Amy Poehler on ‘Parks and Rec’ Producer’s Death: ‘Today I Lost a Friend’

In being honored at Variety’s second annual unite4:humanity event, honoree Amy Poehler took a moment to remember Harris Wittels, co-executive producer of her series “Parks and Recreation,” who was found dead in his home just hours before the event.

“Today, I lost a friend,” said Poehler. “I lost a dear, young friend in my life who was struggling with addiction.”

Poehler was being recognized with the Unity Award for her work with Worldwide Orphans and underpriviledged children around the world.

“I’m sharing it with you because life and death live so close together, and we walk that fine line everyday,” she said, not her usual bubbly self delivering the sentiment. “When things happen in our lives, we turn to the people that we love… and we lean on people, in a hope that we will ease our pain.”

“So, I don’t really feel like telling any jokes. I’m kind of sad, and it’s really great to be here tonight and listen to all of you, and listen to the great work that you do and be reminded why we live in this bizarre planet called ‘Hollywood,'” she said, still stirring a laugh in the room. “It’s very strange.”

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  1. It’s all hard, really hard. Life is hard, addiction is hard, you really don’t know what you’re getting into until your in it, then you still really don’t know much. It’s all moment to moment, hard to plan anything more than a few days in advance. How to get from point A to Point B, How to manage the day. It’s all really hard.

  2. guinessjack says:

    Britney you’re a self absorbed whiny idiot. Like you’re the only person on the planet that has seen or experienced drug abuse and the effect of it from a young age. He was a sick dude and he died from his illness, period. Stop laying out publicly your sob story tell it to your therapist and move on from your own mommy and daddy issues. Addiction sucks, losing a friend at any age sucks, being alone sucks and believe me even when surrounded by friends when you’re using you are all alone and when you die you’re all alone. RIP to this young man Godspeed! We all have issues whatever nonsense we’re hiding behind including harsh judgement on other’s.

    • Britney says:

      I never said I was the only one and I am nowhere near being self obsessed. Quite the opposite, many of my closest friends have no idea at all how I grew up because I’ve never mentioned it to them. I also don’t feel a need to talk about it and I don’t. I’ve achieved in life and never once used my parents issues as my own, but nice try throwing out your strawman argument.

      You’re talking to someone who donates dozens of hours a week to victims charities and who is thankful for every good turn and every nice gesture I’ve ever received.

      What I saying is that if you are an alcoholic it is almost a given that a good number of people know it, especially if you are working on a show with dozens of other people, so those people should step up and help while you’re still alive, not offer weak words after you’re dead. The time to help a struggling person is when they are alive.

      If you don’t want to die from drugs don’t start using them.
      If you don’t want to die from alcohol get help.

      Every person on Earth knows they shouldn’t be doing hardcore drugs and abusing alcohol, so get help while you still can. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY!

  3. gabe says:

    he was sober …. but he relapsed.
    he asked for help and got it.
    you can blame his friends if you want but he was clean when he did his meltdown show 2 days ago.

    its just so sad.

    • Truth Teller says:

      I don’t blame his friends. He did himself in. It’s no one’s responsibility to take care of us. It’s our job to stay off booze and drugs, and if we fail at that and die young, sadly it’s on us.

  4. bob wire says:

    Amy and the whole lot you –where were you people? Guaranteed they all knew, and just like Tina Fey on the 40th SNL show joked “thanking the producer, Cocaine”—-yeah, hardy har-har-har…until it hits homes, and even then (Farley, Belushi,Phillips) all goes on as normal. When is this Industry going to Stop, Drop, and Roll, and take a stand on not allowing friends to die this way? No more after the fact “lovely tweets”—-they dont count. Too Late. Help,, confront, and hold accountable during their lifetimes…you all knew. Quit not blaming what are turning into enablers living off a creative genius and his gold he brought to you..your silence was approval. Take a Stand if you “love him” so much…my God.

  5. Guesst says:

    Wow!Unique and really personal to your fans way of lookin’ at it..KUDOSto youAmy…

    • Raine says:

      What a shame that drugs are still part of our society…and used by seemingly, brilliant, intelligent people. It is a fine line between being poor and being rich, or maybe there really is no line…RIP

  6. Truth Teller says:

    I didn’t take what Britney said that way at all, and I completely agree with her posts. What she implied as I took it is that if we do drugs and die it is our fault. If we do drugs and don’t get help it is our fault. If we know friends or family are doing drugs and we don’t force them to get help, it’s our fault. But it is not a tragedy, because the addict chose to start doing drugs at some point and kept on doing drugs even though they knew what the risks and negatives were.

