Here at TNGG, we like hipsters…or maybe just like to make fun of them. We’ve talked about who they are, what they like, and how they came to be. Now, right on schedule is a show somewhat targeted to hipsters while simultaneously skewering everything about hipster culture—Portlandia. But fear not—this sketch comedy from SNL’s Fred Armisen and (awesome band) Wild Flag’s Carrie Brownstein is not one to alienate. Armisen & Brownstein’s vignettes also poke fun at feminists, students, musicians, sexual deviants, businessmen, overbearing parents, nature lovers, cyclists, and anyone even attempting to be politically correct.
In the end, it doesn’t matter. Whether or not you belong to any of these groups is irrelevant. This stuff is funny, no matter who you are. Broadcast on the Independent Film Channel (IFC), Portlandia’s first season is available on Netflix Instant, thus cementing my position on the couch for several hours and making a fan out of me. Lucky for me, I also have on demand, where fresh episodes from season 2 are available to catch up on. Making their show accessible to the masses builds major viewing potential for both IFC (which in itself is the kind of independent channel you want to support) and the show.
Hearkening back to the dynamic duos of Frye & Laurie or Meyers & Poehler (okay, I didn’t do that much hearkening), Armisen & Brownstein play a bevy of gender-bending, accent-loving characters living in the city of Portland, Oregon. The very first episode begins with an epic ode to “the dream of the 90s” being alive and well in Portland, complete with black and white shooting, many a plaid shirt, and just a hint of trip-hop. Amidst all the Chuck Taylors and men in skinny jeans riding fixies, there’s also a surprising amount of heart. Brownstein is based in Portland and Armisen in New York, so there’s a certain East-meets-West feel that can appeal to both the insider in the know and the outsider looking to get a peek in.
Each episode has a one-off sketch or two, with a couple popular returning characters and one split-up plotline running through. One episode, entitled “Mayor is Missing,” involves characters Fred and Carrie, who have a few ideas to discuss with the mayor, running around town looking for him, speculating on what he could be doing until they find him—playing bass in a reggae band at a coffee shop. The ensuing the-mayor-plays-in-a-reggae-band press conference just serves as a vehicle for a few more “this is what we care about in Portland” jokes, which are already in abundance throughout. One of my favorite episode-long sketches is the very first, which involves a guest appearance by Jason Sudeikis as an animal-friendly cult leader who temporarily (and temporally) distracts our hero & heroine from choosing their entrees at a restaurant.
Whether you’re a Portland resident, a fan of laughing at Portland residents, or just someone with ADD, you can be sure these short and sweet sketches will hold your attention. Keep the dream of the 90s (and Fred & Carrie) alive. Viva Portlandia!