How Amy Poehler used her sons to make an animated show about a teen boy: ‘I had a focus group of two’

BEVERLY HILLS – Amy Poehler has a plan to bond with her sons: Make a TV show they can watch together. 

The actress and writer’s new Fox animated series, “Duncanville,” is about a gangly, awkward teenage boy and his family, and Poehler is voicing both the mom, Annie, and Duncan. And considering she has two young sons (with ex-husband Will Arnett), she had a lot of help figuring out how to make the series, due to premiere in February.

“I do the voice of a mom and son. So the mom is really, frankly, just based on my own mom, a Boston mom who is very worried all the time and high strung and likes to yell –although my mom doesn’t like to yell,” Poehler told the Television Critics Association Wednesday. “And Duncan, just take anything you are doing, and then cut the enthusiasm and effort in half, and you’ve got kind of a 15-year-old boy.”

Amy Poehler participates in Fox's Animation Domination panel"Duncanville" at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour. (Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

“When we were first talking about the character of Duncan, Amy, because she’s got two boys (says) the teenage boys are basically all like Larry David,” “Duncanville” co-creator Mike Scully (“The Simpsons”) adds of the “Seinfeld” co-creator and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star. “They are very put upon. Everything is a huge effort and exhausting.”

Poehler’s also excited to do an animated comedy that can appeal to both adults and kids, because she has trouble finding things to watch with her sons. 

“It’s hard to find stuff we can watch together that they are interested in and that I’m interested in,” she says. “‘The Simpsons’ was one of the first shows we really watched together and laughed at the same things for the same reasons.”

“What’s really exciting about working on all of this is that it feels like this is the kind of stuff that we all get to watch with our kids, as well as our friends and all be, kind of, laughing at the same joke,” she adds. “Because they like a lot of things that I think are not funny.”

Her sons have been “small focus group of two” for the series, and their appearances affected character design for scruffy teen Duncan. 

“I’ve learned from being around young boys that bed head is a really big deal.”

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