An Evening with Fred Armisen @ The Black Cat

The show was sold out.  A packed mainstage concert room  full of hipsters, preppies, middle age couples and the like mixed it up, awaiting Fred Armisen of SNL and more recently, Portlandia, fame to take the stage. Taking place at the Black Cat, and heavily promoted by Brightest Young Things, the show was simply described as “An Evening With Fred Armisen,” and the event details were simply two YouTube clips of Armisen’s sketch work.

Given the billing and the performer, the audience was primed for a comedic show that would likely (and I say likely, because given the vagueness of the event’s details, we were all unsure of the performance’s format) include stand up comedy, skits, impersonations and, with Armisen’s background, some form of comedic musical accompaniment.

Unfortunately, when Armisen took the stage, the vast majority — if not the entirety — of his show was uninspired, lacked creativity and did not live up to his billing.   Armisen entered the stage with a display of his drumming prowess paired with a video of Karen Carpenter jamming, and while  no one can deny that Armisen is an awesome and talented drummer, this brief display of skill was as good as the show got. After his intro Armisen was followed on stage by a band and proceeded to play five songs that were neither creative, witty nor comical. While one or maybe two songs would have been acceptable, the audience was clearly confused and astounded by Armisen’s choice to spend that much time playing music that the audience was not into and didn’t find entertaining.

Once finished with his “set,” Armisen’s act never rose above lame impersonations of drummers, playing songs into the microphone from his iPad, and telling the audience how all he does to imitate Barrack Obama and Governor Patterson is squint his eyes. Another big problem with the show was the venue. The Mainstage at the Black Cat is not a good place to see a comedy act because unless you’re in the first ten rows of people, you cannot see the comedian, so you miss essential parts of the show.

The worst and probably most unprofessional part of Armisen’s show was when he turned on the projector and played 3 skits (one of which had already aired) from Portlandia. When finished, Armisen said “I probably shouldn’t have played 3 skits for you guys,” to which members of the audience responded “Yeh, you shouldn’t have!” To quote a fellow WLDC writer, “In a live performance the only time it’s acceptable to play video is during a costume change.” I couldn’t be more in agreement, especially when the video being shown is something 1) I’ve already seen and 2) I can watch from the comfort of my own home. I think it goes without saying that no one pays $25 bucks to see a live performance and expects to be shown a promo for the act’s TV show. This was just unacceptable.

Armisen finished up his act by taking Q&A from the audience, where his answers weren’t funny and he chose not to answer certain questions, e.g. who’s the craziest SNL host? I mean, seriously, Fred! Can you not come up with some material on your own? Does your paying audience have to do all the work? During this abysmal part of the show, someone scream out the question, “Can I have my $25 dollars back?” to which Armisen replied, “You want your money back? This isn’t easy. You think you could do this?” While the questioner didn’t take Armisen up on his offer, I’m positive a large portion of the audience was thinking, “Honestly, I definitely I could do better.”

But the point is not that Armisen didn’t try, I’m sure he did, it’s that Armisen and Black Cat promoted and sold the show falsely. Ticket buyers went into that show expecting, the rightly so, a brilliant, comedic performance and what we were given in return was so far off the mark it was embarrassing. In my opinion there was nothing entertaining, funny or original about the show.Was Armisen witty? No. Was his music good? No. Was he pleasant? Yeh. I’m sure he’s a very nice person. Is he a talented comedian? No. Should he be doing “solo” acts? Absolutely not.

Rebecca Johnson

A born and bred New Yorker, Rebecca made the big trip “down south” to DC in 2006 and hasn’t looked back. She spends her days strategizing/planning/ideating how interactive products can help her clients and change the world. In her free time, she explores DC’s ever expanding bar, restaurant and small business scene, plays a crap ton of soccer, attends concerts that contribute to her sleep deprivation and embarks on local adventures. Read why Rebecca loves DC or follow her on twitter.

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20 thoughts on “An Evening with Fred Armisen @ The Black Cat

  1. Actually- he isn’t a nice person either.
    He’s superficially charming, sure- but underneath
    The surface, he’s a dick who cheats on his girlfriends
    And wives.

  2. i thought he was pretty damn good on the drums, guitar and synth. and bottle of sparkling apple juice was classic. i think people wanted it to be longer, he needs an opener

  3. I thought the show was awesome.
    I find Fred’s humor on SNL hit or miss, but I really loved this show.
    Perhaps it was because I was close to the stage. The crowd at the front all seemed to be enjoying it as much as I was. I loved the mix of music and humor. The songs he did rocked and were all humorous at the same time. I loved his impressions of other drummers. Who else does drummer impersonations? they were spot on and hilarious. I also loved his Randy Newman.
    All in all, I thought it was a perfect show. Full of laughs and some great music.

    Best show I’ve been to at the Black Cat since Radiohead!

  4. This show was totally awesome. The people who didn’t like it are total weenie crybabies.

    Also, what the fuck is this trash?
    Potty Says:
    February 28th, 2011 at 8:59 pm
    “Actually- he isn’t a nice person either.
    He’s superficially charming, sure- but underneath
    The surface, he’s a dick who cheats on his girlfriends
    And wives.”

    Potty, I’m guessing you aren’t an insider into Fred Armisen’s personal life and don’t really know what you are talking about. Furthermore, judging entertainers by their personal lives is ridic. Do you avoid listening to the Beatles because John Lennon beat his first wife and cheated on Yoko?

