Mainstream Hipsters: Portlandia’s Armisen & Brownstein

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If you haven’t noticed, College Magazine kind of has a thing for hipsters. We rank them. We use them as a promotional tool. We even made a playlist for them that by now is probably either outdated or worse: mainstream.
Even with all the hipster hoopla at this fine publication, nothing we could ever do compares to the hipster hijinks on IFC’s Portlandia. The show celebrates life in Portland, a city where, according to series co-creator, co-writer and co-star Fred Armisen, “young people go to retire.”
The Saturday Night Live veteran teamed up with former Sleater-Kinney guitarist and songwriter Carrie Brownstein to launch this little venture and, two seasons later, Portlandia has earned a respectable niche for itself in the realm of sketch comedy. Wait: there’s a show that’s accepted by both hipsters and the riff-raff? My brain just exploded.

The Dream of the 90s

“There’s this one character I’ve really been liking, and that’s the one in the knot store,” said Armisen of his favorite Portlandia sketches. “There’s a knot store that Jeff Goldblum runs, and then I’ve got this crazy orange wig with the big orange mustache. There’s something I like about it.”
In the world of Portlandia, it’s perfectly normal to run into Jeff Goldbum in a knot store. Or Steve Buscemi in a bookstore run by annoying feminists. Or Jason Sudeikis on a chicken farm that also happens to double as headquarters for a cult. But remember: that’s all Portlandia, not Portland.
“It’s less about Portland being weird and more about embracing the way they are,” explained Armisen. “We don’t want to overdue it or get negative with it. We feel like people get it. We don’t want to get too crazy with the concept.”
Considering the show has had a sketch involving adult hide-and-seek, that ship might have sailed already. But, luckily for Armisen and Brownstein, the growth of the hipster movement means their fans aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Armisen seemed to recognize this, citing a recent example of hipsters winning big.

“I think things like Bon Iver winning a Grammy, it’s like for some reason, I think people are kind of accepting things like that more and more,” he said of the ironic mainstreaming of hipsterdom. “I think people are – they understand.”

I’m Offended By Your Accusation

Surprisingly, neither Portlandia star was too keen on discussing the hipster aspect of the show. In fact, they got very defensive when it was implied that the show was a hipster haven.
“I feel like neither of us really think of the show like that,” said Brownstein, a sentiment Armisen quickly supported. “We don’t think of it like skewing hipster. I look at the [characters] on the shows, and I just think those guys aren’t hipsters.”
They were even more put off when they were asked how hipster they consider themselves to be.
“I can’t classify myself in that way,” Armisen said. “It’s not like I go see bands all the time. I dress pretty normal. I don’t have dress store clothing or anything. So, I don’t know if I’m from that mix.”
Brownstein didn’t humor the question either: “I think I’m a ten on the preppy scale. That’s the only scale I can measure myself by.”
Quick note: the word “preppy” sounds a lot like “puppy” with phone static involved. So when I asked Brownstein if she really said she was measuring herself on a puppy scale, a celebrity laughed at me for the second time in a week (thanks for ignoring my request for an SNL shout out, Karmin). At least Armisen decided to have fun with it.
“With that said, I would say I’m a five on the puppy scale,” he quipped.

Where Are The Jokes?

That little misunderstanding was the most life either Armisen or Brownstein showed during the entire conference call. For two people who make people laugh for a living, they were clearly more interested in promoting their Portlandia livetour than entertaining a group of journalists. Not that I’m bitter about that or anything.
Moving on: the two comedians couldn’t be happier to be promoting a tour they never expected to happen.
“We thought maybe we’ll have a couple episodes, a season or just a pilot,” said Armisen. “I seriously never thought like, maybe someday we’ll do a live show for it. I remember Tim and Eric [from Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!] did a tour, and it was really huge. Conan did a tour. It just never occurred to me that we could have done the same thing.”
Brownstein agreed: “There are so many TV shows and albums [out there] and everybody is talking about a relatively modest show that has been a labor of love for us. It feels very luck and exciting.”
Armisen and Brownstein will be playing six shows in six days this week, including one at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. tomorrow. The shows consists of the two Portlandia stars performing songs and playing videos from the show; it’s more for promotion than entertainment. Armisen described it as being “the equivalent of talking to us in our living room.”
D.C. hipsters: I saw you all at the Portugal. The Man concert a few months ago, so I know you’re a large and unapologetic community. Come out of hiding, wear your flannel shirts and skinny jeans with pride and support your reluctant brethren.

Junior > Journalism > University of Maryland

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