TALK SHOW WITH HARPER SIMON | EPISODE 1
Fred Armisen Talks SNL, Portlandia & How John Waters Changed His Life
Fred Armisen is an Emmy Award-nominated writer, musician and actor known for his roles on Saturday Night Live and Portlandia. He is the current bandleader for Late Night with Seth Myers.
During the launch of Lip TV’s Talk Show with Harper Simon, comedian/actor/ musician Fred Armisen opens up about everything from the Saturday Night Live set, to working with smoking-hot Portlandia co-star Carrie Brownstein, to reaching out to filmmaker John Waters as a lonely teen.
At the beginning of the interview, Harper asks his friend Fred the question he said many people might be posing themselves – who is the real Fred Armisen?
“Usually the most realist me is when I wake up and have coffee and granola with rice milk and blueberries – and that’s like when I’m the most… not doing bits, or I’m not goofing off, I’m just kind of very much myself.”
Fred – who splits his time between Portland, Los Angeles and New York – said he also finds relaxation and solace in driving and often comes up with creative ideas in the car. “Driving is very much the real me. Because you know you kind of lose yourself, you kind of forget yourself a little bit, and you think the whole time.”
He describes his drive time as one of his favorite moment’s of the day. “It’s a good bubble of alone time.
Despite commenting that he doesn’t “travel much on ironic roads,” Fred playfully goes along with Harper’s attempt to get him to spill dirt on his experiences at the iconic late-night sketch comedy show SNL.
“There was a lot of physical fighting. There was not a day that I didn’t go in where… people would mug you in the hall,” Fred replies, completely deadpan. “A lot of punching, the elevators didn’t work, so we had to climb up the elevator shaft, which was humiliating.
“The Today show… we shared the same writers rooms… a lot of arguing in there. There were a lot of floods – a lot of floods, just from the piping. It was weird, it was from the piping of some swimming pool show they tried to do up on the top floor.”
But then he let his true feelings flow about his many years at SNL. “No, I loved it. I knew when I got the job it was going to be the best thing ever and it was. And I loved it and I made some really close friends – lifelong friends. God I just loved every minute of it.
He notes that even once cast members left the show, they almost always find their way back to visit, sometimes again and again and again. “All the other ex-cast members, we always come back and do something else… we’re always there – no one ever really leaves.”
Fred tells an amazing story about discovering and becoming fascinated with groundbreaking comic filmmaker John Waters as a teenager after being sent to the school psychologist for writing an essay that teachers considered disturbing.
He said he felt isolated and alone as he was being evaluated for his behavior, but around that same time, he heard John Waters being interviewed on the radio. “And John Waters was talking about his book Shock Value and he was like, ‘I’m a filmmaker and I go around the world and I shock people and I’ve got these crazy movies.’ And I thought, who is this guy?”
He said he was a freak when he was a kid, and Fred sayd, “I’m like, he’s talking about somebody like me.”
So he bought Waters’ book and read that when the filmmaker was in New York he stayed with his underground actress Cookie Mueller. So he looked her up and she gave him Waters’ address.
“I wanna make things, I wanna make films, I wanna do what you do, I wanna be shocking,” he wrote Waters in a letter. “How come I get sent to the school psychologist and you’re famous and you travel throughout Europe.
He recited Waters’ response: “Dear Freddy, thanks for your enjoyable and funny letter. I guess the difference is that they don’t drag me to the psychiatrist because I’ve been making films for a long time and you just started. Just don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it and just keep plugging away. I do hope you can take over my pukedom, just remember to keep it funny, because it’s simple to just be disgusting, but not so original.”
When asked whether he launched his popular comedy series Portlandia to “get into (co-star) Carrie Brownstein’s pants,” Fred responds, “Yeah, I mean if you think about it… you know you can overcomplicate it and go, we had this intellectual connection and all of that, but c’mon, look at her.” He added: “Did I succeed, no. But I got a show out of it.”
He also talks about his fascination with punk rock throughout his life and how this influence found its way into his career, plus he talks about his frequent on-screen crossdressing.