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Fereydun Robert "Fred" Armisen (born December 4, 1966) is an American actor, voice artist, screenwriter, producer, director, singer, musician, and comedian. Widely known as a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 2002 until 2013, Armisen has portrayed characters in comedy films, including EuroTrip, Anchorman, and Cop Out. With his comedy partner Carrie Brownstein, Armisen is the co-creator and co-star of the IFC sketch comedy series Portlandia. Armisen founded ThunderAnt.com, a website that features the comedy sketches created with Brownstein, and is the bandleader for the Late Night with Seth Meyers house band, The 8G Band.
For his work on Portlandia, Armisen was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 2014. He has also won two Peabody Awards, one in 2008 as part of the Saturday Night Live political satire cast and one in 2011 for Portlandia.
Armisen was born on December 4, 1966, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi but moved to New York as a baby. He was raised in Valley Stream, Long Island, New York, where he was a high school classmate of fellow SNL alumnus Jim Breuer. His mother, Hildegardt Mirabal, a schoolteacher, is from Venezuela. His father, Fereydun (later "Fred") Armisen, who worked for IBM, was born in Germany, to a Japanese father and a German mother. Armisen attended the School of Visual Arts (NYC) before dropping out to begin a career as a rock drummer. He has mentioned watching the bands The Clash and Devo perform on television, and wanting to be a performer since he was a child.
In 1984, Armisen played drums in a local band along with his high school friends in Valley Stream, New York, but the group soon ended. In 1988, he moved to Chicago to play drums for the punk rock band Trenchmouth, and in the 1990s, he played background drums with Blue Man Group.
Armisen played drums on three tracks for Les Savy Fav's 2007 album Let's Stay Friends., as well as tracks for Matthew Sweet's 2011 album Modern Art and Wandering Lucy's 2015 album Leap Year.
Armisen is currently the bandleader and drummer of the 8G Band on Late Night with Seth Meyers.
Television and film
While not playing with the band Trenchmouth, Armisen's interests switched to acting. In a January 2006 interview, he said, "I wanted to be on TV somehow. For some reason, I always thought it would be an indirect route; I didn't know that it would be comedy and Saturday Night Live. I just wanted to do something with performing that would lead me there."
Armisen's subsequent television work, such as some "memorable Andy Kaufman-esque appearances" on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, as well as work for Crank Yankers and Adult Swim, led to a role in 2002 as a featured player in the cast of Saturday Night Live. In the 2004 season, he was promoted to a repertory cast member.
Armisen has landed several minor yet memorable roles that were defined by an interviewer as "feral foreigners" in comedy films such as Eurotrip, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Deck the Halls, The Ex, The Promotion, The Rocker, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny and Confessions of a Shopaholic.
Armisen stars in the IFC sketch series Portlandia alongside Carrie Brownstein (of Sleater-Kinney); the first season debuted on January 21, 2011.
In the Cartoon Network series The Looney Tunes Show, Armisen voices Speedy Gonzales. Armisen, along with Carrie Brownstein, appeared on the Simpsons episode "The Day the Earth Stood Cool", in which they play The Simpsons' new neighbors who encourage everyone to be cool like them.
Saturday Night Live
The following is a partial list of notable roles Armisen has played in Saturday Night Live sketches. At the time of his 2013 departure from the show, Armisen was the third-longest tenured cast member (behind Darrell Hammond and Seth Meyers), having been a member since Season 28. As of February 2015, Armisen had appeared in 856 SNL sketches, putting him second only to Kenan Thompson in appearances on the show, and had the third most distinct impressions of any SNL cast member with 99. Armisen hosted the season 41 finale on May 21, 2016, with musical guest Courtney Barnett.
Billy Smith – a Native American stand-up comedian who tells Native-American-themed jokes that no one understands.
Fericito – a Venezuelan nightclub comedian who has his own TV show, Show Biz Grande Explosion with sidekick Manuel (Horatio Sanz).
Gunther Kelly – A student at George Washington University who performs songs on Weekend Update with his brother Patrick (played by Will Forte).
Leonard – the strange European host of the foreign music show Club Traxx.
Mackey – a senile drummer who often does rimshots at inappropriate moments and appears in the "Rialto Grande" sketches.
Nooni Schoener – a quirky, foreign art dealer who appears with his wife Nuni Schoener (played by Maya Rudolph) in the "The Schoeners" sketches)
Frondi – a mentally challenged character who criticizes Ben Affleck's movie Gigli to Ben himself.
Manuel Ortiz – host of The Manuel Ortiz show on Television Dominicana where he "helps with whatever it is" his audience members are going through.
Nicholas Fehn – a political commentator whose mind wanders so much that he is incapable of finishing a sentence without starting a new one.
Roger A. Trevanti – a greedy studio head and AMPTP member who rails against the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike. The character's only SNL appearance was on the last episode of season 33, before the show went on hiatus for the WGA strike, but he appeared in several Internet videos around the same time.
Roger Brush – a producer of multiple "Dr. Phil"-type talk shows, each focused on a different topic (teen, marital, sexual, and pregnancy issues), who fills in when the hosts are sick. He repeatedly tells guests relating their problems to speak up, and, unable to relate to their problems, offers them either useless advice based on his experience or no help at all.
Garth – part of Garth & Kat (with Kristen Wiig), a musical duo who appear on Weekend Update unprepared and make up songs on the spot.
