Tonight’s distinguished guest is a skilled engineer with a passion for robotics. The hosts, full of the most genuine interest in their subject this side of James Lipton, are decked in lab coats and goggles, watching in awe as the young science wünderkind makes her creation move.
And who is this new great in the world of robotics?
Her name is Rachel. She’s 12 years old. She likes archery. And she’s the first guest on the second season of Smart Girls at the Party, the Webby Award-winning talk show from the minds of Amy Poehler, Amy Miles and Meredith Walker featuring interviews with tween girls who are “changing the world by being themselves.” The hosts skillfully balance youthful energy and fun with giving the young guests the respect they deserve. The mood is always celebratory, never overly cloying or condescending.
On Smart Girls, hosted by Poehler (with Miles serving as music director and Walker as producer), guests show off their talents and interests, weigh in on important issues of the day (“Which is cuter: A baby monkey or a baby panda?”) and, of course, have lots of dance parties. Past guests have included young yoginis, writers, feminists and even kid-core rock ensemble Care Bears on Fire. The Smart Girls website has added a social-networking component, powered by Ning.com, where smart girls of all ages can connect, post videos and fill out profiles asking about the women they admire and their favorite dance party tracks.
Paste recently traded e-mails with Amy Poehler, and she offered some insight on how the show came about, what to expect in season two and the password for the super-secret dance party she’s planning with the P.S. 22 kids.
Paste: For our readers who may not be familiar with Smart Girls At the Party, what is the series about and how did it get started? How did you start your partnership with Meredith and Amy on the show?
Amy Poehler: Smart Girls At the Party is a web series I produced with my friends Amy and Meredith. We wanted to do a talk show for girls and celebrate girls who are passionate about something. Its since grown into a whole site where we have music, videos, op-ed pieces and pet gossip. We basically wanted to build a site that the 10-year-old versions of ourselves would want to visit. And we wanted an excuse to stage a dance party.
Paste: How do you find the awesome girls you interview in each episode?
Poehler: Lots of people are friends, or daughters of friends. Others are girls we meet. It’s very organic. And it’s important for us to find all different types of people. We aren’t always looking for girls who are the “best” at something. Just girls who want to share what they are passionate about, today.
Paste: What awaits us in season two? Can you give us a sneak peek into future episodes?
Poehler: So much good stuff! Horses! Cooking! Bat Mitzvahs! Books! Jon Hamm!
Paste: Tell us about one of your favorite moments from filming the show.
Poehler: In one episode we talk about using your imagination, so we got to run around a backyard with two great sisters Maisie and Phoebe and pretend we were on a giant rollercoaster. Hard to not have stuff like that make you super happy.
Paste: You’ve started an online community for Smart Girls through Ning.com. What has the response been like so far and what do you hope the impact of bringing fans together through the internet will be?
Poehler: Well, we are so pleased it’s growing. At the end of the day we want to provide a funny site that girls want to visit. I think you can’t expect too much from an online community at first. You just have to let them develop and grow on their own.
Paste: What can Paste’s readers do to better empower and celebrate the smart girls in their lives?
Poehler: The best thing you can do is just be yourself. Liking yourself sets a good example for all the younger kids watching. And stop going to mean gossip sites on the internet.
Paste: Your character on Parks and Recreation, Leslie Knope, looks up to powerful political women like Hillary Clinton and Eleanor Roosevelt. Do you find your role on Parks and your role with Smart Girls intersecting ever? How?
Poehler: Sure. When young girls are encouraged to explore what they find interesting, they grow up to be interesting women. Leslie is the kind of character that likes to get her hands dirty. The problem is she is always sticking them in the wrong mud.
Paste: Dance parties are an important element of the show (and of the website). Do you have any pointers for us on throwing a better dance party?
Poehler: We have a dance party because we like to remind people that you never look stupid when you’re having fun. And, because we love to dance. The key is to not worry about how you look or who is watching.
Paste: Any song suggestions?
Poehler: Anything that is fast, short and loud.
Paste: Speaking of which, your five-word Webby acceptance speech promised a dance party involving us, you and the P.S. 22 chorus. When is this happening, and are we still invited?
Poehler: Absolutely. Hopefully we can make that happen someday! Come on by, just make sure to ask for at the door. The password is “macaroni.”