12 November 2009

Profiles: Amy Poehler and Insufferable Cuteness

I've said hundreds of times how much I love NBC shows. There are very few current television programs I follow regularly that aren't on NBC. It's really a shame that the channel regularly finishes fourth among the major networks, ousted by more populist fare, but that's just the nature of the game isn't it? It's extremely difficult to attain both immense popularity and critical success and even less certain that a show lacking in either will get many viewers.

Nevertheless I'm all about free advertising for some of these shows. I raved about Community last week, today I'm all about Parks and Recreation, in particular the career of leading lady, Amy Poehler. In many roles she has a bristling sort of aggressive cuteness that I've noticed. While this is represented in a meager handful of small supporting film roles ( see Hamlet 2 2008, Mean Girls 2004, Blades of Glory 2007) I want to concentrate on her three most significant roles, as a featured player on Saturday Night Live, alongside Tina Fey in Baby Mama (2008) and her current aforementioned opus, Parks and Recration.

"Really?! No, really. C'mon!"

Amy's humour has always been this in-your-face kind of act, usually subtly behind a cute grin and constant enthusiasm. Like the best SNL players she's also fearless, throwing her entire being into the stupidity of a sketch. Embracing the stupid is often the only factor that can save an SNL piece. For some reason that I don't understand, when I think of Amy on SNL my mind always wanders here:

Maybe it's just because I hate the Black Eyed Peas so damned much and this sketch really sums up how simultaneously classless and elite they really are (add to this the fact that this came out far before their popularity peaked). Check out Amy's faces and dead-on overexaggerated Fergie, which is the best way to parody the kind of out-of-control ego that comes with a lot of contemporary musicians. She plays up Fergalicious' sex symbology while simultaneously staying grounded with songs only slightly more moronical than real BEP tunes and a constant goofy expression. It prevents her Fergie sexuality from ever becoming too overt and establishes a great line of comedy.

"Can I just spray a little PAM down there right before the baby comes out?"

Baby Mama is an admittedly formulaic movie that remains decently funny, if far the best comedy that I've ever seen. The Poehler/Fey dynamic is really the biggest attraction point and rightly so. Of course a few birth jokes work really well:

She has an incredible knack for taking a cute bouncing act then revealing a dark selfish tendency, diluting the illusion of innocence, resulting in comedy. Something like that. The movie is full of odd-couple moments between her and Tina, Amy always representing both a more child-like innocence and grotesque immaturity. This dialogue is the best part of watching this flick.

"Chimpanzees are very smart, so we had them graduate from college. They like to throw their feces, so we were hoping they would throw their hats. But they just threw their feces."

The particular episode "Pawnee Zoo" (S2;E1) actually inspired me to do this entire post. The ep consists of Leslie Knope's (Amy) accidental fake gay marriage of two penguins at the local zoo, which then causes an extreme hooplah when it appears as though the Parks and Recreation branch of the local government supports homosexual marriage. Fun stuff. What works for me is Amy's consistent insistance that the ceremony was meant to be cute. She doesn't really care specifically about gay marriage but is always committed to cuteness. The same theme follows through the end of the episode:

Always the commitment to cuteness in the face of oppression sums up Amy's profle. She will fight hard to be cute and never surrender in the face of staleness. Spectacular. The show is worth watching for Leslie's high standards of not only cuteness, but a stalwart faith and optimism in people and government as well as an unwavering goal of positivity and perseverance in the face of the absurd.

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