Giuseppe – the saxophone player for What's Up With That?
Stewart – homeowner from The Californians, a soap opera parody featuring Armisen, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig and others as wealthy blondes with Valley Girl accents.
One of the "Dictator's Two Best Friends from Growing Up" (with Vanessa Bayer) who come to Weekend Update to secretly trash-talk the various dictators (such as Muammar al-Gaddafi and Kim Jong-un) with whom they grew up.
Regine – a pretentious and condescending woman who exhibits blatant euphoric and erotic facial expressions when touched on certain parts of her body.
Ian Rubbish – A late-1970s/early-80s British punk rocker, a parody of Sex Pistols' John Lydon, who caught heat from his band mates Derek Gash (played by Bill Hader) and Keith Grimshaw (played by Taran Killam) and fans for writing and performing songs supporting conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
Armisen's list of notable impressions has included:
Barack Obama – recurring in Season 33 and Season 34 episodes as the Democratic presidential candidate (Season 33), the Democratic nominee, President-Elect, and President (Season 34), beginning on February 23, 2008. As of season 38, Jay Pharoah replaced Armisen as Obama.
Prince – parody of the musician as the host of a talk show called The Prince Show, with Beyoncé Knowles (played by Maya Rudolph) as his co-host. Armisen, a fan of Prince since childhood, created the sketch as a way of improving his chances of meeting the musician.
Steve Jobs – Apple CEO who appears on Weekend Update to show off strange new technology. Armisen has stated that Steve Jobs is the celebrity he most enjoys portraying.
Ira Glass – After seeing an unused SNL sketch, Glass invited Armisen to co-host a This American Life about doppelgängers.
David Paterson – Governor of New York. Armisen's Paterson impression, much like his Obama impression, caught controversy as well, though in this case, it was David Paterson himself who spoke out against the impression, as he felt it was insensitive to the blind and visually-impaired.
Armisen has also done impressions of political figures such as Hugo Chávez, Vicente Fox, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Barney Frank, George H. W. Bush, Ben Bernanke, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Mike Gravel, Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak and Michael Bloomberg. He has also impersonated celebrities such as Martin Scorsese, Desi Arnaz, Corbin Bleu, Sam Waterston, Joy Behar, Tony Danza, George Carlin, Dov Charney, Howie Mandel, Alan Osmond, Ben Gibbard, Joey Lawrence, Harrison Ford, Liberace, David Gregory, Mick Jagger, Larry King, Penny Marshall, Kevin McHale (actor) (as Artie Abrams from Glee), David Lee Roth, Gene Simmons, Ringo Starr, Lawrence Welk, Paul Lynde, George Lopez, Randy Newman, Thom Yorke, John Oates, and Ice-T.
In 1998 he posed as a music journalist for the short film Fred Armisen's Guide to Music and South by Southwest. It was filmed by then-girlfriend Sally Timms and featured Armisen's "pranking musicians and industry types" during the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. A year later, Armisen starred with alternative rock legend Steve Albini in Chevelle's Point #1 EPK.
Armisen is part of ThunderAnt, a comedy duo with Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein. The duo specializes in creating comedic short skits often about independent vocations such as one man shows, feminist bookstores, and bicycle rights activists.
Armisen has directed music videos for bands like The Helio Sequence. Armisen also had a role in the Wilco documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, which featured footage from his stint opening for front man Jeff Tweedy's 2001 solo tour. He also appeared in video segments on Blue Man Group's How to be a Megastar Tour 2.0. Armisen occasionally writes for Pitchfork Media and interviewed Cat Power for that company. Fred appeared as Jens Hannemann on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on October 19, 2007, promoting a 28-minute DVD called Fred Armisen presents Jens Hannemann: "COMPLICATED DRUMMING TECHNIQUE". In 2010, Armisen briefly joined Joanna Newsom's tour for her album Have One on Me as his character Jens Hannemann. On SNL, Armisen often plays musical instruments in sketches, has two recurring characters who are musicians (Mackey the drummer from the Rialto Grande and Ferecito from Showbiz Grande Explosion), or impersonates famous figures in the music world such as Liberace, Phil Spector, Lou Reed, and Prince.
Armisen appeared in the official music video for Man Man's song "Rabbit Habits", playing a man who charms his blind date (Charlyne Yi) but runs away after she turns into a werewolf.
Along with Bill Hader and Jason Sudeikis, Armisen voiced radio characters in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV.
Armisen performed as a singer/drummer/comedic actor in the Blue Man Group's "How to be a Megastar Live!". He played the part as a salesman on TV who advertises for the Megastar Rock Manual. He also drummed in the performance and was a backup singer.
Armisen is the bandleader of the 8G Band, the house band for Late Night with Seth Meyers, as of February 24, 2014.
In late 2014, Armisen was featured on the popular comedy web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with host, Jerry Seinfeld.
Armisen is a longtime fan of punk rock music and can be seen in the documentaries Salad Days and The Damned: Don't You Wish That We Were Dead.
Armisen was married to English singer and songwriter Sally Timms from 1998 to 2004 and to actress Elisabeth Moss from 2009 to 2011. He has been in a relationship with actress Natasha Lyonne since 2014.
Armisen currently resides in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. Prior to his move he was a resident of Portland, Oregon's Pearl District. Armisen enjoys the work of outlaw artist Joe Coleman. He stated on Real Time with Bill Maher that he is an atheist.