Fred Armisen: Comedy for Musicians (but Everyone is Welcome)
Posted on: 2023-11-29
Forget Comedy for Musicians - this is comedy for everyone
You might know Fred Armisen as a cast member on SNL, or for his work on the sketch show Portlandia – you may know him as Raul on Parks and Rec, or...well, the list is long. 159 credits long, actually. But what Armisen’s beloved character comedy hides is the side of him he showed off at Strange Brew this Wednesday – a hilarious, friendly, musical savant.
Comedy for Musicians (But Everyone is Welcome) is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – a mix of comedic musing and musical vignettes. This is definitely primarily a comedy show though, not a gig.
Despite this, Armisen was preceded by friend and fellow musician Annie Hart for a performance that was entirely musical. Her sparse electronica and spacey vocals felt like they might be more at home on a recorded track to my ears, and the warm-up of traditional gig into Armisen’s more hybrid show was strangely offputting.
Nonetheless, Hart’s relaxed charm and crowd patter did provide a good transition into Armisen’s show – which had the intimate of living-room charm of spending time with that one friend who seems to be talented, intelligent and funny, but above all humble and kind. You know the one.
The magical thing about Armisen’s comedy is the juxtaposition between his understated performance and the crowd’s raucous laughter. An early bit sees Armisen doing his impression of standing in line for a rollercoaster – contrasting the boredom with the thundering music that tend to accompany such queues. He essentially just stood there looking bored – but his minute facial expressions and little touches had us howling.
He, of course, eventually picked up a few instruments, and the show became a pleasing mix of observations on music and demonstrations of Armisen’s wide array of talents – with cerebral comedy disarming you in anticipation of some exceedingly silly and simple jokes.
Armisen did play a few of his songs from SNL and Documentary Now! - with the latter including a seemingly jokeless (?) parody of Californian soft rock that didn’t quite land for me, and a Talking Heads parody that, as far as I could tell, sounded nothing like Talking Heads. The SNL songs (Fistfight in the Parking Lot and “the only pro-Thatcher punk song”) worked a bit better – perhaps because the simpler central jokes required less context.
The relaxed, intimate nature of the show was refreshing, and created a real feeling of spontaneity and uniqueness – it felt like Armisen was pulling from a wide array of bits, and it’s unlikely the show is exactly the same on any given tour date. Arguably, this made for one of the show’s only pitfalls, too – the rambling, musing nature of the show meant it lacked any kind of central thesis or throughline. Armisen’s thematic masterpiece, this is not.
Regardless, if you’re looking for a warm, welcoming, and unfailingly funny show (regardless of your knowledge of music, America, or anything else) – then give Fred Armisen some of your time. I’d suggest he truncate the name of the show though – this is Comedy for Everyone.
Patrick is a filmmaker with so much Bristol in his blood the white blood cells are graffiti'd. Educated at the Northern Film School in Leeds, he’s returned home to be a Videographer and Reviewer for 365Bristol and BARBI. When he’s not messing about with cameras, he enjoys playing guitar, spending far too much time on tabletop RPGs, and being an awful snob about cider. Have a look at his work here, or get in touch at email@example.com.