Comedian Fred Armisen has been a cast member on Saturday Night Live for the past nine years. He’s probably most recognizable for his ironic impressions of Barack Obama and David Patterson. But lately, Armisen has been gaining notice for a side project: Portlandia, a television series that recently premiered on IFC. Armisen is the creator, writer, and star of the show along with friend Carrie Brownstein (guitarist from indie rock band Sleater Kinney).
Each episode is comprised of a series of sketch comedy pieces where Armisen and Brownstein portray characters and situations associated with the optimistic, environmentally-friendly, hipster-ridden city that is Portland, Oregon. In one sketch, they are owners of feminist bookstore Women&Women Fist. Both Armisen and Brownstein dress in oversized sweaters with ankle-length skirts. Armisen wears a flowing blonde wig and drinks “campajojojojo tea” to “help clear out his tear ducts.”
In another scene, they portray a local couple that has gone out to eat at an organic restaurant. The waitress reassures them that the chicken they order is woodlen-raised and fed sheep’s milk, soy and hazelnuts. After asking follow up questions regarding the ethics of the chicken’s owner and the number of the chicken’s siblings, the two decide to go to the farm where it came from to investigate the conditions for themselves.
Emily Merkel, a Portlandia obsessed Portland native says that the depiction is not far from the truth. “The scary thing is, it is pretty much true,” she said. Merkel watched the first episode (that included the chicken sketch) with her mother. “My mom saw that and then she was like, ‘wait here.’ She had just bought filet mignon at the co-op and she showed me that they gave her papers about the beef and its kind upbringing.”
The show’s over the-top-portal of the city is funny, but it’s the accurate representation of its characters that seems to be contributing to its success.