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‘Portlandia’ the hysterical

Carrie Brownstein has always been funny, but it just wasn’t always that obvious.

Carrie Brownstein has always been funny, but it just wasn’t always that obvious.

“What, you don’t remember Sleater-Kinney as a joke band?” she asks, pretending to revise the perception of the indie rock trio she started in the ’90s. “I’m joking, but I do think that it was a misconception that we were humorless.”

If that actually was a widely held belief about the guitarist, her role alongside “SNL” wild card Fred Armisen in the new IFC show “Portlandia” may change that for good.

“Portlandia” consists of irreverent comedy sketches, loosely attached by the fact that the characters — mostly played by Armisen and Brownstein — all live in Portland, Ore. A few sample lines from a song in the premiere: “Portland’s almost like an alternative universe, like if Gore won! ... In Portland, you can put a bird on something and call it art!”

“There’s so much about ‘Portlandia’ that is unusual,” says Brownstein. “It’s filmed in Portland, where I live, and I got to do the show with a close friend of mine. So in some ways the process has been so organic that it does mirror a lot of my experiences in music.”

Music is the root of many of the show’s biggest laughs. In one sketch, the pair leave each other voice messages, calling from increasingly inappropriate locations, when they get ideas for a song they’re writing.

The show doesn’t follow a strict script, a process which Brownstein was able to adapt to easily, since her band also embraced improvisation. But she says that doesn’t mean she’s an improv comedy pro yet: “There are things that are just so surprising and weird and messed up that you can’t help but laugh.”

 
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