Easter turned out to be a very nice day. I’ve just walked around my Seattle neighborhood of Fremont to surmise the current situation, take the pulse of the zeitgeist, and just get some fresh air. There’s a flyer I’ve seen a number of times and I thought I’d share it with you. Apparently, there’s this neighborhood cat, Grey, who loves to take strolls and just wander about. But he keeps getting picked up by well-intentioned people who turn him in to the local shelter! I had friends who were constantly compelled to pick up neighborhood pets they were certain they were lost only to find out that these pets were simply doing their own thing, not lost at all. Anyhow, as the above flyer makes clear, Grey, and his owner, have been dealing with this for quite some time and so a flyer went up pleading with people to just leave well enough alone. Here his Grey’s message in its entirety:
Category Archives: Portlandia
In the cartoonist circles I’m in, it seemed like it was always a given that “The Simpsons” came from Portland or thereabouts. Matt Groening and Linda Barry have Portland connections, as do so many other cartoonists, and that was always good enough for me. And now it’s official, the Springfield location in the animated series is Portland–well, close enough. Here are the details via UPI. I think it’s just a matter of time before Homer Simpson makes an appearance on “Portlandia” given that there’s a similar subversive vibe going on between the two.
For a television show to win a Peabody Award has carried considerable prestige over the years. Now, we can add “Portlandia” to that list of what has been determined to be quality content by those who should know.
What follows is the entire list of winners for this year’s Peabody Awards:
“PORTLANDIA” has wrapped up its second season and I’m convinced that this show will go down as one of the great original American television comedies. Even with all the local references, or because of them, I can easily see this show as a successful import into Canada and even the UK. Ah, just like that annoyingly quaint catchphrase goes, “Think local. Act global.” Or is it, “Think global. Act local?” Whatever. You know, it might be fun to see the creative team for this show come up with some sketches of what “Portlandia” would be like in other countries. Being neurotic is a pretty universal thing.
The idea of being overly civilized, overly self-aware, overly progressive is a hilarious but sad truth for too many of us. If you’re reading this, trust me, you are as much a part of the problem and anyone else! This is your Portlandia as much as it is mine. But, hang in there, because you’re in for a lot of good laughs too. Thanks to the internet, thanks to “Portlandia,” we can laugh and cry like we’ve never laughed and cried before. But, seriously, many thanks to what’s become the comedy team of Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen and to the show’s co-creator and director, Jonathan Krisel. And the rest of the writing team which includes Kasey Dornetto and Bill Oakley, a veteran of another great American original, “The Simpsons.”
There’s this one modest sketch that sticks with me, among so many to choose from this season, with Armisen dressed up like a dignified older gentleman. Maybe it’s a costume or he’s just a little bit steampunk. He takes this canoe out onto the water and there’s an audience by the bank looking very proper and politely applauding. Armisen then goes on to do an interpretive dance to the beat of Erasure’s “Oh L’amour.” It seems like a sendup to every earnest civic activity you’ve ever been to. But it’s more than that! IFC provides you with all the benind-the-scenes stuff you could want on this show including what sparked this particular skit.
“Portlandia” is, at its heart, sketch comedy and sketch comedy today still owes much to the anti-humor movement of the ’70s led by such comedy greats as Steve Martin and Andy Kaufman. The idea then, and today, being to “push the envelope,” try the patience of the audience. But the saving grace is that, when done well, this comedy sparkles. If the timing is off, if the actors are not fully committed, the whole thing will fall apart. On “Portlandia” things get pushed around quite a bit, thrown in the air, and usually come in for a safe landing.
And it’s much easier said than done! I present as evidence all the dismal and horrid “humorous” commercials for Pemco Insurance that “poke fun” at the Northwest locals. It’s been a series of “profiles” for years with stuff like “Profile #52: Socks With Sandals Guy.” It seems like corporate “humor” feels compelled to severely hold back and not really be funny. In fact, it disrespects the very thing it claims to want to be and that’s to be funny. To actually be funny would simply be too subversive! Thankfully, that is not an issue for the talent behind “Portlandia.”
