Amy Poehler and Tina Fey create a memorable night of comedy at Hard Rock Atlantic City
Those of us who anticipated that the past weekend’s pair of performances by comedy giants Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City would be among the casino-entertainment highlights of 2023 were certainly not disappointed. It was everything that, at least, this spectator expected—and indeed even a little more, thanks to a surprise cameo by another funny lady to be named later.
Sunday night’s program—the second of two Hard Rock shows that comprised the finale of the duo’s seven-city, 14-show Restless Leg tour--was a marvelous showcase for the pair’s individual and collective talents and versatility. That it was divided into distinct segments made for an extremely well-paced affair that never felt tedious or over-long.
The performance opened with the two comedy giants hitting the Etess Arena stage glammed to the max in gowns as if they were appearing at a televised awards show. That introductory segment led to an extended section in which Poehler and Fey attempted to explain how they first met in the early 1990s.
Because neither remembers the exact moment they became acquainted—only that it probably happened while both were taking classes at Chicago’s famed Second City comedy troupe—the pair related several variations of the tale through a series of audience-assisted improv-comedy bits.
Improvisational comedy is always a hit-or-miss proposition, but in the capable hands of the erstwhile 30 Rock and Parks & Recreation stars, the entire sequence was a master class in spur-of-the-moment comedy creation.
Because Fey and Poehler came to prominence as the first all-female anchor team on Weekend Update, Saturday Night Live’s popular faux news report, it stood to reason they would occupy a “news desk” for a spell while delivering one-liners about the likes of the Canadian wildfires and Donald Trump’s latest indictment. Not surprisingly, the jokes hit the comedy bulls-eye far more often than not.
It was during this segment that their fellow SNL alum, Rachel Dratch, made a surprise appearance as her popular alter-ego, “Debbie Downer.” She used her time onstage to humorously remind the audience how dangerous to humanity is, well, pretty much everything. The unexpected turn clearly delighted the all-but-sold-out crowd that filled the 7,000-seat hall.
But that wasn’t the end to the comedians’ impressive display. Each took a solo turn doing stand-up sets. While neither has a background in that neck of the comedy woods, both scored with their smooth deliveries and solid material. However, give the win to Fey, who raunchily riffed on feminine hygiene products, but did so in the style of Black male comics like Dave Chappelle and Kevin Hart—a wonderfully wacky twist. And the Upper Darby, Pa. native definitely scored bonus points at this point in the evening by wearing an orange T-shirt that celebrated the two mid-1970s Stanley Cup championships won by the Philadelphia Flyers.
The presentation concluded with Poehler and Fey sitting in their pajamas answering questions they claimed were provided pre-show by audience members (while some were clearly legit, one or two were likely not). While enjoyable, this section didn’t move the comedy needle quite as far as those which preceded it.
The mind-boggling amount of comedic gifts the two brought to Hard Rock was more than enough to make the evening wildly entertaining and memorable. But there was another element that added immensely to the payoff:
As is the case when another top-tier double act—Steve Martin and Martin Short—hits the boards, the Restless Leg Tour was a celebration of the stars’ deep-seated friendship. The love, affection and respect Poehler and Fey share was evident throughout Sunday night’s performance, which only served to make it all the more special.