When it was announced that a sketch comedy television series named Portlandia—starring Saturday Night Live’s Fred Armisen and popular Seattle-based musician Carrie Brownstein—was being produced, Portlanders were ecstatic. A show extolling the virtues and quirks of Portland? A show where the city of Portland plays a starring role? A show actually filmed and set in Portland? What could be better? Sure, it was going to be tongue in cheek and sarcastic… but, for comedy, that is the greatest tribute one can offer. Folks in the North West understand and laugh at the jokes. We’re not uptight or offended by them. We embrace them as part of who we are.
A friend of mine (and fan of the show) recently moved from the Connecticut to Portland. She was flabbergasted to find out how accurate the show was! Portlandia highlights all the wonderful eccentricities of the greatest city in America.
The show is named after the Portlandia statue located outside the entrance of the Portland Building in Downtown Portland. The bronze sculpture was designed by Raymond Kaskey and is the second-largest copper repoussé statue in the United States, behind the Statue of Liberty. It was installed in 1985 and is “[A] product of Portland’s Public Art Program, dedicated to working with the public and private sectors to support art reflecting a wide range of perspectives.”
In essence, it’s the perfect title for a show about a city known for the high emphasis it places on the arts.
The show kicked off with Armisen informing Brownstein, that “the dream of the nineties is alive in Portland” (followed by a tune boasting the same claim), that Portland is a place where you do not have to work. Of course, this is mostly not true. While you certainly do have to work, Portlanders also know how to relax and enjoy down time. And with so many outdoor activities, restaurants, concerts, art shows and other diversions (all prominently displayed in Portlandia), it’s easy to understand why we crave our downtime and are skilled relaxers and weekend warriors. Additionally, the 90’s were awesome and were a cultural heyday for the North West.
That debut episode featured a couple preparing to enjoy a meal at a natural foods restaurant. They ordered the chicken and were given a dossier containing the biography of that chicken. His name was Royce, he lived at this specific farm, and he ate this kind of diet. It included a photograph of Royce. Before ordering, to ensure that there was no fowl play, the health conscious couple visited Royce’s home and examined it before ordering Royce. This was a play on the foodie culture of Portland, Oregon. We care about our food, we care about how it was raised and harvested as much as we care about how it is prepared. We believe that what goes into our bodies is important. This is why you find so many healthy, natural food restaurants and grocery stores in the Portland area.
Other sketches represent our affinity for nature and the environment. One sketch features a pedicab (Bicycle cab) driving through the city looking for fares. Others show the preparedness we have for hiking, rafting and camping, to great extremes. Backpacks, homemade food, light: All displaying in a humorous way our love for outdoors and for nature. Rafting on the Sandy River, movies in the park, even our many dog parks are all satirized. Portland is the greatest city in America, and Portlandia knows this.
Our art culture, our alternative schools, our quirky assemblymen and mayors, even our weather are all poked fun at in the ultimate TV roast about this amazing city. Portlandia can teach you all you need to know about Portland with great love and affection. Affordable housing, fun stores, terrific neighborhoods (each sketch opens with a brief description of where in Portland the sketch takes place) make this a great place to live, work and breathe. If you’re not living here already… why not?