Protecting ‘Portlandia’: Carrie Brownstein & Fred Armisen talk season 4

Mess with "Portlandia" and you may end up on the wrong side of a rake.
Mess with “Portlandia” and you may end up on the wrong side of a rake.

Over the past three seasons of “Portlandia,” Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein and director Jonathan Krisel have perfected a revolutionary recipe that marries music and comedy with utter absurdity. The fourth season, which premieres next Thursday, furthers their cause, especially with a sketch called “The Celery Incident,” which went live online earlier this week.

In the sketch, Steve Buscemi plays a sales representative for celery, desperately trying to compete against other vegetable salesmen who have had recent fantastical, unlikely success with veggies like kale and Brussels sprouts.

“I think ‘Celery’ embodies — even though it’s more genre-specific than some of our other sketches — I think it really embodies the traits of the show that I think are the most successful,” says Brownstein, “which is taking a relatable, sometimes timely premise and veering into the absurd, and then hopefully veering even more into surreality, and then somewhere at the heart of this, having some relatable characters that are suffering through genuine and authentic relationship issues.”

Just because they use familiar ingredients for their recipe doesn’t mean the show is formulaic. Yes, you will see a lot of the characters you’ve seen in the previous three seasons, but in preposterous situations: Candace and Toni, the owners of Women and Women First bookstore, host a carwash fundraiser; Lance and Nina — Brownstein and Armisen’s gender-swapping couple — find themselves in conflict with Jeff Goldblum’s mattress salesman over a certain claim he has made that casts everything Lance stands for into doubt.

“We’ll have pictures of the characters on a bulletin board and we’ll have an idea for something,” says Armisen, “and then we kind of shift the idea to each character, like, ‘I wonder if they would be good for this?’ And then eventually it will just resonate right away, and you’ll know it’s perfect for a set of characters.”

“‘Portlandia.’ That’s what I do.”

With such a winning formula, it’s understandable that the “Portlandia” peeps would be protective of what they’ve created.

“We have worked for four seasons to make this world that feels a little bit specific and strange and hyper-real,” says Brownstein. “So we try and keep that world magic and special, but of course in the meantime we have had people from ‘SNL’ and friends on. There’s definitely an open-door policy, as long as it feels germane and doesn’t feel conspicuous to have things cross over.”

We’d be remiss not asking Armisen if he thought there would be any crossover with his new role as bandleader for “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” which also premieres next week (Monday night on NBC), but when it comes to inheriting Questlove’s seat, he suddenly turns even more protective.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he says, shifting the tone of the conversation into uncomfortable territory. “That’s something for my friend Seth and it’s fun and I don’t want to talk about it because this is about ‘Portlandia’ and Carrie is on the other line.”

He will allow, however, that he’s going to be able to take time off to work on “Portlandia.”

“It will be perfect,” he says, with a little less attitude. “My focus is ‘Portlandia.’ That’s what I do.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Gunther from 'Friends' talks Central Perk

We spoke with Gunther (James Michael Tyler) at the preview for new pop-up Central Perk, based on the cafe in "Friends."

Local

Central Perk opens in SoHo

Central Perk, of "Friends" fame, is giving out free coffee in SoHo through Oct. 18.

National

Beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch reproaches NFL over domestic abuse

Anheuser-Busch chastised the NFL for its handling of domestic violence cases, making it the first major advertiser to put pressure on the league.

Local

Sen. Krueger dishes on prospect of legal marijuana…

New Yorkers may see the legalization of recreational marijuana use as early as 2015 if State Senator Liz Krueger (D) gets her way. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act will…

Music

FREEMAN makes Freeman a free man from Ween

For nearly 30 years, Aaron Freeman was known endearingly to his listeners as Gene Ween. But with "FREEMAN," he makes it clear that he's gone somewhere else.

Television

'Outlander' recap: Season 1, Episode 6: 'The Garrison…

Whipping, punching, kicking and a marriage contract. "Outlander" is not for the faint of heart this week with "The Garrison Commander."

The Word

The Word: Hey girl, it's a girl for…

It's a girl for Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, who reportedly welcomed a daughter last Friday, according to Us Weekly. The super-private couple managed to…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, Sept. 16: 'New Girl,'…

Check out the season premiere of "New Girl," as Jess competes with Jessica Biel for a guy's attentions.

MLB

5 top contenders for NL Rookie of the…

The outing rekindled award talk for deGrom, who appears to hold the top spot for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Metro breaks down a few other contenders.

College

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

NFL

Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.

NFL

Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.

Style

Rachel Zoe: New York Fashion Week Spring 15

Rachel Zoe goes 'Glam bohemia' for Spring.

Food

Where to find SweeTango apples

Introduced in 2009, SweeTango — a hybrid of Honeycrisp and Zestar — is a sweet apple with plenty of crunch.

Style

London Fashion Week recap

London Fashion week gets in on the action with politics, heritage and summertime living.

Food

Padma Lakshmi's recipe for green mango curry

Padma Lakshmi shares her recipe for green mango curry in UNICEF's new book, "UNICHEF."