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DID YOU READ

15 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Portlandia

portlandia-facts

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Fully immerse yourself in the strange and wonderful world of Portlandia, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s sketch comedy show, with these 15 little-known facts.

1. The show is shot entirely on location in Portland, Oregon.

And most of the extras used on the show are local actors. Co-creator, co-writer, and co-star Carrie Brownstein is also a resident of Portland.


2. The name of the show is more than a play on “Portland.”

Portlandia is also the name of a statue by sculptor Raymond Kaskey that is located outside the Portland Building in the city’s downtown area. You can see the statue—the country’s second-largest copper repoussé sculpture (behind the Statue of Liberty)—in the show’s opening credit sequence.


3. Many of the show’s characters are based on real Portland locals.

For example, costume designer Amanda Needham based Peter (of Peter and Nance) on her father-in-law.
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4. Before debuting Portlandia in 2011, Armisen and Brownstein teamed up for a series of web videos called ThunderAnt.

Some Portlandia bits, like feminist bookstore owners Toni and Candace, were taken directly from the web show.


5. The Women and Women First feminist bookstore sketches are shot at an actual feminist bookstore in Portland called In Other Words.

It is the only non-profit feminist bookstore in the country. The set designers left the store almost completely untouched for the show—with the exception of the books themselves. Since the show doesn’t have the rights to the store’s real books, production designer Tyler Robinson replaced them with fake books he created.


6. Portlandia is executive produced by Saturday Night Live creator and producer Lorne Michaels.

Armisen and Brownstein pitched the idea for Portlandia to Michaels while Armisen was still an SNL cast member, and Michaels greenlit the show in 2010. Armisen would eventually leave SNL in 2013.


7. As of Portlandia’s fourth season, nine current and former SNL cast members (not including Armisen) have appeared on the show other than Armisen.

Ten if you include actor George Wendt, who made cameo appearances on SNL in the early 1990s. They are: Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg, Bobby Moynihan, Mike O’Brien, Bill Hader, Vanessa Bayer, Jay Pharoah, and Maya Rudolph.


8. Portlandia won a Peabody Award in 2012.

Considered the “Pulitzer Prize for radio” when it was founded in 1940, the Peabody Awards have grown to recognize excellence in a wide range of electronic media, from radio, to television, to original web content. According to the 16-member Peabody Board, which gives out the awards, Portlandia “was recognized for the freshness and amiability of its send-ups of Oregon’s trendy city.” It also won an Emmy in 2013 for Outstanding Costumes for a Variety Program or Special.

9. Sam Adams, the former mayor of Portland, appeared in four episodes of the show.

While he was the actual mayor of Portland at the time, Adams played the assistant to actor Kyle MacLachlan’s unnamed mayor. The show also shoots its city hall scenes in the actual Portland City Hall and MacLachlan used Adams’s actual bicycle in many of his scenes.


10. Carrie and Fred’s onscreen relationship was inspired by Sesame Street.

It was based on that of another famously ambiguous twosome: Bert and Ernie.


11. Portlandia is full of cameos by musicians.

They include: Aimee Mann, Sarah McLachlan, k.d. lang, The Decemberists’ Jenny Conlee and Colin Meloy, James Mercer from The Shins and Broken Bells, Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney, Rebecca Cole of Wild Flag, Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam, Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse, St. Vincent, Robin Pecknold from Fleet Foxes, Joanna Newsom, Johnny Marr, Jack White, Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, No Doubt, J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr., Dirty Projectors, Tunde Adebimpe from TV on the Radio, Jello Biafra from Dead Kennedys, Duff McKagan from Guns N’ Roses, Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth, Jeff Tweedy from Wilco, Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, and Michael Nesmith from The Monkees.


12. To date, co-creator and writer Jonathan Krisel has directed every single episode of Portlandia.

You may recognize Krisel’s offbeat humor from other shows he worked on like Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Kroll Show. Krisel was also a writer for Saturday Night Live for one season in 2011.


13. Kumail Nanjiani, who appears in nine episodes, writes his own dialogue.

The writers give him his character’s scenarios and he makes the rest up.


14. Portlandia is Jerry Seinfeld’s favorite comedy.

He said in a 2014 interview with Vulture, “I think that’s the best comedy on TV right now, and it’s easily one of the best comedies of all time.”


15. Background extra Jedediah Aaker is allegedly in more episodes of the show than any other actor (aside from Carrie and Fred).

He’s the heavily tattooed guy with the huge beard who pops up as a side character. Aaker—a non-actor and Portland native—is a bartender and a founding member of a beard appreciation society called The Portland Beardsmen.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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