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.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.