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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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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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