All the Strange Things We Learned From Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s Reddit AMA


The new season of Portlandia, the little satire sketch show that could, premieres January 8 on IFC. So, in addition to the traditional press tour, Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, stars and creators of the show, pandered to the young folks and held an AMA (Ask Me Anything) over at Reddit. As with any AMA, it was filled with innocuous questions about favorite restaurants and foods, but, still, there’s some stuff to be gleaned from it:

Some of Armisen’s old SNL pals will appear in this season of Portlandia.

Armisen: Vanessa Bayer, and Seth Meyers….and I think that’s it!

Armisen, on the challenge of a new season, and its structure:

I would say even though it sounds like… one would expect someone to say it, it’s challenging ourselves. So we try not to repeat ourselves when we come up with a new sketch idea or format. So this season, we did full stories for episodes. As opposed to a bunch of sketches.

Brownstein, on how the A-O River sketch was almost entirely improvised:

Well, “A-O-River” is a sketch that started out more about Cath and Dave’s conflict with other river rafters, but once that term was improvised, it became about that phrase and about Dave writing a letter, and yeah… the tangent became the center.

Armisen, on the way the cast really annoyed the crew by laughing nonstop while filming the “No Olympics” sketch:

We were supposed to run down the street with fake torches, saying “No Olympics in Portland”, and for some reason we just kept on laughing. It went to the level where the crew didn’t find it charming. It was a simple thing to shoot, really simple.

The show’s characters are less real-life-inspired than you would think:

Brownstein: Brendan & Michelle are based (in name only, and hairstyles) are a loving homage to our friend Brendan Canty from Fugazi and his wife. And most of the characters are versions of ourselves. Armisen: I would say the recording studio guy, whose name is “Gavin”… actually there’s an H in there, he’s based off of a recording studio engineer in Los Angeles by the name of “Woody.” So that one’s based on a real person.

Both Brownstein and Armisen have humble beginnings:

Brownstein: When I was 15, I worked the concession stand and took tickets at a movie theater. It was a Regal Cinemas or something. Armisen: And I delivered newspapers and worked at Taco Bell. I was 15 or 16? Newspapers was 15 or 14 even, I can’t remember? Somewhere like 14,15,16, somewhere in there was Taco Bell. Taco Bell must’ve been 16.

But they’re both very bad at cooking, even on Rachel Ray:

Armisen: I think we had tremendous help from Rachael. Remember those little toasty things with the eggs? I want to say after we shot that episode, we actually did eat those eggs toast things. And I was actually hungry, so we ate it. Brownstein: I agree with Fred, that the only one of us that made an edible meal was Rachael Ray and her crew. I made an edible meal the other morning when I poured milk into a cereal bowl. Armisen: I’ve done that wrong before.

Brownstein, on whether or not she is a nice person:

I think my friends consider me a thoughtful and kind person, and that’s something I aim for on a daily basis. And I genuinely like people. And I’m very appreciative and grateful to our fans, and to my friends. So the answer is: no.

Brownstein, on how she approaches wardrobe with a bit of an existential edge:

I like any wig that lets me imagine what I would look like if I made different choices in my life.

Here’s a conversation about what they smell like:

Armisen: I don’t even know what I smell like. What does Carrie smell like? I’m having a hard time answering that. I’ll just say this: I always worry what I smell like. I want to smell good, I want to smell clean, but you know… sometimes it’s 7 AM, and we’re shooting… Brownstein: Fred smells good. Armisen: Carrie smells great.

Armisen also notes that Kyle MacLachlan smells “very clean,” like “aftershave.”

Here’s what the two of them would be, if they were mixed drinks:

Armisen: I would be water and ice cubes. It would be called a “Frozen Marga-fredda.” I would not drink it. That’s for other people. Brownstein: I think tequila, soda, lime, ice… laughs. And it would be called…? Armisen: The “Sleater Gin-y.” But there’s no gin in it! That’s the catch! Brownstein: I would not drink it.

If they had to enter a sexual relationship with a plant, Armisen would date a Venus fly trap, and Brownstein a cactus.

Their spirit animals are about what you would expect, but maybe even sweeter:

Armisen: For me, it’s the calculator. Brownstein: Mine would be a giraffe. I would carry around Fred and do math, adding up all the ways I love him.

They both really enjoy cereal with almond milk and blueberries.

Fred Armisen wants to change his name:

I wish my name was “Artisan.” Fred Artisan.

And so does Carrie Brownstein:

And Carrie Brownstone.