Maxim Interview: Fred Armisen

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Between the fourth season premiere of Portlandia and his debut as bandleader for Late Night with Seth Meyers, the Saturday Night Live alum is having a very big week.

Before joining the cast of SNL in 2002 you were primarily a musician. How did the transition to comedy come about? 
I was just in love with TV. And I don’t know what my intentions were when I started doing music, ‘cause they might not have been as musical as I thought. I think I wanted to get on TV more than I wanted to make good music, and I could tell because whenever I went to the recording studio, I couldn’t wait to get out of there.  I think my goal wasn’t pure enough when it comes to music; I think I just wanted to be on TV, and I thought, “Well, if we’re in a band, eventually we can get on to Saturday Night Live or Conan O’Brien or something.” It’s almost like I always had that goal, but I didn’t know which way to go.

Once you did make it to SNL, you had so many memorable impressions and recurring characters – and they were incredibly diverse, from the Queen of England to President Obama. Were any of them particularly close to your heart?
You’re very nice to say that, and thank you for the compliment. Yeah, I would say maybe Ian Rubbish, the British character, because it was all the people that I sort of admired. Growing up, I was really into the London music scene, which I had no part of – it was too late by the time I discovered it. You know, it was over. I was such a fan of Nic Jones and Captain Sensible and Steve Jones. I’ve been doing this my whole life; I’ve never not been doing that character.

Read my entire interview with Fred Armisen at Maxim.com.

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