This story first appeared in the Jan. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
At last year’s Golden Globe Awards, Tina Fey sat nervously in the audience at the Beverly Hilton as host Ricky Gervais fired barbs at the crowd. “I remember thinking of like five comebacks in my head in case he said something about me,” recalls Fey. Now Fey, 42, and her buddy of two decades, Amy Poehler, 41, can say whatever they like Jan. 13 as co-hosts of the 70th annual Globes.
The former Saturday Night Live colleagues represent a coup for the NBC telecast, which last year lured about 17 million viewers, behind only the Academy Awards and Grammys. Fey in particular has been courted to host the Oscars in the past, and both appeal heavily to the female demographic that powers awards-show ratings (a trait somewhat lacking in this year’s Oscars host, Seth MacFarlane). Both nominated for Globes as best actress in a comedy series, the duo got on the phone together Dec. 21 —Fey from New York on the morning after the series wrap party for her NBC comedy 30 Rock and Poehler in Los Angeles as she raced to the set of her own NBC comedy, Parks and Recreation— to offer some Globes drinking-game rules and reveal their laid-back approach to the show. Says Poehler, “I feel like there are enough pills in the room that nobody really pays attention.”
The Hollywood Reporter: You both must get asked a lot to host awards shows. Why say yes to the Globes this year?
Tina Fey: Well, Amy, you’ve been asked to perform at the Super Bowl a bunch of times.
Amy Poehler: That’s right. But I told them my show is too big for that venue. And I was actually one of the people carrying stuff at the Olympics Opening Ceremony, but nobody noticed. [Laughs.] No, we’ve fortunately been to a few of these awards show things now, and we’ve had some fun while we were there. And then the Golden Globes is just quirky and weird enough, I think that it’s up our alley.
THR: And it’s an awards show known mostly for its drinking.
Fey: When you get a bunch of people in a room who don’t eat much, and you give them one drink, it gets good fast.
THR: Ricky Gervais has set a weird standard for hosting the Globes in the past three years. How will your approach be different?
Fey: I don’t think anybody has to be afraid.
THR: So no Scientology jokes?
Fey: Well, I can’t promise you that.
Poehler: Ricky did a great job, and I feel like, how it is different will be an answer for somebody else, not us.
Fey: Because we haven’t planned anything yet. [Laughs.]
THR: Who are some awards-show hosts who have done a great job?
Poehler: Well, we were both talking about Jimmy Fallon the other day because he crushed it at the Emmys. And I was trying to think of great old awards-show hosts.
Fey: Bob Hope.
Poehler: Yeah. Did Johnny Carson ever host any awards shows?
THR: He did the Oscars five times in the 1970s and 1980s.
Poehler: I was watching Bette Midler sing to Johnny Carson on his last [Tonight Show], and I thought: Maybe we should just sing to each other, Tina, like a really sad goodbye to each other?
Fey: At the beginning of the show. [Laughs.]
THR: And then just drop the mic and walk off?
Fey: But at the beginning. And just a long, slow, indulgent song where we do a lot of inside jokes.
THR: The Oscars are going a different direction this year with Seth MacFarlane. What will the biggest difference be between your act and his?
Fey: I think the Oscars is just such a bigger task, you know, to sing and dance and do the pre-taped segments and all that stuff. I think Seth will be real good at it.
Poehler: The Golden Globes is the one time where the beautiful people of movies rub shoulders with the ragged people in TV. We have a lot of TV people whose behavior, frankly, we’re not going to be able to predict because they’re just lucky to be there!
Fey: The only thing we really have in common with Seth is that none of us are really going to watch all the movies. [Laughs.]
THR: Have you made any effort at all?
Fey: Not yet.
Poehler: I just watched The Impossible, which is unbelievable. Holy moly, it was so good. The young actor in that, Tom Holland. Best acting I’ve seen all year. He’s not nominated for a Golden Globe, but I might accidentally read his name.
Fey: We don’t care!
THR: You are both nominated for acting, but the Hollywood Foreign Press Association snubbed your shows. Have you complained?
Poehler: Ah, no.
Fey: I think what makes the Golden Globes kind of fun is they sometimes nominate unusual things and things that aren’t on the regular path of other shows.
THR: Go ahead, you can say Smash.
Fey: Oh, I’m thrilled about Smash’s nomination! You don’t even know what a Smash viewer I am. I want to meet all of them.
THR: How did you two first become friends?
Fey: We first met because we were on the same improv team at ImprovOlympic in Chicago in 1993, maybe.