Anyway, “Portlandia” ends its second season with a wonderful extended sketch, “Brunch Village.” It brings back to mind the gold the writers struck earlier with “One Moore Episode” where a neurotic couple become obsessed with the television series, “Battlestar Gallactica.” This time out, the obsession is the Sunday ritual of waiting in line for brunch. I can attest to this madness here in Seattle. For some reason, we’ve convinced ourselves that the long wait while we sip coffee and ponder the variations on pancakes and eggs on the menu, and finally the actual meal in a crowded restaurant, is one of the ultimate treats that we can give ourselves. In this episode, the wait may last all day. The line goes on forever. Ed Begley, Jr. plays a competing restaurant owner trying to lure in customers with severely marked down specials. And Armisen and Brownstein play a hapless couple who must learn the hard way about brunch line etiquette from a demonic etiquette overlord, played by Tim Robbins. It makes no sense and it makes perfect sense. Welcome to Portlandia, you’re already home.
“PORTLANDIA,” that quirky show about Portland on IFC, as Portland natives might call it, continues to do very well. It has got to be a challenge to step into Season 2 of any show, especially one that suddenly had people talking who are now all too ready to expect the unexpected. When you have folks happily repeating lines from the show (“Portland, that’s where young people go to retire!”) you’ve got something special. It is sort of like what happened with “Seinfeld” although on a much more low-key level. I mean, that’s like comparing New York City to Portland, Oregon, don’t you think? Very different and yet both sharing a similar urbane and neurotic vibe. On “Portlandia,” the natives seem very mellow but they suffer from an excessive need to be in the know and be right mixed with an excessive need to be polite and sensitive. All this adds up to the stereotypical, although pretty real, passive-agressive “charm” of the Pacific Northwest. Season 1 had the element of surprise in dissecting this charm. Season 2 gets to further refine the show’s vision.
The marketing behind this season has picked up on “relationships” as being the overarching theme. But, at the end of the day, the biggest theme is what gave this show legs in the first place: human excess. The fact that the show is set in a hipsterdom like Portland just makes things all the better. And here’s the thing that can confuse some people. This show is not about hating Portland by any means. Look, I love the show and I also love Portland. I’m from Seattle. I’m liberal. I’m creative. I’m just one step away from stepping out of an episode of the show. But I don’t care for the Pacific Northwest “charm.” So, if you’re too close to the “Portlandia” lifestyle, that’s one reason you may fail to understand the show. Another reason is this thing about humor. This show has its particular sense of humor. If you were to just jump in, you may not get the show unless you’re already a fan of sketch comedy. Of course, people can find endless reasons not to get something. That’s a big point of this show!
Looking at the last three episodes, I have to admit, the relationship theme is there. It’s always been there in the sense that the show is inextricably linked to Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen’s collaborative work. But there seems to be more of a focus on it. The first episode, “Mixologist,” had Carrie swooning over a bartender who made the most amazing drinks. The most recent episode, “Cool Wedding,” had the annoyingly self-righteous bicycle messenger getting married. There was also a hilarious sketch with Carrie dating Eddie Vedder. Maybe, with the second season, it’s time to refine the show’s course. That said, its absurdist satire is still intact. There’s that little gem of a sketch with Jeff Goldblum, the owner of a gallery that sells knots made by local artists. There’s a very cool and artful bit with Carrie as an enamored owner of an iPhone. Of course, we have the new catchphrase for this season: “I can pickle that!” which replaces last season’s “Put a bird on it!” And “A-O River!” might prove the replacement for “Cacao.” Oh, and then there’s the postman with a sinister connection to the classic film, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” And this is only three episodes in. What is not to like, really?
Arguably the best segment yet, has Carrie and Fred as a couple who happen to fall into watching a DVD of the first season of “Battlestar Gallactica” only to find themselves so absorbed by the show that they can’t do anything else but watch season after season, destroying their lives in the process. But then it goes one step further and then another. I will only tell you that it is utterly hilarious.
So, even if you don’t think sketch comedy is quite for you, you’ll likely enjoy this show. Or maybe you find yourself being that person who chastises others when they forget to bring their own bag to the grocery store. Well, give the show a try. Or maybe you are one of those people who demands, in a very polite way, for the other driver to go ahead at a four way stop. Hey, live a little. Give the show a try.