Portlandia: We Put Birds on Things Portlandia: We Put Birds on Things
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Portlandia: We Put Birds on Things

by Taylor Clark

January 22, 2011


When the media flier for the Portland premiere of IFC’s new sketch comedy show Portlandia promised red carpet arrivals with “celebrity guests,” I’ll admit that I felt a twinge of giddy curiosity at the thought of Tinseltown glitz descending momentarily upon our drizzly city. Real celebrities? In Portland? The idea boggled the mind. So when I arrived outside the charmingly dilapidated Hollywood Theater on Friday evening and found no red carpet in sight, I assumed I’d missed the glamorous festivities. It was only after I waded through the tide of thrilled indie-chic Portlanders and ventured to the media room that I realized my mistake. In this case, “red carpet” referred to the actual worn carpeting of the room  where local media members huddled excitedly around Carrie Brownstein, one of the show’s two stars and the only celebrity present.

At least in Portlandia’s first two episodes, all of this makes for very funny television, and Armisen and Brownstein show an improbably solid chemistry throughout. (We knew Armisen was funny, but the fact that Brownstein, who came to prominence in the not-exactly-humorous punk band Sleater-Kinney, also has legitimate comic chops comes as a pleasant surprise.) What remains to be seen, however, is just how amusing Portlandia will be to those who don’t actually live here. Sure, all of the recognizable Portland stereotypes are on hand—the bike-riding mayor, the feminist bookstores, the pathological fixation on locally grown food—but the show’s cupboard may be overstocked with inside jokes as well. The audience laughed riotously at "We Put Birds on Things," the second episode of sketches featuring a motorist-abusing bike messenger and a television duo who specialize in stenciling birds on every kind of consumer product imaginable, yet for those who haven’t witnessed Portland’s belligerent cyclists and bird-obsessed indie crafters firsthand, I’m not sure how funny these bits will be.

Not that Portlanders care whether you get it. I mean, you shout at drivers as you bike to your sustainable vegan body piercing classes, too, right? You don’t? What’s wrong with you?

Portlandia premieres on IFC on Friday, January 21st. Photos by Scott Green/IFC.

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Portlandia: We Put Birds on Things