  5. Actually, costa- you couldn’t be more wrong.
    And “furthermore”, it is valid To Judge a performer
    On their personal lives- you want to support a jerk?
    Don’t believe me? Ask Elisabeth moss, Martha plimpton,
    Petra Hayden, etc etc and find out. Better yet, Date the guy and find out for yourself. Sounds like you want to!

  6. The show was absolutely terrible, for so many reasons, many of which are correctly listed in this article.

    The music was awful, which would have been acceptable if it was funny. There were numerous technical glitches, including the iPad incident. Fred seemed totally uninterested in doing any impersonations or stand-up bits. For some reason, the success of the entire show seemed to be wagered on the incredibly awkward Q&A session. He didn’t even ATTEMPT to tell jokes. He just wanted a mass interview, apparently? The Portlandia clips were so out of place, of course. One “never before seen” clip would have been cool, but it was like 15 minutes of stuff we’ve all seen already. We were all waiting for gut-busting jokes that never came. Instead, we got barely an hour of disorganized nonsense.

    Having said all of this, I still think Fred is a cool, talented guy. I would pay money to see him again at a true comedy venue.

    Fred’s manager and the booking person at Black Cat need to be fired immediately because that show was an unmitigated disaster.

  7. Lol – yeah it’s his managers fault and the
    Venues fault that the show sucked. Uhh, ok?

  8. The few heckles I heard from someone wanting his money back seemed to come from all the way in the back of the black cat.
    I started the show maybe 4 or 5 people back from the stage, and for the encore was like second row.
    Everyone around me was laughing and enjoying the performance as much as i was.
    When that person yelled for his money back, Fred seemed to have a perplexed look on his face, as did the people around us. Everyone up front was having a great time and so was Fred.
    I bet all of you people who didn’t like the show were in the back half of the crowd or even sitting at those tables in the very back where you wouldn’t be able to see anything.
    The comedy wasn’t just the words Fred spoke (that were amplified thru the speakers) but his visual reactions and comedic gestures that anyone towards the back totally missed out on.
    Those people in the back might as well of stayed home and listened on their old wireless box.
    Tracy Jordan could of been on stage and they wouldn’t of seen the difference.
    They may of bought a ticket, but they really weren’t “there” for the show.
    Proximity matters when the visuals are a big part of the perfomance.
    Sure, you might look like a cool hipster standing there in the back with your appletini and your dischord black rimmed glasses, but you are missing out on half the show.

  9. @Marty I was maybe 10 rows back and the only laughs were at how terrible the show was.

  10. I loved the show!
    Fred was hilarious.
    His band rocked.
    Everyone that was around me was laughing and enjoying the show.

    Oh well, I guess Fred isn’t for everyone. But I loved it.

  11. Hipsters drink appletinis?

    BTW, I was like 5-10 rows back the entire show. I heard 5 people say the words “uuuuuggghhh…..that was weird” on the way out.

  12. Well I thought Fred was wonderful and better then what I expected. Not only will I be sure to see him again the next time he comes to DC but would also drive to Baltimore or anywhere in a 3 hour radius to see him perform.

    And those people saying Fred is a bad boyfriend and a cheater are Scientologists who have started a smear campaign against Fred because he just broke up with his Scientologist GF.

    They want to create the appearence that whatever happened between him and his gf, it has to be because of his problems, and not because his gf is brainwashed by this wacky group.

  13. No Carl, that’s untrue. It’s no smear campaign and it’s also not new information, started way before Elisabeth moss.
    Google it

  14. Moss wasn’t armisens gf- they were married.
    For a few months before he cheated on her

  15. 15.Lis Says:
    March 4th, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    No Carl, that’s untrue. It’s no smear campaign and it’s also not new information, started way before Elisabeth moss.
    Google it
    How about you google Scientology and the way they attempt to smear publically their “enemies” and former members.
    It’s part of their doctrine. Ron himself declared enemies of scientology “fair game” and encouraged it.

    Nancy Reagan was Ronalds second wife, yet when people talk about Reagan,its either what a great president he was or how he was the worst one ever.
    It’s rare that people bother talking about his first wife and what he did to her. its mostly irrelevant.

    Fred Armisen is a comedian. You either find him funny or you don’t.
    These personal attacks about his love life are clearly the work of scientologists. its what they do. Go talk to someone with Anon.
    But I’m sure you don’t need to, because I have no doubt that you are a Scientologist.

  16. Carl- you must have the hots for Fred, because you
    Are clearly delusional. It’s actually known around NYC-
    And has been for years- that fred is a cheater, and what
    Exactly does that have to do with Scientology? Have scientoloists been framing him before he even met Moss? If so, then that’s just plain weird of them! Sorry, buddy,
    But ya can’t always excuse someones behavior.
    I suppose scientologists are also after Charlie Sheen.

  17. Hi first wife isn’t irrelevant at all. Neither are the other women he harmed. Moss is famous. So it made the papers.

  18. Sorry to hear his show had mixed reviews. I enjoy his work on SNL especially his impressions. He’s is one of the few reasons I watch.
    As for his marriage? Why would a single guy who knows he likes to run around get married? Just go out with woman like yourself. His wife should of had a clue that a 42 year old man who has a hard time being faithful would not be a good husband. Her religion had nothing to do with it. Religion is not important to someone who doesn’t take marriage seriously.