Q&A: Fred Armisen of Portlandia
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In two seasons, Portlandia has become the go-to for jokes about the artistic merits of taxidermy, feminist bookstores, and the joys of pickling. Starring Fred Armisen of Saturday Night Live and Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney, the show is a deservedly and unexpectedly broad cultural hit.
So imagine our surprise last fall when the producers of Portlandia reached out to say that Kickstarter would be the subject of a skit in the upcoming season. We were happy they even knew what Kickstarter was! You can see some of the skit above, or watch the full thing this Friday (2/10) at 10pm on IFC.
Earlier this week we spoke with Fred Armisen to find out how Kickstarter became the subject of a skit, what projects the feminist bookstore Women & Women First might launch, and more.
Kickstarter: Do you remember when you first came across Kickstarter?
Fred: I was asked to contribute to a Mekons documentary. That was how I first got connected. A few dozen people had written asking me to contribute to their projects, but that was my first foray into it.
Kickstarter: So how does Kickstarter end up on Portlandia?
Fred: Well it's just something that we've all — me, John (our director), and Carrie — gotten emails about stuff that's been on there. It was just an idea: let's do something with Kickstarter. It was on our radar.
Kickstarter: I looked up some stats on Portland and Kickstarter. Portland is a top ten city in terms of number of projects. There's been one project for every thousand people who live in Portland — possibly the highest ratio of any city. And Portland mayor Sam Adams has a special curated page on Kickstarter where he shares projects that he likes from Portland. Do any of these things surprise you?
Fred: No, not at all. I'm more curious about what the other cities are!
Kickstarter: Do you feel like Kickstarter is specifically Portland somehow?
Fred: No, it feels really national. The Mekons was Chicago. I got another from Chicago. It's very national. As far as when John and Carrie and I were talking, I don't remember it being very Portland-specific. It was much more broad than that. And John's got a ton of filmmaker friends who were trying to get projects started. He's from LA.
Kickstarter: How did Portlandia come together? Was it a labor of love that you and Carrie came up with that found its way to IFC?
Fred: Yeah that's probably the best description of it. When we first started it we didn't do it for anybody but ourselves. We just made these videos and had someone to edit it. We had no marketing plan. We had nothing. We just wanted to do it. We just kept making them until eventually we were like, "I guess we could pitch it as a TV show." But even though we're fairly ambitious people we certainly didn't think this is our grand plan for getting a TV show. It just built itself up and gained momentum. We feel pretty lucky that it just started off with us just spending our time making something.
Kickstarter: Last question: what projects would the Women & Women First bookstore launch on Kickstarter?
Fred: Women & Women First would be so reliant on Kickstarter that every day they would have a different project. So instead of consolidating and making one thing for the store, it would be like, "Today we're going to start a Kickstarter project for our printer." "Today we're going to start a Kickstarter project for our bookshelves which need reorganizing." "Today we're gonna have a Kickstarter project for our front window." Everyday would be a new one.
Kickstarter: Haha, excellent. Thanks for your time. It's nice to talk to you, and of course we're all big fans.
Fred: Likewise and congratulations!