10 things I learned from Fred Armisen’s visit to Providence


Last night, Fred Armisen kicked off his Portlandia national tour at The Columbus Theater on Federal Hill, taking the night off as the bandleader for Late Night with Seth Meyers. Fred will be making stops in Minneapolis and Denver, screening a new episode of Portlandia each time. In Providence, Armisen screened “Celery,” the third episode in the show’s fourth, and current, season. The episode’s main story centered on Steve Buscemi’s character attempting to make celery the next popular vegetable (like kale right now). The other sketches included a 9-1-1 call center that found beets to be the source of everyone’s emergencies and Carrie Brownstein filing for social media bankruptcy and erasing her online presence.


Fred then opened up the floor for a Q&A to an audience that could have been taken from the 90s and cast as extras in his show. Here are ten things I learned:

  1. Fred hates being told what to do as an audience member. So, he told everyone it was totally fine to take pictures and video. It was also fine to leave at any point—he wasn’t there to tell us what to do.
  2. As a middle schooler, he was just like he is now. He was “desperate for attention” and “loved music, but was terrible at sports.”
  3. Protests make him giggle, which gives him ideas for exposing the comedy in the chaos of protests on Portlandia.
  4. Though most of the show’s crew is from Portland, Fred brought along the hair department (and bargained for the budget) from Saturday Night Live so the characters in the sketches would be realistic.
  5. Fred was once mistaken for Rick Moranis from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids while vacationing at Disneyland.
  6. For people looking to pursue sketch comedy, Fred advised to just have a good time and continue producing content: “Don’t worry about the numbers [of viewers],” he said. Portlandia started off as a YouTube series called “Thunder Ant,” featuring him and Carrie, which he then took as a pitch to IFC.
  7. A lot of scenes in the show have improvised dialogue. The writers set the scene, but the dialogue comes spontaneously.
  8. The best friendship between him and Carrie is genuine. He does things with her (like experiencing nature) just because he loves hanging out with her so much.
  9. His favorite 90s band is Stereolab.
  10. After guest starring on Broad City, Fred said he is so excited to be on television at the same time as Abbi and Ilana: “I just love them and their show,” he said. “It’s just great.”

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