Will Ferrell, Maya Rudolph and friends salute Amy Poehler at Variety’s Power of Comedy event

If it’s a Saturday in November there were likely numerous guild and Academy screenings today for all the major contenders who haven’t hit theaters yet.  And while many Los Angelenos were home watching the USC/Oregon game or wandering out of a “Breaking Dawn” screening somewhere in the Southland.  But, at the legendary Palladium Theater, Variety’s 2nd Annual Power of Comedy was underway and this year’s recipient was none other than one and only Amy Poehler.

Essentially a benefit for the Noreen Frasier Foundation, a charity that raises money for cancer research and runs the Men for Women Now awareness program and co-created and co-produces Stand Up To Cancer.  Last year’s event saluted Russell Brand and was held at the Nokia Live event space at LA Live.  Things got bigger this time around in more ways than one.  The talent got a boost (Poehler has lots of famous and funny friends) and the general public were able to buy tickets (a donation to the charity) to watch the show which included a number of stand up and comedy acts.  Some of the highlights included…

Maya (“Hi, I’m not pregnant”) Rudolph performing R. Kelly’s “Sex in the Kitchen” (a song whose lyrics must be heard to believed if you’ve never had the pleasure).

Nick Kroll stealing the show with a bit about crapping in his pants (Poehler in her acceptance speech, “It’s not a competition everyone, but Nick Kroll won tonight.” Cue the cheer from “The League” table).

Sarah Silverman’s stand up act (she would have won if this writer had a vote).

“Happy Ending’s” Casey Wilson and Adam Pally telling the room to get serious and stop laughing as they gave each other breast and, um, genital exams.

Tina Fey appeared in a video tribute and at first talked about how much those years in Chicago Improv with Amy meant to her.  And then, about how much being Weekend Update partners meant to her.  And, finally, with shows now on the same night they can air in what will someday be known as the “last glorious days of NBC” (which got one of the biggest laughs of the evening).*

*Later in her speech, Poehler said anyone who just did a video tribute and wasn’t there to shake her hand was “dead” to her.

Mitchell Hurwitz, Will Arnett and David Cross made a tribute video about Amy “not about them,” but really about them.  Oh, and it appears as though they forgot to tell Cross about “Arrested Development” returning.

The Dan Band won the crowed over by changing the lyrics to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” to encourage women to get mammograms.

Million Dollar Strong (Mike O’Connell and Ken Jeong) killed with a live rendition of “What’s It Gonna Be?”.

Unfortunately, the usually very funny TJ Miller was the opening act and the crowd had not calmed down yet and the VIP section (cough, where I was sitting) hadn’t even realized the show had began.  That effectively ruined Miller’s set.  This is the second time I’ve seen Rob Riggle perform stand up and I don’t get the appeal. Andy Richter was the host – and old friend of Poehler’s from back in the day – but there wasn’t much for him to do.  Poehler’s colleagues at “Parks and Recreation” created a special video segment congratulating her at the beginning of the night, but the room was so loud I’m not sure even Poehler or anyone at the “Parks” table heard it.

The night ended with Will Ferrell arriving to introduce his former “SNL” colleague and he kept it short, funny, but sweet..  Poehler gave a very funny speech ending with a reminder that comedians may be some of the most self-centered “weirdos” out there, but they also tend to have the kindest hearts as well.

All and all, a fun night with better performers and much more star power in the audience than last year.  One suggestion to what might be a future jewel in Variety’s events crown:  Move the show to the Wiltern Theater so the public can attend (which will make for a better room for the stand up acts) or make it just a table dinner event at the Beverly Hilton.  After this year’s show, filling up a ballroom with paid tables won’t be a problem.

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