We all knew it was coming. It was just a matter of Fred Armisen admitting it. The 11-year Saturday Night Live veteran confirmed that he did, in fact, leave NBC’s sketch-comedy show at the end of this past season, culminating with his final sketch as Sex Pistols-inspired rocker Ian Rubbish.
“I think it’s clear. I didn’t do any kind of official announcement, but I really felt like it was obvious,” he told Splitsider. “An ending that was a love letter to all the music I grew up with, and also to my friends and to SNL and to Lorne and to the cast.”
Armisen admitted his departure was somewhat organic as many of the senior cast members like Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader and Andy Samberg had also bid farewell, but that he — like them — will always be around on the show. “I feel like people don’t really just leave in a cold way,” he said. “I think people stay around in their own way.”
But Armisen is still around. And will continue his relationship with SNL creator Lorne Michaels, who is executive producer on Armisen’s satire series, Portlandia, which he co-created with former Wild Flag and Sleater-Kinney singer/lead guitarist Carrie Brownstein. The IFC series, set in Portland and paying tribute to the Oregon city’s subculture, is one of many sketch comedy shows that have cropped up in the past few years including Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele and Louie. Armisen likens the resurgence of sketch comedy to music scenes like Liverpool in the 1960′s or New York in the late 1970′s.
“There were all these bands that played with each and played on each other’s records,” he said. “That’s so cool to be part of something. I wished for that someday. And I really strongly feel like that’s what I like get to do.”
Portlandia’s fourth season will premiere early 2014, which should let Armisen add more memorable characters to such signature SNL roles as Barack Obama or Venezuelan nightclub comedian Fericito on Weekend Update. Though he looks forward to focusing on his energies on Portlandia, Armisen admits he’ll miss his more than a decade career with SNL.
“You write until 6 and 7 in the morning, all night, and you just look like a mess, and your hair is a greasy but you’re there and the sun’s coming up and you’re in front of this computer writing and laughing really hard,” he said. “And that is something that I really will always miss.”