The Late Movies: Portlandia


Tonight: sketch comedy by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein about Portland, Oregon. As a longtime Portland resident, I can tell you that these videos are made with love and respect for the inherent contradictions of Portland's youth culture. Portland isn't so much a place as it is a state of mind -- a sort of blissed-out, shaggy-haired, "Wow, is is still raining?" kind of thing, that's equal parts ridiculous and wonderful. This is a place where a bumper sticker reading "Keep Portland Weird" is found on 25% of cars. We accept people who have a lack of ambition (and people who are ambitious about small things); we know it's sometimes ridiculous, and we love it.

Armisen and Brownstein launch their Portland-based sketch series Portlandia on IFC in January. Below is the first official clip from the show, plus some older sketches the duo made before signing the TV deal.

The Dream of the '90s is Alive in Portland

This has already become the official theme of Portland. I used to work two blocks from where this was shot -- it's a smallish town. I cannot tell you how many Portlanders love and agree with this.

Armisen: "Remember when people were content to be unambitious? To sleep till eleven, to just hang out with their friends? I mean they had no occupations whatsoever...maybe working a couple hours a week at a coffeeshop?" Brownstein: "Right. I thought that died out a long time ago." Armisen: "Not in Portland. Portland is a city where young people go to retire."

Portland Pet Haven

Armisen: "This is Sissalee. She's a Dachshund, she's fourteen years old, really active, and wants to live in a home with no children and no adults."

Feminist Bookstore

Brownstein: "I fire-walk in my bathroom sometimes, just when I get out of the shower...."

Feminist Bookstore Part 2

Brownstein: "I don't want to play anything that would be offensive to somebody, or make somebody feel like they're having sex." Also, secret neti pot reference.

The Perfect Song

Brownstein (who is, by the way, formerly of Sleater-Kinney): "So I was thinking on the sixth chorus we could do something like, 'la-da-da-da-da-da, if you'd walk with me in the rain, if you held my hand and didn't call my insane, I'd love you more, I'd take you to the grocery store.'"

Featuring a special appearance by Corin Tucker and Lance Bangs wearing an Electrelane tee-shirt. Now that's Portland.


Armisen: "I am full-on sick from the food at this place. I vomited so much that my doctor called me 'A New Era in Food Poisoning.'" Brownstein: "I feel like 'A New Era' in anything is a compliment, and that's what we're trying to do with Katchenza, so...."

This is Nice

A meditation on satisfaction, validation, and existential aloneness. Recommended for fans of Jim Jarmusch.


If you can handle a lot of anger over nothing, check out Closed. "I don't wanna feel like this anymore!" Most things in Portland are closed sometimes. It happens. It can be rough. My favorite YouTube comment: "I? really appreciate the anger involved."