After 11 years of creating some of the oddest and most memorable characters on Saturday Night Live, Fred Armisen left the legendary sketch show at the end of this past season to focus on his other soon-to-be legendary sketch show. Portlandia, which he and co-star Carrie Brownstein created with director Jonathan Krisel, has be picked up for two more seasons on IFC. He will also been seen in the upcoming film Justice for Al, from Bad Santa director Terry Zwigoff. I caught up with Armisen over the phone from Portland to talk about great sketch shows and how Game of Thrones influenced Portlandia.
So it is official now that you’ve left SNL?
I think it’s clear. I didn’t do any kind of official announcement, but I really felt like it was obvious. An ending that was a love letter to all the music I grew up with, and also to my friends and to SNL and to Lorne [Michaels] and to the cast. There was a lot of emotion attached to it, but it was a very positive emotion.
And how do you feel, having left? Does it feel weird?
It feels very natural, because I love SNL. I love Saturday Night Live, and I really feel like people who have left before me have always stayed with the show. They never really quite left, which is nice. Everyone kind of stays close. For example, like when Kristen [Wiig] left, we saw her again. And Andy [Samberg] and Tina [Fey] and Amy Poehler and Maya [Rudolph]. On one level, we stay in each other’s lives, but also the show. I feel like people don’t really just leave in a cold way. I think people stay around in their own way.
Why did you decide to leave the show now?
It was really just strange, in that it felt very natural. It felt like a very healthy good time to do it. I was really enjoying and it just felt—it’s almost hard to define. Bill [Hader] was leaving, and Kristen and Andy had left. It just felt like I was very happy, maybe this is like a good time to do it. And then the other thing that really was eclipsing it was Portlandia. Portlandia started to pull me away more and more, schedule-wise, and I just felt like it’d be nice to focus on it a little more and go into the fall a bit more with shooting. So it was because of that. And also it was just a feeling.