LOS ANGELES – With seven Emmy nominations, seven years on “Saturday Night Live” and top billing on her own weekly primetime series (“Parks and Recreation”), 40-year-old Amy Poehler is, by most measures, an entertainment veteran.
But sitting next to Carol Burnett, Poehler comes off like a mere newbie. Burnett started out in TV’s golden age more than 50 years ago, has earned six Emmy awards (and more than 20 nominations) and continues to work regularly into her late 70s.
They both lend their voices to Walt Disney’s “The Secret of Arrietty,” which takes the visuals from the 2010 Japanese ’toon smash “The Borrower Arrietty” and substitutes primarily American voice talent.
Poehler and Burnett sat down recently to push the film, which opens domestically this weekend. But comic chemistry soon prevailed over promotion.
AP: Why do this movie?
Poehler: Well, first of all, to do this (interview), to work with Carol in this capacity, is great. And we got to work together on “Horton Hears a Who!” – even though we didn’t get to meet.
AP (to Poehler): Is it true that Carol Burnett makes all comic-actresses genuflect before any conversation can start with her?
Poehler: (Laughs.) True.
Burnett: Most of them.
Poehler: When I met Carol, she handed me a list of do’s and don’ts. And number one was: “Stop looking me in the eye.” And, no, Carol is beyond warm and gracious and that’s why everybody loves her, because the person you saw on her show is certainly the person she is in real life.
(Poehler and Burnett laugh.)
Poehler: Fals-ies. Falsies!
(One of Burnett’s signature characters on “The Carol Burnett Show” was the CBS studio cleaning lady.)
AP (to Poehler): True or false, after the workday is done, she (Burnett) puts on the washer-woman costume and she cleans the studio.
Poehler (to Burnett): What do you want me to tell him?
Burnett: No, that’s false.
Poehler: OK, false. Then, it’s false.
Burnett: Because I’m usually going out on a date.
AP: With some hot guy?
Burnett: George Clooney. But don’t spread it around. We’re keeping it a secret.
Poehler: Except for just telling the press.
Burnett: Oh, my god.
Burnett: He’s going to drop me.
Poehler: He said, “If you tell the press, I’m going to drop you, Burnett.”
AP (to Poehler): Is it true that you are never to turn your back to Carol Burnett and you need to walk backwards out the door when leaving the room?
Poehler: Yes. True.
Burnett: That’s true.
Poehler: Carol’s been known to, um … you know…
Burnett: Go ahead.
Poehler: What I was saying was that so many people… No. I have no joke. You go ahead. You have a better joke. I can feel it.
Burnett: Not really.
AP (to Poehler): For 10 bonus points, give me the first four bars of Carol’s closing theme song from the show.
Poehler (singing): I’m so glad we had this time together… (Then Poehler speaks.) I’m such a bad singer.
AP (to Burnett): C’mon, join in!
Burnett and Poehler (singing together): …just to have a laugh or sing a song. Seems we just get started and before you know it, comes the time we have to say, “So long.”
(Simultaneously, Burnett and Poehler each tug on one of their own ears, a homage to Burnett’s signal to the grandmother who raised her.)
Poehler: Oh! Doesn’t that make you want to cry?
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