Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have been comedy giants and close friends for decades, from early improv years in Chicago to Saturday Night Live to their successes in film and television to their memorable turns as awards show hosts. As costars, they’ve been hilarious; as friends, they’re an inspiring model of sticking together and supporting each other through career challenges and raising families.
Fey and Poehler will join AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins live on March 24 as part of AARP’s three-day AARP Celebrates You! virtual festival to talk about their lives as friends (find out how to join the free event here).
Meanwhile, here are the 10 top lessons we’ve learned from this hilarious, remarkable pair of friends.
1. Being willing to work together can lead to great things
Fey and Poehler met nearly 30 years ago, in 1993. At the time, the two were cutting their teeth in Chicago’s improvisational comedy underworld. Then one fateful day, Charna Halpern, a key figure in the world of improv, thought they should meet and introduced them. According to Poehler’s book, Yes Please, Halpern told her that there was another new improviser, named Tina, who “was like me but with brown hair.” The connection was instant, and they began performing together at Chicago’s ImprovOlympic. One of their early sketches was about two policewomen, named Powderkeg and Shortfuse. Soon they would both be accepted at the legendary Second City.
2. Look for ways to reconnect even after years apart
Over the next few years, the women’s paths would diverge and then reconnect as they continued to pay their dues trying to rise through the male-dominated world of sketch comedy. In 1996, Poehler would head to New York with her improv troupe, the Upright Citizens Brigade. A year later, Fey joined her in New York when she was hired by Lorne Michaels as a writer on Saturday Night Live. In their off-hours, the two would find time to perform on stage together. It was the best kind of work: the kind that doesn’t feel like work.
3. Conquer big challenges together
Finally, in 2001, Poehler joined Fey at SNL. Fey, according to her memoir, Bossypants, was ecstatic. “Even though things had been going great for me at the show,” she wrote, “with Amy there, I felt less alone.” Being a woman at SNL was known to be rough. But together they would prove to be unstoppable.
4. Keep trusting each other on big goals
As their stars rose on SNL in the early ’00s, new opportunities came along. One of the first — and splashiest — was Mean Girls, a Hollywood comedy scripted by Fey. As both the screenwriter and costar to Lindsay Lohan, Fey was in a world so alien to her it might as well have been a distant planet. What she needed was the calm and comfort of a friend every day on the set. Enter Poehler, who ended up playing mean girl Rachel McAdams’ scene-stealing, wannabe “cool mom” in the film. The movie would end up grossing $130 million.
5. Set new standards … without the guys
Several months after Mean Girls hit multiplexes in 2004, Amy took Jimmy Fallon’s vacated seat behind the SNL “Weekend Update” desk, making Fey and Poehler the first-ever female coanchors of “Update.” Their hilarious patter was natural and quick, the sparks flew, and a new comedy duo was, if not born, at least finally introduced to the wider world. With the two trading lightning quick punchlines throughout Season 30, they became instant front-runners for the best “Update” duo of all time.
6. Stay connected even when family matters call
By 2008, both Fey and Poehler had left SNL behind as they began raising families. Fey would have two daughters (Alice in 2005 and Penelope in 2011) and Poehler would have two sons (Archie in 2008 and Abel in 2010). They not only bonded over the struggles and hilarity of new motherhood (and joke about having their kids marry each other), they turned it into a project — the 2008 big-screen comedy Baby Mama.
7. Laugh together … especially when it comes to motherhood
Tina and Amy recruited fellow moms Rachel Dratch and Maya Rudolph to costar in their classic 2003 faux commercial for Mom Jeans: “Exclusively designed to fit a mom’s body, for even the least active moms!”
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8. Talk each other up
Fey and Poehler kept moving in their careers. On TV, Fey created and starred in 30 Rock, and Poehler led an all-star cast on Parks and Recreation. Both would write best-selling comic memoirs as well. But even with work and homelife cutting into their hang time, they always seemed to have a kind word for each other. Like this compliment from Amy about Tina regarding her work ethic: “Look, if she sets her mind to it, it gets done. Tina is not the kind of artist who makes people wait around and misses her deadlines. She’s a finisher. And I mean that in the sexual sense.”
9. Take a high-risk job … together
In 2013, Fey and Poehler hosted the Golden Globes, harnessing their years of working together into fast and loose banter that pumped up the ratings and brought them back to host again in 2014 and 2015. Here they are coming in strong right out of the gate in 2013.
10. Never say no if it means doing something together
In 2021, when Fey and Poehler were asked back to host the Golden Globes for the fourth time, and basically save the telecast from the pandemic, they immediately came up with a way to share their comic chemistry with the world even though they were 3,000 miles apart. Thanks to some old-school camera trickery and the sheer infectiousness of their friendship, they managed not only to pull off an impossible task, they made a dark time seem a little brighter, even if only for a few hours.
Chris Nashawaty, former film critic for Entertainment Weekly, is the author of Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story and a contributor to Esquire, Vanity Fair, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.