Mikey Kampmann is a young comedian who, when he’s not making cameo appearances in Portlandia episodes (look for him in the park at Spike and Iris’ wedding!) was just about the funniest thing in town until he decided to go AWOL and work as a line cook at the Admundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica for four months. No joke. Still, true to the pioneering, DIY spirit of a true Northwesterner, Mikey has managed to bring Portland to the South Pole, with Oregon-roasted coffee, a hilarious blog, fresh local kale, and even fresher personal style. No small feat at the literal ends of the Earth.
We managed to catch up with him, despite the spotty Polar internet and 21-hour time difference, and chat about aliens, tunneling with Werner Herzog, and comedy on ice.
Portlandia: Get real with us about the Internet situation. Is it fast? Do you have wi-fi? Were you even able to watch Cool Wedding, the episode of Portlandia that you starred in last week?
Mikey Kampmann: We are in the Future at the South Pole, at least by 21 hours, but unfortunately in the Future the Internet is slow. We get Internet in waves depending on a few NASA satellites. One satellite is really slow and the others are faster, but still not fast enough to stream video with any dignity. So no, I haven’t seen any of the new Portlandia episodes and have only heard about the episode I was in last week, like from my local car insurance agent who emailed me to say he recognized me on the show. There is actually some really fast Internet here, but access is only given to Science research, which fair enough as they’re using it to map and understand the Universe at the beginning of time.
Portlandia: What percentage of the people you work with in Antarctica do you think are actually crazy?
Mikey Kampmann: This is a scary question. To be honest, I’ve had to ask myself this question a few times. The thing is we are incredibly isolated and the community is so small that it has become hard at this point to know who is for sure crazy. I think we’re all a little crazy, but not institutionally crazy. Wait, this is an institution though. Um, yeah, I’m not sure. No, nobody is like crazy crazy, but I did ask my friend what he thought and he said 65% including himself of course.
Portlandia: Have you done any comedy at the pole? Also, what is the Antarctican sense of humor like?
Mikey Kampmann: There have been two open mics at the South Pole since I’ve been here, but I haven’t had the energy to perform. I’ve sorta been using this time to take a break from comedy and instead simply focus on being present here during this remarkable time and within this formidable landscape. I have been writing down some jokes though. And I’ve made a few videos with comedy ideas, like Tunnelin’ with Werner Herzog. And I guess I’ve joked a lot about aliens on the blog. That has been my favorite part of the Antarctican sense of humor. My friend and I like to joke speculate about who amongst us here is really a Grey — the name we use for alien. But otherwise it’s a normal place with situational humor, except maybe the situations here are a little more unusual.
Portlandia: What on Earth possessed you to wrest yourself from the youth Utopia of Portland to go live in Antarctica?
Mikey Kampmann: It wasn’t easy. Portland is terribly seductive, which is why I love Portland. When I’m in Portland the rest of the world outside SE Portland doesn’t seem to matter and I’m surrounded by friends and cool shows. Honestly, four months has been a very long time to be away from the home I love, but I had thought about coming to Antarctica for over 3 years and I realized that if I didn’t do it now then I never would. I guess in the end I didn’t want to miss out on coming to the South Pole because I was worried about missing a cool show. And the best part was my friends were incredibly supportive and seemed excited for me. And now, in a way the time has gone by really fast and I feel like I’m returning to Portland with more to offer.
Portlandia: What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get back to Portland?
Mikey Kampmann: Definitely a hard question, so many choices. I’ve sorta made a tradition of going to DC Vegetarian food cart to get a vegan bacon cheeseburger every time I come home to Portland. I’m not even vegan. And then after that, I think the first thing I’ll do is go to Clinton St. Theater to hang out with Sloppo and go get a drink next door at the pub.
You can follow Mikey’s adventures in the Antarctic on his blog, Mikey Going Down.