Does anyone not love – or at least like – Amy Poehler? Everything the actor, comedian, director, producer and writer touches turns to comedy gold and you can rest assured that it'll leave you feeling better about life. For many people, all it takes is one episode of Parks and Recreation or a chapter of her much-loved memoir Yes Please to make everything seem a little less bleak.
And right now, what with all the political uncertainty and devastation going on in the world, her comedic touch is exactly what we need. So thank god for new film The House, starring Poehler alongside fellow comedy genius Will Ferrell, which is bound to go down as one of the funniest films of the summer.
It follows parents Scott Johansen (Ferrell) and Kate Johansen (Poehler) who, after realising they've spent their beloved daughter Alex's college fund and that she'll no longer qualify for a bursary, decide to open a neighbourhood casino in their basement and convince all their friends to get involved. Yeah, it's farfetched and it's unclear why Alex can't just take out a student loan or save up the money herself, but it's undeniably hilarious and Poehler and Ferrell make one helluva convincing couple. We caught up with Poehler to talk about gambling, parenting and maintaining famous friendships.
Hi Amy, how did you and Will Ferrell manage to be such a convincing couple?
We share a similar comedy language. We kind of look like we could be married, in a weird way [laughs]. I think we have a chemistry from knowing each other for so long.
What was he like to work with?
He’s a blast. I think he’s the king – he’s so funny, he takes crazy risks and chances. He can play really, really big and goofy and then scary, low-status and dumb. He really can do a huge range, so it’s always awesome to work with him.
Did you ever compete over who was funnier?
At the end of every scene we would make the crew get in a circle and make them vote on who they thought won, because if there’s one thing I want this article to highlight it’s that comedy is about winning. It’s about beating the other person [laughs].
I’ve seen your film Sisters with Tina Fey, which is also great and, like The House, features a massive house party. Is there something that draws you to that kind of film?
No, in this case there’s a sense of ‘What are we gonna do?’ What is the limit one would go to for their kid? They’re put into the dark side and realise they’re very, very ill-equipped [laughs], because there’s nothing particularly cool or dangerous about them and they learn that very fast.
What do you think the film says about marriage and what it takes to make marriage a success?
It was important for us to play characters that were a team, because oftentimes we find the husband has this great plan and and the wife is like, 'Come on you guys, stop having fun!' We wanted to make sure they’re both idiots together because if there’s one thing I will fight for it’s for women to be just as idiotic as men. Their marriage is pretty strong because they’re delighted by each other and they know each other’s limitations which, in real life, is important in any good relationship.
Would you say The House is a feminist film, then?
I don’t know if I would say that. I don’t know. If you want to say that – I don’t know. I don’t know if I’d go as far as [to say that]. At the end of the day, I always attempt to try to make characters feel two-dimensional, three-dimensional, four-dimensional if it's sci-fi.
How does your real-life parenting style compare to your character’s?
Well, my kids are young so I don’t yet have to deal with any of the teenager stuff, so that’s kinda still up for grabs. I don’t know. They’re different. I don’t think there’s much in the film that feels too familiar yet. We’ll have to wait and see.
How do you think you’ll feel when your sons reach that age and are about to leave for university? Do you think you’ll feel sad about it?
I think I’ll feel exactly like my character. I really related to that feeling of wanting your kid always by your side and squishing them in a sandwich. There’s this thing when you’re a young parent and you feel like you’ve got a lot of living left to do and suddenly your kid is going away and you’re like, 'Hmm, what should the second half of my life be like?' I can imagine that happens to a lot of people. I think I’d be very similar – just trying to chain them up and hold them down and make sure they don’t leave.
In the film, Kate and Scott go to pretty extreme lengths in an attempt to give their daughter the best start in life. What’s the furthest you’d go to do the same for your kids?
Oh wow, having done this film, I would definitely not open a casino. There are way too many people involved and too many risks [laughs]. I don’t know – it’s interesting. Who knows, in 10, 20 years' time if people will be going to university as much. At least in the States, there’s this trend where people are getting tonnes of student loans, graduating, not knowing what they’re going to do, going to live back with their parents and owing a hundred thousand dollars, so I don’t know. But to answer your question, I would beg, borrow and steal.
What’s the biggest gamble you’ve ever made in your own life?
Trying to do this job, maybe, might be one. I took some risks when I was younger that I’m proud of and paid off.
What kind of risks?
I mean, just deciding to make this a career, moving to New York, just trying to make it in comedy however many years ago. But compared to other people’s risks – I mean, risks are very subjective. For some people it’s really easy for them to say hello to a stranger, but for some people it’s risky, while others don’t feel they’re being risky unless they jump out of a plane, so it’s all very subjective.
Have you done much gambling yourself?
A gambling addiction? [laughs] Yeah, we went to Las Vegas for this movie and it did prove my existing suspicion that I’m not the biggest gambler because I hate losing my money. It makes me crazy. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up with two public school teachers and we didn’t have a lot of money and the thought of just handing it over to some stranger in a shiny vest is too much to take.
You’re obviously known for your close relationship with Tina Fey – how do you maintain a genuine friendship in your industry?
We’re just like anyone else, we’re friends in work and in life and, you know, our friendship is just like your friendship with your best mate. It’s just lots of shared experience, mutual respect and basically laughing at the same things.
The House is in UK cinemas from 30th June.