Fred Armisen: 'I'm Wimpy About Pain'


As he plays an overwhelmed indie director in Judd Apatow’s Covid comedy, Fred Armisen talks stunts and believing there really are no small parts.

Fred Armisen is a busy man. After ending his 11 years at Saturday Night Live in 2013, he created and starred in Portlandia, Forever, Los Espookys, Documentary Now and Moonbase 8, recorded a Netflix special and became the in-house drummer for Late Night With Seth Meyers, all while writing and performing music. Rather than be slowed down by lockdown he joined Judd Apatow’s Covid-themed Hollywood satire The Bubble, playing an out of his depth director tasked with creating blockbuster Cliff Beasts 6 and saving the movie industry.

LWL: Is there a philosophy that you’re following with all these projects?

Fred Armisen: I just go little by what looks like fun. With The Bubble it’s Judd Apatow, he’s someone I’ve known for a while, so that was an easy one to decide on. In terms of emulating, I like Matt Berry’s career and I like the way that Jane Lynch picks her projects. As much as I’d like to say that it’s a hundred percent about the project, sometimes it’s about location. If I get offered to shoot in England, I’ll make it work.

You’re a fan of England?

I’m obsessed with England. I walk around wanting to thank every British person I meet. I want to say thank you for all the music you’ve made. British bands are a huge part of my life. I spend a lot of my day thinking about British bands. The Damned, The Clash, The Stranglers, The Buzzcocks, The Slits. These bands not only did they change my life they continue to. I still am obsessed with them.

Sometimes it seems like most men over 50 in London can tell you about a crazy night they had with Joe Strummer.

And every time I’m like “Please tell me about it!” It’s an endless obsession, and it’s weird because as I meet British people, I think they’re thinking the same thing. Guz Khan who plays Howie in The Bubble is from Coventry. And I’m like, “Guz! The Specials are from Coventry!” I really think that Guz walks around all day thinking, “Hey, I’m from where The Specials are from.”

Guz plays the comic relief in this giant action movie Cliff Beasts 6. As a comic actor has that sort of role ever appealed to you?

I think you got to be a little louder for that. I think my volume isn’t right.

They’re not loud but there are so many details in your performances that feel very precise.

These are the parts and roles that work best for me. I don’t think that I’m good at being the main thing. I think my work has gone best if I do something not too big, if it’s very specific and maybe a little odd.

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Written by Joe


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