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The Music Man

Fred Armisen’s 15 Best Musical Moments

Portlandia Fred Armisen Band

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Thanks to Saturday Night Live and Portlandia, Fred Armisen has become one of the most influential comedians working today. But he started out on a very different path. When Fred dropped out of New York’s School of Visual Arts in 1988, it wasn’t to join Second City, or hit the stand-up circuit. No, he left to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a musician.

While his career has clearly evolved in unexpected ways, Fred’s never left his musical side behind. Here is a look at some of the most formative, and important musical moments of his varied career.

15. Trenchmouth

Fred Armisen first became known as the drummer for this post-hardcore band out of Chicago in the early 90s. While popular, Armisen saw too many other bands pass them by, and left to pursue other things in 1996.


14. Blue Man Group

Armisen credits Blue Man Group for giving him that first check as a professional musician. He toured with them for two years, but as a drummer. He never actually “blue himself,” in the immortal words of Tobias Funke.


13. Fred Armisen’s Guide to Music and South by Southwest

In 1998 Fred traveled to the South by Southwest Festival, recording a travelogue as he went. While his comedy was still in its infancy here, the variety of eccentric characters he inhabits made for a memorable video. This is probably the moment he transitioned from a funny musician to a comedian who can play the drums.


12. Chevelle’s Point #1 

Armisen knack for characters pop up again in this “electronic press kit” for alternative metal band Chevelle’s debut album, Point #1. Fred can be seen making legendary record producer Steve Albini vaguely uncomfortable while interviewing him in character. These bits soon turned into a career of comedy characters for HBO Zone and Bob Odenkirk’s sketch comedy show Next!


11. Saturday Night Live

Once cast on SNL, Armisen made music and musicians an integral part of his comedy. From Fericito, to Joshua Rainhorn, to Giuseppe, many of his best-loved bits showed off his musical skills. When he finally called it quits, his last sketch paid tribute to the punk rock he grew up listening to, with the help of rock stars such as Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Aimee Mann and his Portlandia pal Carrie Brownstein.


10. Les Savy Fav

Indie rock band Les Savy Fav had Armisen play drums on the group’s fourth album, “Let’s Stay Friends.” A number of the band’s members later went on to join Fred’s 8G Band on Late Night with Seth Meyers.


9. Jens Hannemann

Armisen’s love of drums and comedy exploded into one another in the form of Jens Hannemann. After becoming obsessed with the bizarre subgenre of educational DVDs, he created this alternate persona. Hannemann, with an indeterminate foreign accent, offers bizarre, virtually impossible to follow drumming instructions in a handful of videos, including “Fred Armisen Presents: Jens Hannemann Complicated Drumming Technique.” Armisen also briefly joined Joanna Newsom’s 2010 tour in character.


8. Crisis Of Conformity, “Fist Fight!”

In 2010, Armisen took part in a sketch about a fictional ’80s hardcore band reuniting at a wedding. Soon thereafter, a 7-inch for the Crisis of Conformity song “Fist Fight” suddenly appeared in indie label Drag City’s catalog, as if it had been there all along. Armisen called the surprise “a love letter to [his] teenage years.”


7. Portlandia

It makes sense that Armisen found a comedy soulmate in Carrie Brownstein. Reminding him of the funny musician he once was, they teamed up to transcend both labels with IFC’s Portlandia. Mocking and celebrating the grass fed, fair trade, earlobe stretching world we now find ourselves in, they declared their thesis statement with a now famous song.

6. Rockstar friends

Portlandia quickly became the destination for the underground music scene. Johnny Marr had to use a bicycle valet, Aimee Mann became a maid and Eddie Vedder got an Ani DiFranco tattoo.

Aimee Mann Portlandia


5. The Tonight Show Drum-Off

Not content to stick to Late Night, Armisen stopped by The Tonight Show to promote his expansive series of projects and engage in a drum off with Roots bandleader Questlove.


4. Kings of Leon

In 2013, Fred made a series of short videos for Amex Unstaged starring Kings of Leon. In them, he awkwardly surprises the band, mocks drummer Nathan Followill, and has them race to see who is truly the King of the Kings of Leon. He then “directed” a concert of theirs in London, offering suggestions through a live feed on the other side of the world.


3. Late Night with Seth Meyers Bandleader

At no point since his early days as a struggling musician has music played such an important part in Fred’s career. In 2014, he became bandleader of the 8G Band on Late Night with Seth Meyers.


2. Sleater-Kinney

Comedy partner Carrie Brownstein released a new album with her acclaimed band Sleater-Kinney in 2015, and jokingly revealed that Fred now considers himself a part of the band. Here he stars in the video for their latest single.


1.  SNL cameo 

Finally, Fred brought it all full circle. Returning to Saturday Night Live this past January, he survived a Whiplashing from JK Simmons, and showed he’s still knows how to bang those buckets.

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Forget Oscar

Find Your Spirit Animal

The Spirit Awards are LIVE this Saturday at 2p PT/5p ET.

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In just a few precious days, the greatest, most epic, most star-studded awards ceremony of the year comes to IFC.

And please, we’re definitely not talking about the Oscars. We’re talking about the Spirit Awards. Hosted by iconic comedy duo Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, it’s a relatively under-the-radar awards show with serious cred. And if the past is any indicator, we’re in for a wild night.

