Interview: Carrie Brownstein On ‘Portlandia’ As An Excuse To Goof Around With Friends

Crushable just may boast an office full of the biggest Portlandia fans on the planet. We’re all totally enamored with the hilarious IFC sketch show, often quoting “put a bird on it” when we want to make fun of the yuppy/hipster element that wanders amidst our city (meaning: whenever we want to make fun of ourselves — a subject that’s touched upon in this interview). The season finale of our new favorite show airs tonight (six episodes were not enough!), and we had the opportunity to chat with Carrie Brownstein, one half of the Portlandia team.

Carrie co-created and co-stars in the show along with Fred Armisen, SNL Obama-impersonator extraordinaire. She got her start as the guitarist for the seminal riot grrrl band Sleater-Kinney, and continues to play music with her new band Wild Flag, with whom she’s about to set sail on a tour of the Eastern seaboard. Several years ago, she and Fred started the sketch group ThunderAnt, which was the basis of Portlandia. About creating the very first ThunderAnt sketch videos, Carrie told us:

“There was no goal other than an excuse to hang out with each other. The original goal was just to have fun and make videos for our friends. The we realized that they did kind of have a sensibility to them and a cohesiveness.”

It isn’t surprising that the sketches took off, as it’s clear that Carrie and Fred make a terrific team. Carrie explained that the two have complimentary writing styles: when coming up with sketch ideas she tends to start with a funny premise and add characters, while Fred usually begins with relationships and builds context around them. One of our favorite Portlandia sketches involves singer/songwriter Aimee Mann working as a Portland housekeeper. Carrie revealed that the true-life inspiration from the sketch:

“I did have an experience not too unlike that. I don’t have a cleaning person anymore, but I used to have someone. It was this guy who’d come over, and he had this new assistant who was this woman who was band that I used to love. And I felt really bad because here I was, able to afford a cleaning person, and this woman in this great band was cleaning houses. So we took that and added absurdity, and we took it to a very Portlandia conclusion.”

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