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Fred Armisen talks about the new season of Portlandia, airing tonight at 10/9c

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Last week, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein debuted a brand-new holiday special, “Winter in Portlandia.” As fans clamor for more, on Friday Jan 4th at 10/9c, the much-anticipated third season of IFC’s original sketch comedy show, Portlandia, premieres. The show’s co-writer, co-creator, and co-star Fred Armisen, sat down for a lightning round of questions about the show.

What is the biggest difference in creating seasons one and three of Portlandia?

Season one was kind of like a camping trip. We just didn’t even know what we were, which isn’t a bad thing. We were just figuring out what we were. During the first season, we hadn’t worked with Jon much and we were just sorting ourselves out. By season three we were open with ourselves about what we wanted. This time around we wanted to do more stories that went from episode to episode.

There’s more of a story arc?

Yes, but we also knew to ask not just what is it, but what we want. In the beginning it was walking in the dark. Now, instead it’s more thoughtful. It’s “let’s try and go this direction. “

You have some amazing guest stars in season three including Roseanne Barr, Patton Oswalt, J Mascis, and more. Do you write parts for them specifically or just work them into stories?

It’s both. Sometimes we’ll write out a whole story and we’ll need someone to play a part, like an ex-girlfriend. All the people we picked were people we’re fans of. But then in like Patton Oswalt’s case we just liked him and wanted to fit him in. But with the ex-girlfriend we wanted someone a little crazy and a little …we really like her, but Juliette Lewis seems really explosive and we got in touch with her and asked her to play the part. And Patton we love and just had to work around his schedule.

Is it fun playing host to all these stars in Portland?

It is! They all come and start making comments about Portland. Patton was also doing stand up in town and ended up being there for a few days and he commented that he hadn’t seen anyone wearing a tie the whole time he was there.

How much of Gavhan Quinn is really you?

That’s my favorite character to do at the moment.

The studio tour scene with him in Winter in Portlandia was kind of amazing.

It’s very much a Chicago thing. So many guys I know in Chicago are like that. It’s like how guys in the 70s talked about cars all the time and now so many guys I know are talking about recording studios. Guys just sitting around talking about microphones.

Do you ever walk around in that wig and mustache?

Only at work, which is actually a lot of time, you know?

Is he the character you most relate to?

Yes, without a doubt. Although sometimes I relate to Peter, lately it’s Gavhan.

Are we going to see new characters in season three or have you found your cast?

There’s a few new ones definitely, but we also have a few characters that we really like and are getting to know.

Will the characters have grown at all during the hiatus? Or is it more of a “Seinfeld”-ian no hugs, no growing idea?

Oh they definitely have grown, but it’s less about them growing and more about us getting to know them.

What is it like to play an enhanced version yourself on the show? Is it strange?

It’s good, because I can edit who I am really am. So it’s a good way to work. It makes me look better than I am. I’m always wearing nice clothes, I have glasses and my hair looks nice.

When I asked which character you most related to, you didn’t choose that one.

I took that out of choices of characters. I made that one moot.

Does how you write things on SNL influence Portlandia and what can you do on Portlandia that you can’t on SNL?

I don’t really think about it when I’m writing. Whatever is in front of me is what I write for. If it’s February it ends up on SNL, if it’s June it ends up on Portlandia. They are both forgiving and gratifying. Portlandia has some stuff that can be really broad, even though it’s seen as subtle, and Saturday Night Live can be experimental, too.

Is there another Portlandia live show in the works?

Not at the moment. The timing worked out last year to do some touring to promote the show. We had a lot of fun, but the timing just isn’t there for a whole tour. Maybe we’ll do a one off.

You’ve done a television, a special, a live show and a book. Is a movie next? Or are you going Trapped in the Closet style and heading to Broadway?

I would really like to do a movie. Schedule-wise I don’t know when exactly, but I think it would be great to do a Portlandia movie. Some of my favorite television shows have done it and they’ve been great. Like Monty Python. I think it would be great.

You’ve mentioned schedule restrictions a few times in this chat. Obviously both you and Carrie have other day jobs, how hard is it to schedule around them?

In a positive way, it’s hard, but I like scheduling to be hard. There’s good results in that. When time is limited you really focus on things you want to do. If we do get to do a Portlandia tour it will be cities we really want to go to. Time restrictions are a good police officer for things we want to do.

Want the latest news from Portlandia? Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter@ifcPortlandia and use the hashtag #portlandia.

Portlandia returns to IFC on Friday, January 4th at 10/9c

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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