Friday, January 06, 2012

Armisen and Brownstein

image of Armisen and Brownstein
The ardently platonic Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, photo by Gabriele Stabile for the New Yorker

I like thinking of Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen as the new Nichols & May of our time though this New Yorker piece on “Portlandia”, their largely improvised comedy program on IFC, never mentions it. Maybe there is no connection. The comedy is certainly different. Satire isn't new but this manner of maintaining a satirical edge with a balance of guile and affection is something rarer. Even stranger, these two comedian/musician/actor/writers are as hip as anyone they make fun of (probably hipper). Still, they manage to retain their own hipness. How? Anything goes in this topsy-turvy, insidey-outsidey world. It is more art than science, me thinks.
“...what Freud called the narcissism of small differences”
We can all recognize the unbearably hip, or as Elvis Costello sang, the tragically hip. It's more difficult to recognize your own excursion into hipster territory, accidental or affected. That's the geography Armisen & Brownstein negotiate so successfully. (See? Armisen & Brownstein. It's already catching on.) It's really well articulated by Talbot in this article as “...what Freud called the narcissism of small differences: the need to distinguish oneself by minute shadings and to insist, with outsized militancy, on the importance of those shadings.”. That's what makes the comedy universal. While Portland may be HQ for Pacific Northwest hipsters, it's the same narcissism of 19th century's Vanity Fair or of pointy toed shod dandys of London, or of a tuque-in-the-summer and heavily tattooed (or "inked") doofus of Queen Street West in Toronto. The penultimate expression of the show is the sketch where a chin-bearded fixie riding dude claims everything "is so over".

I laugh, despite seeing myself in some of that satire. If you can laugh at yourself, that would mean you have at least one redeeming quality, right?

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home