Poehler: We graduated in ’93, and we both moved to Chicago. We were put together by this woman, Charna Halpern, and she said, “I think you guys will work well together.” We were the two women on a 10-person improv team. Also, we studied with Del Close together.
THR: What’s the funniest you’ve seen each other be?
Fey: For whatever reason, one of the first that comes to mind is when she used to play Michael Jackson with no makeup on, just a wig.
Poehler: So many different things, whether it be a rap or a weird character who she’s been in a sketch, or just in Tina’s office, behind the scenes — that, in many ways, is funnier than — [Poehler’s phone connection abruptly cuts off.]
THR: Looks like we lost Amy. Tina, you recently featured your daughter Alice on 30 Rock. Would you ever let her be Miss Golden Globe?
Fey: Not this year. I think she should be at least 9 before she’s Miss Golden Globe.
THR: You have a big new deal with Universal Television to possibly create another show. Have you thought about what might be next? TV or films?
Fey: I want to try to do a little bit of both. Right now, we’re moving out of our old office, just trying to figure out where our new office will be, where [30 Rock executive producer] Robert Carlock and [Fey’s husband and executive producer] Jeff Richmond and I can try to think of a new TV show.
THR: NBC says it wants big, broad comedy. Do you think you have a big, broad comedy in you?
Fey: You know what? They’re wrong, and I’m going to wait that out. What they want is hits, but no one knows what that is. Remember when Jeff Zucker was like: “I’ve got a new plan! We’re only going to make hits!” [Laughs.] It’s hard. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be a network exec.
THR: During the entire run of 30 Rock and all the jokes you’ve done about NBC, has anyone ever complained?
Fey: Very, very early on we made a GE joke, and we got this weird call from some woman, a lawyer for GE. We couldn’t even figure out — we hadn’t even shot the joke yet — we couldn’t figure out why they were even getting the script. It was really weird. And actually, to his credit, Jeff Zucker was the one who got in between it and was like, “No, leave them alone, it’s fine, it’s just comedy.” And nobody ever bothered us again.
Poehler: Hello? Sorry about that.
THR: You’re back?
Poehler: Yeah. I just thought I’d get a quick facial while we were talking. [Laughs.]
THR: SNL has added a lot of new talent this season. Is there anyone who has particularly impressed you?
Poehler: I think all the women, Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant are really good. I think Taran Killam is amazing. I think everybody’s killing it. I just watched the Martin Short episode. It was so funny. Oh, God. He made me laugh so hard when he got on the piano. He was like [Martin Short impression], “How does a man sit on a piano?”
Fey: It’s always fun when there’s new people; you can tell they’re so overjoyed to be there, and they’re hungry and excited in the right way.
THR: Tina, Alec Baldwin also has a new NBC deal. Have you talked about collaborating again?
Fey: [Laughs.] No, we have not. I don’t know what he wants to do.
THR: Back to the Globes. Is anything off-limits?
Poehler: The live audience tends to tell you. Tina made a very good point the other day. It’s a tough crowd because it’s a lot of nervous people waiting to see if they win or lose, and as the night goes on, the losers outnumber the winners. But having been in a lot of those awards shows, the Golden Globes are more fun because you can drink. It’s just that easy.
THR: OK, so can you come up with a couple of rules for a Globes drinking game?
Fey: Any time an actress cries in a speech, drink. Any time you see a person actively not listening to someone onstage, drink.
Poehler: Any time someone says, “I didn’t prepare anything!”
Fey: Any time anyone thanks Harvey Weinstein, eat a meatball sub.
THR: How about any time they show Judi Dench?
Fey: Yeah. You take off an article of clothing.
Poehler: Any time Maggie Smith wins.
THR: Has anyone given you a good piece of advice?
Fey: No. We should get some.
Poehler: I was doing some talk shows, and I asked both Jimmy and Conan O’Brien. Everyone says, “Make sure you’re enjoying doing it and make sure you have fun and keep it loose.” I think Tina and I aren’t worried about that. We just want to make sure we look amazing. We don’t care what we say. I have to get my head peel done before Jan. 13.
Fey: I want to look like a really young candle.
THR: Have you done the awkward dance where designers and stylists show you 10 different potential dresses for you to wear?
Fey: I’ve done some of that. Have you done any of that, Amy?
Poehler: Oh, I haven’t done any of that.
Fey: It’s going to be a small scale. It’s not the Oscars.
Poehler: You never know, we may change outfits during the show. If we do, it’ll be onstage.