The 10 Best Portlandia Guest Stars


Tonight, Portlandia comes to an end after its second too-short season. The past nine episodes have brought us a “cool wedding,” the dream of the 1890s, a band with a cat in it, and a campaign against the Olympics — which were really never in danger of coming to Portland, anyway. We learned that durian fruits are actually aliens (which made a lot of sense) and that there are entire companies dedicated to sourcing bad art for coffee shops. And, of course, we enjoyed guest appearances from all kinds of celebrities, from indie rockers to filmmakers to A-list comedians. To celebrate another successful series of hipster-mocking sketches and yuppie-lampooning gags, we’re counting down Portlandia’s ten best guest stars — so far.

10. Miranda July in “Two Girls, Two Shirts”

As The New Yorker has documented, artistic polymaths Carrie Brownstein and Miranda July have been friends for years. In this skit, July sends up her pretentious reputation as the haughtier half of a retail partnership that turns out to be too high-concept minimalist for its own good.

9. Heather Graham journals at Women & Women First

Leave it to Heather Graham to disrupt the feminist bookstore’s journaling group with her heteronormative revelations! But she doesn’t stop there, jezebel-ing her way between Toni and Candace and causing a massive breakdown in the most ambiguous relationship in Portland.

8. Jeff Goldblum’s knot store

It takes a smooth salesman to make artisanal knots — yes, as in the kind you use to tie your shoelaces — an attractive commodity. Jeff Goldblum, in his eye-catching pink jacket and hipper-than-thou inflection, is just the man for the job.

7. Penny Marshall as the feminist bookstore partner who got away

Heather Graham wasn’t the only guest star to stir up romantic strife between Toni and Candace. The lovely Penny Marshall appeared in a recent episode as Barbara, a co-founder of the store who stole Candace’s idea for a line of “bed sweaters,” got rich, and snagged herself a basketball-playing boyfriend (LeMarcus Aldridge). We can honestly say we never expected to see Laverne making out with Fred Armisen in drag.

6. Joanna Newsom and her poor harp

What idyllic, bohemian summer afternoon could be Anthropologie-catalog complete without a serenade from ethereal harpist Joanna Newsom? Except, um, how are you supposed to get that giant instrument home from the sun-drenched field without — oof — breaking it? Newsom isn’t known for her acting chops, but with “The harp is not secure!,” she’s already got a bona fide catchphrase.

5. Edward James Olmos, James Callis, and Ronald D. Moore revive Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica fans flipped earlier this season, when Doug and Claire became so obsessed with the show that when they finished it, they tracked down Ronald D. Moore to make him write more episodes. Except that the guy they found was really just a bored local who enjoyed the attention. But don’t worry — in addition to Edward James Olmos and James Callis, the real Moore turns up just in time for the table read.

4. Aimee Mann cleans up

What’s Aimee Mann doing these days? Well, besides continuing a productive (if underrated) solo career, in this surreal Season 1 clip she’s Fred and Carrie’s somewhat inept maid. “I guess the music industry must be really suffering or something,” eh? Sarah McLachlan deserves an honorable mention for her cameo as the gardener, but Mann gets extra points for briefly performing her classic “Save Me.”

3. Eddie Vedder gets a bad tattoo

He may only have been on screen for 45 seconds or so, but Vedder was easily Portlandia’s most self-deprecating guest star. When Carrie dates a guy with a ridiculous, talking Eddie Vedder tattoo, she decides she may as well just go out with the real Pearl Jam frontman. That goes pretty well… until she sees he has a humiliating musician tattoo of his own.

2. Kyle MacLachlan as The Mayor

MacLachlan is on Portlandia so often these days that he may technically be a full-fledged supporting actor. But it was a stroke of genius to cast the Twin Peaks star and Pacific Northwest native as Portland’s progressive, yoga ball-straddling mayor, so we couldn’t help mentioning him. May he never disappear again.

1. Kristen Wiig, crazed fan

As much as we love MacLachlan’s mayor, even he couldn’t compete with Portlandia’s most bonkers guest star of all time: Kristen Wiig as Gathy, whose name is the most normal thing about her. We imagine that anyone who started a Pitchfork-breaking buzz band featuring their cat would have some crazy fans to contend with, but Gathy is really one-of-a-kind terrifying. We’ll never see cauliflower the same way again.