Arts Desk

The Best D.C. Pandering at Tuesday’s Portlandia Show

It seems the stars of Portlandia have found the key to D.C.'s eternal love: validation.

That D.C. name-dropping episode got us so hot and bothered, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein are just rollin' with it. Plus: What's one way to save a lackluster variety show? Talk about what town you're in!

At Tuesday's late show at the 9:30 club, Armisen and Brownstein dispensed with D.C. knowledge and heavily played the audience-participation card. For the most part, the formula worked: The sold-out crowd—lubricated by beers and generous regional pandering—lapped it up. Here are some highlights:

1. Brownstein slips on a beanie hat and a slouchy top. Armisen says something like, "You look so H Street." Crowd approves. Brownstein says, "It's a deep cut, right? H Street?"

2. They spend a couple minutes asking the audience about D.C.'s cool neighborhoods. Many agree that H Street NE is "a little hipstery." Armisen name-checks U Street NW. Then someone bellows, "BALTIMORE!" Armisen picks up on the sad truth that Baltimore is still considered a D.C. hipster neighborhood.

3. Conversation turns to the best coffee shops. People are screaming Tryst, Big Bear, etc. "Isn't Tryst in Alexandria?" asks Brownstein. Somehow, people are also screaming for Starbucks.

4. They ask where we're from. D.C. gets huge applause. Maryland, moderate applause. Virginia is booed.

5. "This is the most booiest city!" says Armisen.

6. Armisen refers to our baseball team as the "Washington Generals."

7. A video about jewelry-makers prompts Brownstein to say, "A city of jewelry lovers—that's the motto on the license plates here, right?"

8. Famous D.C. guests: Ian Svenonius in the early show; Mary Timony in the early and late shows. (Famous non-D.C. guests: drummer Michael Lerner; guitarist/vocalist Eleanor Friedberger; keyboardist Rebecca Cole)

Photos from the early show by Erica Bruce:


See more photos from the show here.

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  • Put A Plane On It

    Up here in Seattle we got so tired of seeing those incessant "Portlandia" birds everywhere that we decided to take action. Check out and Go Jet City!

  • Paulette

    This is a disingenuous critique. The complaints of these writers are absolutely ridiculous. Obviously neither watches Portlandia. Also, I heard no one screaming "Starbucks" and even if that is true - how would that be Fred or Carrie's fault? It doesn't surprise me though that Washington City Paper writers would be critical of a show which is praised in other cities. And that's one reason why the art scene, among many other things, here sucks. Go back to marketing or fund-raising or whatever brought you to this crap-hole. Honest critical writing is not one of your strengths.

  • Jesse

    Paulette, it's okay if you don't agree with the review, but don't end your little screed with some lazy toss-off about how the stiffs in DC don't appreciate art.

    And I wasn't at the show, but this review is spot on in terms of critiquing Portlandia on the whole: an occasionally funny show that picks at the lowest hanging fruit in the hipster/scenester/cool kid tree. Evidently fans of the show let being pandered to outweigh being mocked.

    Pickle it!

  • dcinsider

    I was at the late show and found the biggest problem I had with it was they only performed 15 minutes of sketches. Otherwise the 85 minute set was made of 30 minutes of video from future episodes (Really? We're going to pay $30+ to see clips? Not even deleted scenes or something special?), 15 minutes dedicated to a lifeless Q&A (How many times/ways can you ask them if they are sleeping with each other?), 10 minutes to a slideshow of intimate photos (And by intimate, I mean mainly childhood pictures/drawings. At one point, Fred showed a picture of him and Steve Jobs. It was a great picture but Fred begged the audience not to take a picture or video of it and especially not to post it on-line. If that isn't a test of the good/honesty of people, I don't know what is.), and the last 15 minutes were of cover songs with vocals by Eleanor Friedberger (Don't know who she is? Neither did most of the crowd.).

    Bottom line, the audience was either too polite or too confused to boo Carrie and Fred. I blame Charlie Sheen, his "My Violent Torpedo of Truth" tour made so much money with so little effort that I'm sure someone thought this was a good idea. Unfortunately, showing up at a venue does not make for a good show. Even if they would have just read a script from old episode of the show it would have been a million times better than Tuesday night's show.

  • Joe Warminsky

    Look at Spiv with the tartan necktie.