Fred Armisen

Active - 2002 - Present  |   Born - Dec 4, 1966 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States  |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Nathan Southern

A comedic actor whose legacy is deeply intertwined with his long-standing involvement as a performer on NBC's Saturday Night Live, Fred Armisen graduated to on-camera work via an unlikely and wholly circuitous route. He studied film production at New York City's School of Visual Arts, then enjoyed a stint as a drummer in several punk bands including Trenchmouth and Those Bastard Souls, and performed with the Chicago production of the Blue Man Group. Shortly thereafter, Armisen authored a comedic short, Fred Armisen's Guide to Music and SXSW, which found him tooling through the South by Southwest Music Festival and conducting Sacha Baron Cohen-style parodistic interviews with legitimate musicians (most fully unaware of the joke being played). Upon playing at underground film festivals, that short turned the heads of HBO executives and prompted the network not only to sign Armisen as a regular correspondent on their music seires Reverb (a look at blossoming talent in the world of music), but to give him comedic interstitial segues in between regular programs, entitled Fred.

From there, it was only a short leap to SNL stardom, and executive producer/creator Lorne Michaels brought Armisen in for a multi-season tenure beginning in 2002. On that program, as in his comedy shorts and standup acts, Armisen displayed a proclivity for sinking so completely into character that it became frequently difficult to separate the actor from the role; recurring characterizations included Martin Scorsese, Liberace, Tony Danza, Vicente Fox, and others. Armisen also landed supporting roles and cameo appearances in big-screen comedies; these included Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), the same year's Eurotrip (in a memorable bit as a creepy gay Italian), Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny (2006), and Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (2007). In 2008, Armisen tackled a supporting role in the workplace comedy The Promotion, starring Seann William Scott, John C. Reilly, and Jenna Fischer.

He continued to land small roles in big-screen comedies such as Easy A, Cop Out, and Confessions of a Shopoholic, but his first big success outside of SNL came when he teamed up with longtime friend and musician Carrie Brownstein to create, write, and star in Portlandia, a sketch-comedy show about Portland that aired on IFC. The series earned critical raves, and enough buzz to earn a second season.

Though he married Mad Men actress Elizabeth Moss in 2009, their union lasted just ten months, and his next high-profile relationship was with his fellow SNL castmate Abby Elliot.

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  •  Grew up on Long Island and also spent part of his childhood in Brazil.
  • Began his career in music; was a drummer in the '90s punk-rock group Trenchmouth and in the Blue Man Group's Chicago show.
  • Fred Armisen's Guide to Music and SXSW, a video he created at the 1988 South By Southwest music conference became a cult hit and helped him transition into comedy.
  • Has directed music videos for bands such as Helio Sequence and Tigers & Monkeys.
  • Founded, a website featuring comedy sketches he created with Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein; the pair later went on to create Portlandia.