Portlandia is a new 6 part limited series on IFC from Saturday Night Live‘s Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney. The two started doing web shorts together years ago and that led to this. In the show Brownstein and Armisen take an extended look at the city of Portland, Oregon and its citizens through various sketches and characters.
Portlandia is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a shame that its only 6 episodes. Although obviously the premise of such a niche show that is entirely based around the city of Portland and things like making fun of hipsters could probably get old were the run much longer, I still crave at least 13. In the world of sketch comedy I’d compare it to a Mr. Show with maybe a dash of Upright Citizens Brigade thrown in. The sketches don’t really go into each other but they do follow themes and they do recur.
If you’re not a fan of Saturday Night Live, I don’t blame you. It’s been on the decline for years. But Fred Armisen shows us his insane comedic genius in Portlandia. If he’s been writing sketches for SNL half this good and not getting them to air then things are even worse off there then imaginable. But the big surprise is that Carrie Brownstein, most known for her awesome guitar skills and heart breaking lyrics, is really funny as well. She’s equally as good at being deadpan and being crazy characters. In fact one of the best moments is when her as a bad boyfriend character.
The humor here is whip-smart but isn’t for everyone, but of course the best comedy never really is. You have to come on board with at least a passing hipster culture, an idea of Portland’s reputation as a “weird city”, and a mind open to absurdity to really embrace everything the show is bringing. But even if you don’t have those things give the show a chance.
Although the entire show is Carrie and Fred they enlisted some great guest stars to show up like Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks), Aubrey Plaza (Parks & Recreation), Heather Graham (Boogie Nights), and Aimee Mann, among many more. These guest stars sometimes are just characters, like MacLachlan as the mayor of Portland, but other times they play themselves like in a brilliant sketch where Aimee Mann plays Carrie & Fred’s (as themselves) house keeper because of the sad state of the music industry.
Overall do whatever you can to watch this show. It airs Fridays at 10:30 on IFC. Episodes are also available online via Amazon and