Fully immerse yourself in the strange and wonderful world of Portlandia, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s sketch comedy show, with these 15 little-known facts.
1. The show is shot entirely on location in Portland, Oregon.
And most of the extras used on the show are local actors. Co-creator, co-writer, and co-star Carrie Brownstein is also a resident of Portland.
2. The name of the show is more than a play on “Portland.”
Portlandia is also the name of a statue by sculptor Raymond Kaskey that is located outside the Portland Building in the city’s downtown area. You can see the statue—the country’s second-largest copper repoussé sculpture (behind the Statue of Liberty)—in the show’s opening credit sequence.
3. Many of the show’s characters are based on real Portland locals.
For example, costume designer Amanda Needham based Peter (of Peter and Nance) on her father-in-law.
4. Before debuting Portlandia in 2011, Armisen and Brownstein teamed up for a series of web videos called ThunderAnt.
Some Portlandia bits, like feminist bookstore owners Toni and Candace, were taken directly from the web show.
5. The Women and Women First feminist bookstore sketches are shot at an actual feminist bookstore in Portland called In Other Words.
It is the only non-profit feminist bookstore in the country. The set designers left the store almost completely untouched for the show—with the exception of the books themselves. Since the show doesn’t have the rights to the store’s real books, production designer Tyler Robinson replaced them with fake books he created.
6. Portlandia is executive produced by Saturday Night Live creator and producer Lorne Michaels.
Armisen and Brownstein pitched the idea for Portlandia to Michaels while Armisen was still an SNL cast member, and Michaels greenlit the show in 2010. Armisen would eventually leave SNL in 2013.
7. As of Portlandia’s fourth season, nine current and former SNL cast members (not including Armisen) have appeared on the show.
Ten if you include actor George Wendt, who made cameo appearances on SNL in the early 1990s. They are: Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg, Bobby Moynihan, Mike O’Brien, Bill Hader, Vanessa Bayer, Jay Pharoah, and Maya Rudolph.
8. Portlandia won a Peabody Award in 2012.
Considered the “Pulitzer Prize for radio” when it was founded in 1940, the Peabody Awards have grown to recognize excellence in a wide range of electronic media, from radio, to television, to original web content. According to the 16-member Peabody Board, which gives out the awards, Portlandia “was recognized for the freshness and amiability of its send-ups of Oregon’s trendy city.” It also won an Emmy in 2013 for Outstanding Costumes for a Variety Program or Special.
9. Sam Adams, the former mayor of Portland, appeared in four episodes of the show.
While he was the actual mayor of Portland at the time, Adams played the assistant to actor Kyle MacLachlan’s unnamed mayor. The show also shoots its city hall scenes in the actual Portland City Hall and MacLachlan used Adams’s actual bicycle in many of his scenes.
10. Carrie and Fred’s onscreen relationship was inspired by Sesame Street.
It was based on that of another famously ambiguous twosome: Bert and Ernie.
11. Portlandia is full of cameos by musicians.
They include: Aimee Mann, Sarah McLachlan, k.d. lang, The Decemberists’ Jenny Conlee and Colin Meloy, James Mercer from The Shins and Broken Bells, Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney, Rebecca Cole of Wild Flag, Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam, Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse, St. Vincent, Robin Pecknold from Fleet Foxes, Joanna Newsom, Johnny Marr, Jack White, Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, No Doubt, J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr., Dirty Projectors, Tunde Adebimpe from TV on the Radio, Jello Biafra from Dead Kennedys, Duff McKagan from Guns N’ Roses, Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth, Jeff Tweedy from Wilco, Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, and Michael Nesmith from The Monkees.
12. To date, co-creator and writer Jonathan Krisel has directed every single episode of Portlandia.
You may recognize Krisel’s offbeat humor from other shows he worked on like Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Kroll Show. Krisel was also a writer for Saturday Night Live for one season in 2011.
13. Kumail Nanjiani, who appears in nine episodes, writes his own dialogue.
The writers give him his character’s scenarios and he makes the rest up.
14. Portlandia is Jerry Seinfeld’s favorite comedy.
He said in a 2014 interview with Vulture, “I think that’s the best comedy on TV right now, and it’s easily one of the best comedies of all time.”
15. Background extra Jedediah Aaker is allegedly in more episodes of the show than any other actor (aside from Carrie and Fred).
He’s the heavily tattooed guy with the huge beard who pops up as a side character. Aaker—a non-actor and Portland native—is a bartender and a founding member of a beard appreciation society called The Portland Beardsmen.