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An Interview with Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen

The stars of Portlandia on doing small things that matter

Portlandia’s Portland both is and is not the same as the city in Oregon: It’s at once smaller and larger, and some of its choicest gags can ricochet back to make the real-life city seem like a parody of itself. The IFC sketch comedy show is the brainchild of guitarist Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and comedian Fred Armisen of Saturday Night Live. Since 2011, their Emmy-nominated show has poked goofy, well-honed fun at the self-righteous habits and precious quirks of its title town—and, by extension, of every city where people try to live a hip, conscious, yoga-and-almond-milk kind of life.

Was there a sharper critique at work? It certainly could feel that way. “The dream of the ‘90s is alive in Portland,” a chorus of zombie-like hipsters sang with an undead fervor in the series premiere, seeming to suggest that Portlandians of any city—especially the synth players, macchiato makers, and craft crackers of urban America—were lockstep anachronisms, full of outdated idealism.

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