By Victoria Roxanne Hill
Artist: Fred Armisen
Show: Fred Armisen: Standup For Drummers
Release Date: February 6, 2018
Standup comedians often have vague or completely irrelevant titles in relation to the content of their shows. When I originally watched John Mulaney’s “Comeback Kid” I was just waiting to see what his big comeback story was, but I wasn’t satisfied until nearly the very end of the special. I was in for a big surprise when I watched Fred Armisen’s latest work. When I first saw the title of the Netflix special, Fred Armisen: Standup For Drummers, I chalked it up to him coming up with an odd and quirky inside joke. I was sorely mistaken. At the beginning of any standup for Netflix there is a little pre scene and it’s usually just a preview for the title of show. In Armisen’s standup, people are shown drumming for the bouncer in order to even be let in the venue.
The vast majority of people who are familiar with the name Fred Armisen know him as a comedian. He is arguably most famous for his satirical portrayal of celebrities on SNL. In 2011, he and Carrie Brownstein amplified their skills of stereotyping individuals in Portlandia. This standup special is no different. Armisen goes from imitating what it’s like waiting in line, to what a decomposing fox looks like.
Musicians make some interesting stylistic choices. These choices are sometimes subtle, but sometimes they are the only thing you can think of when you watch them perform. Around 30 minutes into the show, Fred goes over to one of the drum kits and starts doing impersonations of well known drummers. He started off with Ringo Starr and anyone who has seen a video of Ringo drumming might get the two confused. A personal favorite of mine, partially because of my middle name, was his impersonation of Stewart Copeland. The Police have a very distinct sound and while a majority of that can be contributed to Sting’s unique vocals, the drumming style plays a big part. Even if you are not familiar with the name Stewart Copeland as a drummer, if you have ever listened to The Police, you could listen to Armisen’s impersonation and piece together that he was impersonating Copeland. Armisen skillfully and without a beat distorts his entire body to impersonate people.
A large amount of the content in the show is centered around drumming. Now, if you’re not a drummer, don’t fret, as there’s something for everyone here. One of my favorite bits from the show was when he went over to a map of the U.S. to do his impersonation of people from specific locations. Certain regions are famous for their coined phrases. Texans are infamous for throwing around the word “y’all” far too frequently. A chunk of my family is from the Ohio/Pittsburgh area and their less well-known phrase for a group of people is “yinz.” I was rolling on the floor laughing when I heard Fred say “Yinz go to Pittsburgh?” and immediately sent out a blast to my family group message. His impersonations are top notch. That is one of the main reasons I followed his work in Portlandia and Documentary Now.
Toward the end of the show special guests Tré Cool, Stella Mozgawa and Thomas Lang come on one by one. At the end, they all come back out together and simultaneously start drumming the same beat. Each drummer then performed the beat with their own personal flair. It was so interesting to see them synchronized precisely and then show their individual take on how to make the same beat sound unique.
While many people only know him for his work as a comedian, there is so much more to Fred Armisen. He is a writer, producer, musician and an all around funny guy. If you want to learn a little more about his career and early life, you can get a quick glance at where his passion for creating began. Anyone who has followed his comedic career and likes his subtle humor will love this show. The same goes for musicians who need a good laugh at themselves for a minute.
Featured image via Netflix.