Though technically set in a particular Northwest enclave, Portlandia’s unique comedic voice extends far beyond any one location or subculture, tapping into a universal language that pokes fun at extremes of all stripes. What started out as quirky sketch comedy has grown into a fully formed world complete with characters we’ve seen stretch and grow through five seasons, thanks to the offbeat humor of creator/stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein and their obvious affection for the world they’ve created. We caught up with Armisen on the eve of the sixth season premiere to discuss some of the surprises coming our way beginning Thursday Jan 21 at 10/9c on IFC.
What are you most excited about viewers discovering this season that they might not see coming?
A sketch done completely in American Sign Language. I took lessons and tried to learn how to do it as accurately as I could. It really is a beautiful language.
Which returning characters are you most excited to revisit and what can you tell us about their arc this season? Will we get to learn even more about some of the backstories explored last season?
We did more of our goth/weirdo characters. We did an episode where they go to the beach. What will they wear? It’s not easy looking like a vampire in the sun. Glenn Danzig helps us out.
For some other episodes, we mixed some characters who aren’t usually together, like Candace from the Feminist Bookstore and Claire, from the Battlestar Galactica episode.
Which new characters are you most excited to introduce and what you can tell us about them?
These special TSA people who are much more exclusive than the TSA. Super, super, high-end airport treatment.
There’s been a lot of buzz about “Carrie” and “Fred” finally consummating their relationship. What can you tell us about this development?
We did it in a way that is funny and awkward. Cold, even. Which we like.
You’ve suggested that Season 6 will bring back longer-form storylines. Which characters will experience the greatest challenges and undergo the greatest changes?
Claire will have had enough of Doug, at least for a time. The Feminist Bookstore will become popular, which totally confuses Toni and Candace.
We’re expecting great things from the guest stars this year, including Louis CK, Natasha Lyonne, Kyle MacLachlan, (we assume returning as the Mayor) and Steve Buscemi, plus Arrested Development’s Mitchell Hurwitz and Alia Shawkat. What can you tell us about some of their characters and which are you most excited to introduce? Will any of them play themselves?
Louis CK will play himself, and we’ll see Fred and Carrie become “comedy nerds”, a very new type of fan. Steve Buscemi is always great and also directed some of the episodes. The Mayor is our glue. Our backbone. And he also plays the mayor of Austin. Mitchell and Alia are in a very insane episode, and both are exactly perfect for it.