While most people know Fred Armisen as “the guy from Portlandia” and before that SNL, he will now also be known as the band leader on Late Night With Seth Meyers. The announcement came earlier this month and presumably has many wondering why Meyers would select one of his Saturday Night Live cast buddies as the new band leader.
It seems like a bit of an odd choice, given that Armisen is most notably known as a comedic actor, but his musical history actually reaches far beyond his various goofy fake bands on SNL. Let’s take a look at Armisen’s eclectic musical history that extends beyond challenging Questlove to a drum battle before he joins the ranks of late night band leaders tonight.
In 1988 Armisen dropped out of the School of Visual Arts and moved from New York to Chicago to play drums for the band Trenchmouth. The post-hardcore band incorporated funk and Latin influences and released several albums before disbanding in the mid-1990s.
Drumming with Blue Man Group
Following the breakup of Trenchcoat, Armisen auditioned for Blue Man Group and toured with the performance group for a couple of years. “That’s what I did for like, two years. I thought I made it. I was like, ‘This is it.’ It was the first paycheck I got for drumming,” Armisen told fellow former SNL cast member Jim Bruer in 2011.
Armisen has definitely been one of the more offbeat SNL cast members. Yes, he played Larry King, New York Governor David Paterson, and President Obama, but most of those roles were in the second part of Armisen’s SNL career. When Fred joined the show in 2002 he was mostly appearing as strange characters like Venezuelan Nightclub Comedian, Fericito, and Native American stand-up Billy Smith.
His musical sketches on SNL didn’t always hit with the audience, but dressing Bryan Cranston up in a Michael Bolton wig for a sketch as struggling band The Bejelland Brothers is a win for music.
Armisen brought a number of other fake bands to SNL including…
The Blue Jean Committee