An interview with Carrie Brownstein


Carrie Brownstein is a lot of things: singer, musician, actress. She’s also the newest bisexual woman on the small screen as IFC’s sketch comedy series Portlandia, which was born out of her hit web series ThunderAnt that she and Saturday Night Live’s Fred Armisen co-created. caught up with the Sleater-Kinney frontwoman to discuss the show, its massive slate of guest stars — yes, Corin Tucker is among them — her interest in the sketch comedy genre and everything about Toni and Candice, their popular former activist, self-involved shopkeepers at everyone’s favorite feminist bookstore. Was sketch comedy something you’ve always been interested in?

Carrie Brownstein: As an observer, yes. As a kid I was a huge fan of Monty Python and The Kids in the Hall and I loved Saturday Night Live. I’ve always had an instinct to be a performer and I love performing. That’s been true since I was a kid. But I didn’t imagine something this specific.

AE: Do you have a favorite character on Portlandia? readers are going to love the feminist bookstore owners.

I love the feminist bookstore owners. Actually, I think Cath and Nance are my favorite as the couple with the dog and the couple with the farm, those are the ones that I love.

AE: How queer is Portlandia going to be considering how queer-centric Portland can be?

I think the show is weird and I think the show is definitely not following the rules of other shows and it’s highly improvisational, so if you consider that queer, than sure. It represents all different kids of people in Portland. There are no characters specifically — we don’t do a lot about sex or sexuality on the show. But there’s definitely a lot of gray areas that we cover. I don’t know — even Toni (Brownstein) and Candice (Armisen) the bookstore owners — Fred and I think they might be married to men, we’re not sure yet.

AE: Really! That’s hilarious.

We’re not sure yet. I can’t wait to see their houses.

AE: Are we going to see that in Season 1?

No, but if we get a Season 2, yeah. The crux of the show is to be absurd and silly so we’re not trying to find an agenda or who we’re representing or not representing. We’re basically playing a lot of different versions of ourselves.

AE: What version of you is Toni, the bookstore owner?

The bookstore owners to me are the ones that like to make rules and think that they’re being really inclusive but actually are excluding almost everybody. It almost reminds me a little of indie rock where you think you’re being really inclusive but really everyone else feels alienated by you. Toni and Candace think that they should be selling books to everyone but really they don’t want to sell books to anyone.

AE: Especially when they lock guest star Steve Buscemi inside the store.

Fred and I have always loved Toni and Candice. We love playing those characters. I love how passive aggressive they are. They’re really wonderful people.

AE: Portlandia will feature a ton of amazing guest stars — Corin Tucker and Sarah McLachlan among them. What can we expect from those appearances?

I think you’ll be surprised at Sarah’s appearance and her role. I can’t talk that much about it but I can say that Corin plays a musician, so it wasn’t that huge of a stretch.

AE: Will Sarah spoof her super-sad SPCA commercial?

No, she’s not. I forgot about those! [Laughing] No, we didn’t make her do anything with animals.

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