15 Spot-On Hipster Parodies From 'Portlandia'
Season five of Portlandia debuts tonight on IFC. In anticipation of the pitch-perfect Portland parody program's return, we've rounded up the show's 15 best sketches that skewer hipster life in all its glorious facets. Some feature indie all-stars, some feature obscure music references, and all of them hit too close to home.
Joanna Newsom and the Small Hatchback
Joanna Newsom is married to Andy Samberg, but he's not the only one in the household with some sketch comedy skills. The harp master appeared in this one, which starts off like a heartwarming hippie jam circle car commercial (including Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold). But things turn sinister when Armisen's character tries to crunch Newsom's harp into his tiny hatchback trunk, demonstrating that the instrument isn't the most practical travel accessory.
Jenny Conlee of Portland's own Decemberists guests as Sparklepony, a shy songwriter who thinks she's playing a SXSW-style Portland fest. Unfriendly club personnel shoo her away until one directs her to a venue called Alaska, which turns out to be the state of Alaska. But her enchanted pony dreams guide her to a happy ending.
Fred and Carrie form a keys-and-guitar band called CatNap, which eventually becomes Catnapped, with crazed superfan Gathy (Kristen Wiig) playing the gun. A Pitchfork writer declares it "transcends music on literally every single level," and a bunch of hoodie-clad music writers clear out their desks.
While the seemingly infinite event invites for friends' and frenemies' DJ nights appears to have waned since "DJ Night" aired in Jan. 2012, the phenomenon of everyone you know getting free drinks from a shitty bar to play songs off their phones is still well-extant. (Just click decline, unless it's from a really super cool person).
The Studio Geek
A sketch only Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, with their encyclopedic knowledge of popular and unpopular music, could conceive of. If you're a music nerd who runs in musician circles, you've met a variation of Armisen's cardigan-and-Garfunkel character, who's all gear and no heart.
It's not a misplaced feeling in your gut -- everything really is totally over. Your subculture is a subreddit, accessible to all. You're not a /r/snowflake. Stop whining about it and make some macaroni art.
Siouxsie Sioux (Sucksy Sucks)
At the other end of the subculture spectrum from "OVER" is Chloe Sevigny's recurring Portlandia character, a sort of innocently hypersexual cultural tourist who invests in nothing and enjoys literally everything. You know, sucksy sucks.
Lucky Seven Punk House
"Look what the government dragged in!" For those who haven't had the pleasure of spending many, many evenings inside a punk house, take our word: it's exactly this.
Preschool Music Library Controversy
Overeducated parents take their children's preschool teacher to task for exposing their kids to mediocre pop music (of course, they use the word "pabulum") and not knowing the Clash's early albums. After railing against the preschool's music library, Carrie Brownstein shouts, "I am getting very stressed out that the head of our school does not know about Neu!" It's a sketch music snobs can laugh at while feeling some shame in knowing how close this hits. (Catch the Isaac Brock cameo at the end.)
Prairie Home Companion Tailgate
An episode-length sketch of grey-haired NPR listeners trying to loosen up and get wild while tailgating at a Garrison Keillor radio show is essentially a harrowing warning to today's twentysomething hipsters -- this is your future.
Fred Doesn't Know Anything About Hip-Hop
"I think I missed hip-hop." After Fred Armisen's admission, Carrie Brownstein gives him a crash in hip-hop history. It takes a while -- Armisen guesses Wu-Tang Clan's ODB is an acronym for "Old Dirty Blackman" -- but he gets it in time to impress Jay Z with his knowledge at a concert. Like the best Portlandia sketches, this works because it's awkwardly true. Everyone knows the Pitchfork acolyte who can analyze Grizzly Bear at length but couldn't name a single Lil Wayne song.
Dream of the '90s
Portlandia set the tone for the series with this early season one sketch. Over an Auto-Tuned techno beat, Fred, Carrie and a host of hippie troubadours sing about their beloved city keeping the Generation X vibes strong. Wanna sleep 'til 1? Study to be a clown? Pretend the Bush administration never happened? No problem. Just don't show up with any San Francisco-looking piercings.
Fred and Carrie play a schoolteacher couple who are at a Portland vegan restaurant for the first time. They mispronounce "quinoa," but really enjoy their meals… whatever was in them. And for more than one reason, they can't seem to forget it long after they've finished eating.
Battle of the Gentle Bands
With guest stars J. Mascis and Dirty Projectors, Porlandia lovingly skewers the tendency of certain indie bands to get quieter and more esoteric with each passing year. Fittingly, the winning act is just a woman blowing on a row of feathers.
Fun Fact: This sketch is barely an exaggeration, given that Portland is host to an annual Quiet Music Festival every year. Portlandia is looking less like a comedy and more like a documentary.
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People's tendency to stretch the truth (or outright lie) to impress a date is sent up when Kumail Nanjiani puts Fred Armisen through the ringer with a rigorous post-date fact check. And because Portlandia is all about hipster culture, Fred Armisen plays a character that lied about being buds with TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimbe -- who stops by in the flesh to assure Armisen they are not friends.