Amy Poehler, how will we quit you?

The hilarious feminist comedian to exit "Saturday Night Live." Broadsheet to mourn.

Published September 16, 2008 10:03PM (EDT)

On the heels of Saturday night's show-stopping Sarah Palin-Hillary Clinton cold open (oh, if only it had stopped the rest of the disappointing show) comes official word that Clinton imitator Amy Poehler will be leaving "Saturday Night Live" later this fall. There have been rumblings to this effect for some time; Poehler is pregnant with her first child with husband Will Arnett. And while perhaps the baby will be kind enough to hang in there until after the November presidential election, it now seems that Poehler will not return from her maternity leave. Instead, she'll star in her own NBC sitcom from the producers of "The Office." She recently told Men's Vogue, "It's going to be hard -- Boyz II Men hard -- to say goodbye to yesterday ... 'SNL' was dangerous, late-night, last-minute and star-studded, but like any good drug, you need to know when to put it down."

Right. She had to quit "SNL." But if only we at Broadsheet knew how to quit Poehler, a performer who, alongside Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch and Maya Rudolph, presided over a female renaissance at "SNL" in the early 2000s. The show was not always great, but Poehler's presence consistently buoyed it. Under the head writership of Broadsheet's unofficial Spirit Guide and Mascot Tina Fey (whose stint ended when Fey decided to make her inspired sitcom "30 Rock") Poehler shone, especially at the Weekend Update desk, where she and Fey made history as the show's first all-girl anchor team, long before Katie Couric was a glimmer in CBS's big corporate eye, and where she remained with Seth Meyers after Fey's departure.

At Weekend Update, Poehler got off some of the most trenchant lines of the past few years, reporting after the 2006 midterm elections, "Democrats everywhere got together to celebrate, before they realized they don't remember how."

Among my other personal favorite Update zingers was her post-Katrina observation that, "In the wake of newly alleged prisoner abuse this week, Senator John McCain said that continued mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners is hurting the nation's image. Also hurting the nation's image: letting people drown when it rains." She also quipped, "It was announced Thursday that the Army will allow recruits to sign up for just 15 months of active duty. If that doesn't work, the military will try re-naming Iraq 'Super Cancun.'" When Condoleezza Rice described herself as "mildly pro-choice," Poehler explained, "that means she would support abortion, except in cases where the mother is pregnant."

Poehler also let loose on celebrity and consumer culture, at one point reporting that "The Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services visited the home of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline after their baby Sean Preston reportedly fell out of his high chair. Spears defended herself, saying 'It wasn't our fault, our baby was drunk, y'all.'" And in response to the news that Kentucky Derby patrons would be able to purchase a $1,000 mint julep served in a gold-plated cup with a silver straw, Poehler offered, "Or for $800, I'll sell you a T-shirt that says, 'I'm an Asshole.'"

My favorite of her diatribes, however, was when Poehler held forth on the trend of nubile young celebrities flashing poon at paparazzi. "Ladies, you need to cool it," said Poehler. "Nobody wants to see your baby factory ... You guys are making Tara Reid look like Audrey Hepburn. What's next? Shots of stars pooping out of a window? And ladies, what's up with all the deforestation going on down there? You need hair down there! It's a backup system for underwear! ... There was a time when a lady garden was as big as a slice of New York pizza."

Poehler also delighted us with her fantastically irritating (but warm!) impersonation of precocious child star Dakota Fanning, the 10-year-old who really wants to talk about Thomas Pynchon.

And then there's Hillary. As I commented earlier this week on Broadsheet, no one ever thought that Poehler particularly resembled or sounded like Clinton. But the affection and respect she showed while mercilessly ripping apart Clinton's much-mocked laugh, unrelenting ambition and self-interest and triangulating habits meant that Poehler's impersonation was always dead-on, but never mean.

There was no better example than this weekend's tour de force Clinton-Palin mash-up, in which Poehler precisely embodied Clinton in "fervent supporter of Barack Obama" mode. Palin doppelganger Fey has gotten deserved adulation for her scary impersonation of the Alaska governor, but many of the laughs would not have been as powerful without Poehler's mad-eyed Hillary next to her, seething as the perky Palin explained to viewers that "Anybody can be president!" When Fey exhorted the press to "stop Photoshopping my face on sexy bikini bodies," Poehler got the guffaw by adding, "Stop saying I have cankles." The loathing with which Poehler recoiled from Fey's embrace, and the frustration with which she lost it, howling "Nooooooo! Mine! Supposed to be mine! I didn't want a woman to be president, I wanted to be a president!" and her invitation to the media to "grow a pair; and if you can't, I will lend you mine" made for an enchanting tribute to the crazy-making, inspiring ride that was Clinton's history-making candidacy.

It's no surprise that Poehler, who recently told Salon without hesitation that "Absolutely, of course I am" a feminist, also once talked to Bust magazine about her worries about young American women. "I want them to feel that they can be sassy and full and weird and geeky and smart and independent, and not so withered and shriveled," she said. Talking about the over-sexed American Apparel ads, she said, "They're fucking gross, man. Look, I love beautiful girls too. I think everyone should be free to have their knee socks and their sweaty shorts, but I'm over it. I'm over this weird, exhausted girl. I'm over the girl that's tired and freezing and hungry. I like bossy girls, I always have. I like people filled with life. I'm over this weird media thing with all this, like, hollow-eyed, empty, party crap."

It's probably also no surprise that Poehler was Fey's eager wing-woman in the resonant Weekend Update sketch "Bitch Is the New Black." Bitches get stuff done. Deal with it.

So to Poehler, the bossy-girl self-proclaimed bitch, Broadsheet says mazel tov, happy trails, adieu adieu adieu, and we'll look forward to the next two months we have with you.

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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