Harvard University has been honoring actresses with its Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year award since 1951. There was Joanne Woodward, Elizabeth Taylor, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren — and now Burlington native and comedian Amy Poehler.
The former Saturday Night Live player currently stars as Leslie Knope on the TV show “Parks and Recreation.” But on Thursday, Poehler headlined a flamboyant parade through Harvard Square before claiming her golden pudding pot at a ceremony and “roast.”
Apparently Harvard has a crush on Amy Poehler. First, back in 2011, she was invited to deliver the commencement speech, in which she intoned, "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your beers..."
Now this year it's an escort by a posse of male Harvard students wearing sequined gowns, lipstick and fake breasts. They all climbed into the back of a convertible that whisked the honoree through Harvard Square to her award ceremony.
Bundled up fans lined the street and climbed up snow banks to get a better view of Poehler. The comedian went to high school in Burlington and attended Boston College, where she was in the comedy troupe My Mother’s Fleabag. Then she headed to Chicago to study with the iconic Second City improv school.
Among the people who turned out for the parade was self-described "super-fan" Zoe Cronin.
"It was just nice to be able to come out and see a strong female role model, like, in person," Cronin said.
Her friend Hayley Yates laughed, adding, "flanked by drag queens, as we would want her."
Cronin and Yates, both students at Emerson, came with their friend, aspiring improv comedian Kelsey Buckley, who graduated last year.
"She’s my actual, individual role model," Buckley said of Poehler. "I’m moving to Chicago to follow in her footsteps. I love her so much."
They all say they love Smart Girls at the Party, Poehler’s online community for young women, and also the empowering messages in her new memoir, “Yes Please.”
"It's really poignant about how young females coming up right now need some really strong role models," Buckley said. "She gives us that."
After the parade, the producers of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals event welcomed their Woman of the Year to Farkas Hall in Harvard Square and proceeded to lampoon her.
"Our Woman of the Year created and starred in the animated series 'The Mighty B' about a young Girl Scout who believes that if she collects enough scout badges she’ll become a superhero. Similarly, our Woman of the Year believes that if she collects enough Emmy nominations she might actually win one."
The audience laughed and cringed, but Poehler was a good sport. Then the pro had her chance to dish it out.
"I want to say that it’s unsettling that there will be no women on stage tonight," she said to cheers. "You know it’s time for a change when the Augusta National Golf Club has lapped you in terms of being progressive."
Then she added: "I haven't seen this many smiling white faces since I took my top off at a mime convention!"
And Poehler kept going, saying when she grew up in Burlington, Harvard was a building she and her friends threw rocks at on the way to their real jobs. Poehler also donned a Boston College cap, sang an improvised rap song about pudding, and sincerely thanked Harvard for honoring her with a fake award.