Portland, How Did We Get Here?


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When I was a kid (see above), Portland held no cultural currency. The “Northwest,” to most people, basically just meant Seattle. I distinctly remember the phrase my family tossed out to explain where we lived to people we met when we traveled: “Oregon? It’s between California and Seattle.”

These days, everyone I meet on the road has a story about Portland, even—often especially—if they’ve never been there. I got a tattoo in Los Angeles last week and the artist practically teared up recounting to me a lost weekend he recently spent in Portland. “I found some really great gutter punks,” he recalled softly. Hundreds of the flight seat buddies, hairdressers, chatty tellers, and otherwise conversational humans I’ve crossed paths with over the years have shared with me some variant. Or, simply, with the vague confidence of secondhand knowledge, have asserted to me that it “seems so nice” out in Portland.

(Meanwhile, everyone in the country called it “Ory-GON” until, like, five years ago.)

I don’t say this because I’m trying to garner cred as a local (there’s nothing less credible, to a lifelong Portlander, than bragging about one’s origins, anyway) but because it’s genuinely incredible how rapidly this city’s cachet has skyrocketed. Sometimes, as an intellectual exercise, I try to remember when it happened. Was it Stumptown coffee? Was it the Dandy Warohls? Which fawning New York Times profile of a Portland farm-to-table organic restaurant catalyzed us into the mainstream?

‘Cause we’re definitely mainstream: a show like Portlandia could only exist in a nation that has an awareness of, or obsession with, Portland. Of course, part of the genius of Portlandia is that the show doesn’t just trade in Portland-specific stereotype sketches; rather, it’s made the (very smart) decision to build a fictionalized universe of characters, with a social physics that is both a riff on the real Portland and its own invention. Still, it couldn’t have made it past the boardroom if Portland, and what it represents, wasn’t already surfing the crest of American cultural consciousness.

Portlandia‘s Portland is sweeter, dreamier, and infinitely more hospitable than the actual city (for one, it never rains in the show). In a sense, it’s what people imagine it to be, rather than what it actually is. Which is the crux of its success, and totally indicative of the national idea of Portland, I believe. A major reason for Portland’s success, why out-of-towners navigate the city limits in gaping awe, perpetually commenting on its residents’ ease of life, why Portlandia charms so many, is because of this:

People like the idea of a place that is still OK!

The Portland of Portlandia—and, to an only slightly diminished extent, the real Portland—is young America’s Shangri-La. Regardless of whether or not they have, or ever plan to, visit Portland, the city has come to represent a life unencumbered by harsh political reality, economic duress, or career hustling. For Angelenos who dream of torching their cars, New Yorkers who are tired of city living’s various indignities, Portland is an escape. Portland reassures.

Portland is more than just “where young people go to retire;” it seems to be an entire generation’s backup plan. One could move to Portland, start making jewelry or manning a farm stand, and life would be easier. Of course, most people don’t relocate, but still: the thought of a clean, pleasant, eco-conscious enclave in this increasingly demoralizing world keeps people sane.

In fact, I might argue a mathematical relationship between Portland’s moment as a media darling-cum-cultural symbol and the darkening of a general socio-political, environmental mood in the country. Encountering overzealous vegetable picklers, buying the wrong artisanal knot, or forgetting your grocery bag seem like the most gentle of ordeals compared to economic upheaval and riot cops.

Of course, that’s a little insane, too. And Portlandia makes us laugh, because it both debunks this myth and lovingly perpetuates it.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.


IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines


The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.


Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.


A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.


Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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