedaris, all these people were performing –
Tina: They were on the main stage when we were students.
Amy: And Rachel Dratch, Horatio Sanz and Adam McKay were all coming up at the same time.
The scenes with the lamaze classes and the birthing rooms were really accurate. Were you lurking in various birthing places to nail down the details?
Tina: We had some experts on set, who were these wonderful, very earthy women. This woman came up to me and said, “Are you thinking of having another child?” And I was like, “No.” And she was like, “You should consider a water birth.”
Amy: The same woman was telling pregnant people in their ninth month –
Tina: A lot of the other women in the class were very, very pregnant –
Amy: And she was explaining nice ways to make love. And women were like, “No.” And the guys were taking notes.
Tina: But by the end of it, I did want to have a water birth.
Amy: You don’t need to have a baby to have a water birth.
The film also nails the male perspective on pregnancy and childbirth.
Tina: Michael [McCullers] wrote the movie and he’s a father of three. And his wife actually had a baby – God bless her – she had to pick up [during shooting] and move her two kids, and her pregnant belly, to New York.
Amy: . . . While I spoke to her with a big pregnant belly that I took off at lunch: “I’m really tired, this belly is so heavy!”
This movie does a great job of capturing the absurdity of urban parenting culture. Tina, have you had any moments where you’ve thought, This could only be happening to me here and now as a city parent?
Tina: It is a different thing to be a city parent. There is a lot of pressure: “What classes are your children taking?” My daughter starts pre-school next year, so I just went through the process of taking her to her pre-school interviews. And you’re just hoping, “Please don’t poop yourself during this time.”
Amy: Did she wear a little power suit and carry a teeny-tiny briefcase?
Tina: She had a little teeny-tiny resume. Made of candy.
You’ve probably talked to death about Christopher Hitchens’ Vanity Fair article [about how women aren’t funny]. Do you feel a personal responsibility to hit him with the business end of a funny stick?
Tina: I’ve never read the article. First of all, I don’t have that kind of time, I can’t read a Vanity Fair article. It’s like fifteen pages. Also, I’m sure I disagree. So, I sort of did a President Bush on it: “I’m not gonna read that. I’m not gonna like it.”
Amy: You bushed it? Nice.
Tina: To me, if someone is drifting towards writing about that topic, it always says, “Oop, somebody didn’t have an idea this week. They went to the old file-o-fax.”
Tina, it was reported in the New York Times that 30 Rock is “pushing the boundaries of the family hour” with MILF Island (a fake reality show that appeared in one episode). Are you trying to make the show more obscene?
Tina: No, I take great pride in operating within the boundaries of the standards rules. I think it’s harder to make comedy when you can’t curse. I don’t think I realized how shocked people might be by the term “MILF Island.” The New York Post would not print the word MILF. They will print a five-page spread of the glamorous side of a prostitute, so I was surprised. But no, it is not our intention to ruin family time. Often times in our writer’s room I’ll say, “Oh, this is going to be on at 8:41 p.m. – lets back off of it a little bit.”
Amy: I love ruining family time.
Obviously, Hollywood has this trend of picking the strangest names for their children, but Tina, you picked a very traditional name for your daughter.
Tina: I like interesting names. My daughter’s middle name is sort of unusual, but they’re all family names. I do think when you have a kid, you’ve got to try and think, okay, when this kid is an adult, how is this name going to fit the person? I like the name Apple.
Amy: I’m just gonna name my kids numbers. New Dude, Little dude, Old Dude . . . and Eight.
Tina: And George Foreman.
Could you talk about working with Sigourney Weaver? And Amy, do you have any interest in becoming a mother yourself?
Amy: To Sigourney Weaver, yes. I would love to cradle Sigourney Weaver at night and tuck her in, and whisper to her quietly and sing to her. I would love to sing to Sigourney Weaver every night. And give her a bath.
Tina: She was incredibly delightful. We were so shocked and pleased that she agreed to be in the movie. Onscreen she plays a lot of strong cold characters, but she is very warm.
Amy, in the scene where you’re in labor and being wheeled into the hospital, was there a lot of improvisation going on?
Amy: There’s always a lot of birth scenes in movies that never really talk about how foul people’s mouths get during it. That was all one long shot, so as Tina was pushing me down the hall, there were real extras who were genuinely startled by me yelling stuff. So that was fun.
Tina: The take that’s in the movie was the last take of the night. We had done several and Amy asked Michael, “Is this the last take?” and he said, “Uh-huh.” So she pulled the Christmas tree down, ripped an IV out of someone’s arm. She wanted to make sure she was enough of an obedient good girl that she didn’t want to wreck the props until the last take, and then she tore the place up.
With Knocked Up and Juno and now this, there have been a lot of pregnancy movies lately. Why do you think that is?
Tina: It’s a universal experience. There may be a generation of comedy writers that are hitting that age where they all have kids, and they’re guys who would have written dating fantasy comedies fifteen years ago. It might be a generational thing.
Amy: And I think Juno is very different from Knocked Up, and I think our film is very different from that too. Our film is more in the vein of Knocked Up – it’s a straight-up comedy. With jokes.