    @Britney I’m sorry you had to watch your parents (I assume you were saying) do drugs, but I’m glad to see you learned from their mistakes!

  7. Britney says:

    Of course, I believe in the concept of addiction. I was a close observer of it my entire childhood.

    I watched people who should have been taking care of their children get swept up in what they referred to as “the lifestyle” and die before they reached 40 years old.

    Then I had their friends and co-workers, many of whom knew they were addicts and did drugs with them numerous times, tell me what a “tragedy” it was that the people I loved died way too young.

    The truth was they chose to do drugs and kept doing drugs even I begged them to stop. And then they were dead and I ended up seeing some of their Hollywood celeb friends doing drugs in our house after their funeral.

    All I’m saying is these celebs come out and say what a tragedy these deaths are, but those words ring hollow after the fact. Where were they when the addict needed an intervention?

    You can bet your house that people all over the set knew he had a drug problem, but he was allowed to keep on working and clearly nobody forced them to get help. I lived this first hand, so the post death sentiments from people who very likely knew of the problem do not matter at all.

    Personal responsibility is the key to a great society, and Hollywood has far too little of it.

  8. Truth Teller says:

    Agree with you 100% Britney, but personal responsibility as you call it means very little here. And hardly anyone here wants to be called out for the things they do wrong or for the ways they hurt their own loved ones.

  9. Lauren says:

    You have no perspective. While I hope that someday you come to understand that the world is not black and white and that addiction is not a matter of simply making “horrible selfish choices,” I also hope that you don’t have to learn the hard way.

    You don’t “choose to do illegal drugs countless times.” That’s literally what addiction is: being physically and/or psychologically dependent on drugs to the point where you are no longer in control of how you use them. It’s not a choice anymore. That’s why recovery is so hard: you have to fight simply to regain the ability to say no. Whatever the reason people get started with drugs, it is and always will be tragic when it ends like this.

    The fact is that it’s very likely people you know and love have or have had some sort of addiction, even if you didn’t know it. Alcohol, drugs, gambling. Your current frame of mind dismisses all of their struggles, as if they aren’t even human. We are all human, Real Estate Agent Britney. Remember that next time you make a bad decision, and next time you judge somebody else without knowing the whole story.

    Morality is an expansive gray area. If you expose yourself to the real world and do so with an open mind, you’ll learn that. Addiction, poverty, crime– it’s never as one-sided as our parents and teachers taught us. This is so sad, for everyone involved.

    Condemnation will do nothing. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

  10. You’re insane. You think condemnation is the answer?

    No shit people chose to do the illegal drugs, but things arent so black and white.

    Suffering from addiction is a very real thing, and you dont need to live in Hollywood to become a victim of it. I hope you never have to suffer from the loss of a loved one or close friend due to this epidemic.

  11. Danny says:

    Wait.. what? Are you saying that you don’t believe in addiction? Like, the concept of addiction, you don’t think it exists?

    Are you also saying that we should shame people who have struggles? Isn’t the reason why they fell into a depression or became addicted to something too often because we shamed them for something?

  12. Britney says:

    I learned the hard way when I was 8 years old and never forgot it.

    Choosing to do drugs even the first time is selfish. It’s not like we all don’t know the warnings and risks.

    I have tons of sympathy for kids growing up in the inner city drug culture, but I have next to none for people in Hollywood that have made it and continue doing hardcore drugs.

    We are all responsible for ourselves. We are responsible for being clean, getting clean, and staying clean. Ads for help and places to get help are all over Los Angeles. Be responsible and take hold of your problem, but better yet be an individual and don’t start doing drugs or get into “the lifestyle” in the first place.

    Like I said, I lived this up close and it was awful as a kid and it got worse when overdoses came into it.

    I’ve never forgotten how people who knew of the problems and told me the deaths were tragedies were doing drugs that same night not 50 yards from a casket.

    And several of those people were world famous. HELP PEOPLE WHEN THEY ARE STILL ALIVE, don’t speak of their tragic deaths and problems after they kill themselves with drugs.

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