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Fred Armisen: “England is endlessly beautiful. I still haven’t gotten over it

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fRed Armisen was born in Mississippi, grew up on Long Island, lives in Los Angeles and created a hit sketch show about Portland, but the 55-year-old comedian says there’s nowhere he’d rather spend his days than in the English countryside. “Any small town where the road is a little curvy, it’s all cobblestone and there’s a little white shop,” he says wistfully, speaking over a video call from a Manchester hotel room. “There is a boat nearby and a cafe. You can hear the sound of cars and people talking. It’s a little chilly. I have my jacket on. This is the perfect place. That’s where I want to be.”

By luck or design, Armisen has found plenty of reasons to isolate himself in his British happy place of late. He has just spent a week in Wales filming for the fourth season of Now documentary!, the mockumentary series he co-created with Fellow in 2015 Saturday night live Alumni Bill Hader and Seth Meyers. It was previously announced that the new run will feature a parody of the 1996 boxing documentary When we were kings called how they threw stones, about a fictional Welsh sport, but Armisen is keeping a low profile on how the production is going so far. “It’s so chaotic and things change so much,” he disagrees. “I want to wait until we’re done.”

What he can talk about is the bubble, Judd Apatow’s new pandemic-set Netflix comedy about the hardships of a group of high-profile actors who are forced to quarantine together while filming cliff beasts 6, the latest installment in a big-budget Hollywood franchise, packed with CGI flying dinosaurs. Loosely inspired by the devastating Covid restrictions that have reportedly played with the production of the forthcoming game Jurassic World: Dominion, The film’s cast includes Karen Gillan, David Duchovny, Leslie Mann and Pedro Pascal. It was filmed between February and April last year at Shepperton Studios in Surrey and at Cliveden House, a mansion on the Buckinghamshire-Berkshire border so magnificent the Beatles used it as a double for Buckingham Palace Help!.

As pleased as Armisen was to spend a few months familiarizing himself with a new corner of his beloved England, he says the novelty of making a film about a pandemic while one is still going on wore off pretty quickly. “I know that’s in every interview on every film, but there was so much protocol about getting tested and wearing masks,” he says. “Our drivers had masks and because we were wearing makeup we had these plastic shields over our faces and that’s what the film was about. It was so literal every day.”

Armisen as director Darren Eigan in The Bubble: “I was just trying to make him pretend to be in control and of course he’s drowning”

(Laura Radford/Netflix)

Armisen is great fun cliff beasts 6 Director Darren Eigan, a “visionary” hired to turn the multimillion-dollar juggernaut away from his previous work tiles of love, a Sundance-winning, iPhone-shot indie he made while working at Home Depot. The character’s backstory is based on the biographies of several real-life directors. Colin Trevorrow had made the low-budget sci-fi romcom Safety not guaranteed before being accused of rebooting the Jurassic Park franchise in 2015 Jurassic world and its later sequels. Likewise, Jordan Vogt-Roberts went straight away from the indie darling in 2013 The Kings of Summer to direct Monster Epic 2017 Kong: Skull Island. “That was Judd’s idea, because there’s always going to be a director who’s kind of thrown into a franchise,” says Armisen. “The long hair made him more of an indie guy, and he wore trendy t-shirts and little hipster sweaters. That was our way in. Then I just tried to make him into someone pretending to be in control and of course drowning.”

the bubble is Armisen’s first time directing Apatow, although he did have a small role in the Apatow-produced film anchorman as Tino, the club owner, who encourages Ron Burgundy on stage to show off his jazz flute skills. Since then they have remained friends and have met quite often. “What I really love about LA is that we’ve always been in the same circles,” says Armisen. “Sometimes we do stand-up in the same place. I always wanted the world to be like this. It feels like a ‘scene’ like you would have a music scene.”

Music was Armisen’s first love, which explains his deep-rooted Anglophilia. As teenagers on Long Island in the early 1980s, he and his friends became obsessed with the minutiae of British punk bands. “The Damned, the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Slits, the Stranglers and the Buzzcocks really shaped my thinking and my taste in music,” he says. “Me and my friends were staring at pictures of them and their gear, all the cables and stuff.” They wanted to know everything. “Where do you practice? Where is the rehearsal room? Does everyone know each other?” Armisen reels off. “I don’t know why we identified with these lyrics about London’s working class. Coming from middle class New York, we didn’t know anything about the stuff Paul Weller was singing about.”

Music easily supplanted comedy for young Armisen, although he always made time for it Saturday night live. Decades later, towards the end of his 11-year career as SNL Performer, his two passions came together in a memorable sketch that tells the story of Ian Rubbish and the Bizzaros, a fictional British punk band whose frontman had a surprising soft spot for Margaret Thatcher. The skit aired a week after Thatcher’s death in April 2013.

“Seth Meyers, knowing how much I love this music, came up with the concept,” Armisen recalls. “I don’t know about politics. I don’t know how to write something like this, I just like to impress and play the guitar. Seth found a way to give it some relevance.” The team that put together the sketch, framed as an episode of history of punk, continued to create Documentary Now!. “We just thought, ‘Let’s keep working together,'” says Armisen. “‘Let’s keep making these fake documentaries.'”

Armisen with ‘Portlandia’ co-star Carrie Brownstein: ‘She’s just the greatest’

(Chris Weeks/Getty for Hakkasan Beverly Hills)

while still at SNL Armisen helped create the sketch show Portlandia with his girlfriend Carrie Brownstein, frontwoman of Sleater-Kinney. The series lovingly parodied Portland, Oregon’s reputation as a haven for eccentric hipsters and became a cult hit, running from 2011 to 2018. The majority of the series’ main characters were played by Armisen and Brownstein themselves. “The show was a way for us to cement our friendship,” says Armisen. “Now we have to try harder, but that’s okay. I still have a place in Portland, and I went upstairs and visited during the pandemic. She’s just the greatest.” The pair stay in regular contact, often suggesting jokes to each other when they need to speak in public and exploring ways to work together again. “We will definitely work together,” says Armisen. “Jonathan [Krisel]the director of Portlandiahad this idea for an audio version of Portlandia. At some point we’ll get to it!”

Until then, Armisen has to content himself with living out his teenage fantasies of roaming the cobbled streets of England. “I used to watch MTV and then came Madness,” he recalls in awe. “I still remember the colors of those videos, the yellow stones. I thought, ‘What is this mysterious cool place?’ On my first visit it was immediate. It was perfect. I love walking down every street. It’s just endlessly beautiful, and I still haven’t gotten over it. I love England so much that as I walk down the street I say out loud, ‘I love England!’”

The Bubble is available on Netflix from April 1st

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/fred-armisen-interview-2022-the-bubble-b2047465.html Fred Armisen: “England is endlessly beautiful. I still haven’t gotten over it

JOE HERNANDEZ

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