If you feel like doing your homework, you can find a full list of nominees and performance excerpts here. It reads like a who’s who of everyone that matters – those larger-than-life personalities with status that borders on mythological. Our celebrity spirit animals, if you will.

This isn’t hyperbole. Literally everyone who takes the stage at the awards show is spirit animal material. Let’s see if we can help you find yours…

Do you

Live in someone else’s shadow despite shining like the sun? Do you inexplicably vandalize your pretty-boy good looks with a sloppy-joe man bun and a repellent pubic-hair beard? Do you think sounding stoned and sounding thoughtful are kinda the same thing?

Congratulations, your spirit animal is Casey Affleck.

He’s the self-canonized patron saint of anyone who’s got the goods but doesn’t give a damn.

Do you

Have mid-length hair and exude a certain feminine masculinity that is universally appealing? Are you drawn to situations that promise little to nothing in the way of grooming or hygiene as a transparently self-conscious attempt to conceal your radiant inner glow? Does that fail miserably?

Way to go, your spirit animal is Viggo Mortensen.

He’s the yoga teacher of actors, in that what should make him super nasty only increases his curb appeal.

Do you

Get zero recognition for work that everyone knows is unrivaled? Do you inspire greatness in others yet get shortchanged when it comes to your own acclaim? Are you a goddam B-52 bomber in an industry of biplanes?

Bingo, your spirit animal is Annette Bening.

What does it take for this artist to win an Oscar? Honestly now, if her performance in 20th Century Women doesn’t earn her every award on the planet, consider it proof that the Universe truly is a cold dark void absent of reason or compassion.

Do you

Walk into a room full of strangers and walk out with a room full of friends? Have you been hiding under the radar just waiting for the right moment to leap out into the spotlight and stay there FOREVER? Do you possess the almost messianic ability to elevate Shia LaBeouf’s on-screen charisma?

You guessed it (or not), your spirit animal is 100% Sasha Lane.

If you haven’t seen American Honey, then you haven’t heard of her. She came out of the blue with a performance both subtle and powerful, and now she’s going to be in all the movies from this moment on. Or she should be, at any rate.

Don’t see your spirit animal there? Worry not. There are many more nominees to choose from, and you can see them all (yes, including Shia LaBeouf) during the Independent Spirit Awards, this Saturday at 2pm PT/5pm ET only on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia Keeps Road Rage In Park

Get a lesson in parking etiquette on a new Portlandia.

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It’s the most American form of cause and effect: Park like a monster, receive a passive-aggressive note.

car notes note

This unofficial rule of the road is critical to keeping the great big wheel of car-related Karma in balance. And naturally, Portlandia’s Kath and Dave have elevated it to an awkward, awkward art form in Car Notes, the Portlandia web series presented by Subaru.

If you’ve somehow missed the memo about Car Notes until now, you can catch up on every installment online, on the IFC app, and on demand. You can even have a little taste right here:

If your interest is piqued – great news for you! A special Car Notes sketch makes an appearance in the latest episode of Portlandia, and you can catch up on it now right here.

Watch all-new Portlandia Thursdays at 10P on IFC.

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Naked and Hungry

Two New Ways to Threeway

IFC's Comedy Crib gets sensual in time for Valentine's Day.

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This week, two scandalous new digital series debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib.
Ménage à Trois invites people to participate in a real-life couple’s fantasy boudoir. And The Filling is Mutual follows two saucy chefs who invite comedians to make food inspired by their routines. Each show crosses some major boundaries in sexy and/or delicious ways, and each are impossible to describe in detail without arousing some awkward physical cravings. Which is why it’s best to hear it directly from the minds behind the madness…

Ménage à Trois

According to Diana Kolsky and Murf Meyer, the two extremely versatile constants in the ever-shifting à trois, “MàT is a sensually psychedelic late night variety show exploring matters of hearts, parts and every goddamn thing in between…PS, any nudes will be 100% tasteful.”

This sexy brainchild includes sketches, music, and props that would put Pee-wee’s Playhouse to shame. But how could this fantastical new twist on the vanilla-sex variety show format have come to be?

“We met in a UCB improv class taught by Chris Gethard. It was clear that we both humped to the beat of our own drum; our souls and tongues intermingled at the bar after class, so we dove in head first.”

Sign me up, but promise to go slow. This tricycle is going to need training wheels.

The Filling is Mutual

Comedians Jen Saunderson and Jenny Zigrino became best friends after meeting in the restroom at the Gotham Comedy Club, which explains their super-comfortable dynamic when cooking with their favorite comedians. “We talk about comedy, sex, menses, the obnoxiousness of Christina Aguilera all while eating food that most would push off their New Year’s resolution.”

The hook of cooking food based off of comedy routines is so perfect and so personal. It made us wonder about what dishes Jen & Jenny would pair with some big name comedy staples, like…

Bill Murray?
“Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to… Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to avoid doing any kind of silly Groundhog Day reference.” 

Bridget Everett?
“Cream Balls… Sea Salt encrusted Chocolate Ganache Covered Ice Cream Ball that melt cream when you bite into them.” 

Nick Kroll & John Mulaney? 
“I’d make George and Gil black and white cookies from scratch and just as we open the oven to put the cookie in we’d prank ’em with an obnoxious amount of tuna!!!”

Carrie Brownstein & Fred Armisen? 
“Definitely a raw cacao “safe word” brownie. Cacao!”

Just perfect.

See both new series in their entirety on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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