Portland Does it Better: Etiquette with Fred and Carrie

Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen came by to talk about their hit sketch comedy series “Portlandia” , and then stuck around to answer listener etiquette questions.  Herein they offer some pretty thoughtful advice – and prove themselves amenable to being mistaken for totally different comedy geniuses.

Rico Gagliano: Carrie and Fred, welcome back. It’s been like 15 whole minutes since we last spoke and it was terrible for us. We missed you.

Brendan Francis Newnam: You guys okay?

Carrie Brownstein: We missed you too. Lovely to be here. Thank you very much.

Fred Armisen: Thank you for having us.

Brendan Francis Newnam: We told our audience you were gonna be here, and they have some questions for you. So let’s begin.

Enforcing a Child-Free Wedding

This question comes from Kay. Kay writes, “I’m engaged and planning a wedding. My future husband and I do not wish to have children there, as neither of us…” Wait, what?!

Carrie Brownstein: Have children there? At the wedding?

Rico Gagliano: They don’t want guests to bring kids, is what they mean.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, there we go.

Carrie Brownstein: Oh, that’s a good question!

Brendan Francis Newnam: “My future husband and I do not wish to have children there as neither of us like them. We made our invitations clear, but a distant relative must have missed the “no kids” memo. She’s bringing her sons with her. What should I do?”

Carrie Brownstein: You know what? This is real advice: I would contact this relative by phone or e-mail and reiterate her desire to not have kids there… and offer some kind of child sitting services during the ceremony. That’s what I would do. And I actually think that’s good advice. No?

Fred Armisen: I think that’s great advice.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I think that’s good advice, but I see two etiquette questions in this one. First of all: is it okay to have people not bring children to your wedding?

Rico Gagliano: It’s okay to do anything you want at your own wedding, isn’t it?

Fred Armisen: Absolutely. It’s your party!

Carrie Brownstein: I think so too, because there are so many other things: people make you fly to far-flung places, ask you to dress a certain way…

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well there you go, Kay. Carrie would pay for the babysitter. But what if you don’t have the money to offer —

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, that’s the thing: What we really should be talking about is the impoliteness of the person who did not respect the invitation.

Carrie Brownstein: There’s that too. I guess if you wanted to take a more hard line, less generous approach — which I think is fine because…

Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s your special day, Kay.

Carrie Brownstein: …It’s your special day — You could just say, “We’re glad they’re making the trip with you but as stated in the invitation we’re not having kids at the wedding.” Maybe that’s the more hard line approach.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And you could have one of those things like they have on ferris wheels. “If you’re not this tall, you cannot come into our wedding, sorry.”

Carrie Brownstein: Absolutely.

Brendan Francis Newnam: “You can hang out in the Prius.”


Movie Time Multitasking

Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Jordan from Greensboro, North Carolina. Jordan writes: “When my wife and I watch a movie she ‘multitasks’ on her phone, but still claims she is enjoying and paying attention to the movie. Am I unreasonable for complaining?”

Fred Armisen: A little bit. I think that relationships are a compromise and everyone enjoys movies in their own way. And actually there are some people who can actually take in and enjoy a movie while they’re doing other things. So I think that’s okay. Even if it’s a little annoying, at least you get to watch a movie with somebody.

Rico Gagliano: I have to say, this drives me insane when people do this.

Carrie Brownstein: Me too.

Rico Gagliano: And they say that they’re… I mean, I believe that that’s true, Fred, that there’re some people who are like that, but in my experience they are missing everything.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But why do they have to watch it with you? Why can’t they have a more fractured…

Rico Gagliano: Well, why are we watching the movie then?

Fred Armisen: Because we’re sitting next to each other. Because we’re spending time together.

Rico Gagliano: No she isn’t, she’s on the phone!

Fred Armisen: You want your day to go well. Literally, at the end of that day, you don’t want there to have been an issue with, “You didn’t watch the movie in the way that I wanted.”

Carrie Brownstein: Yeah, that’s passive aggressive. I think there is a way, though, of stating which shared couple experiences are important to you. It obviously can’t be everything. If this is one of his main activities they do as a couple that’s very important to him, then I think he should say in advance, “Listen, I would love for us to just sit here and watch a movie.” But if they do a bunch of things together and it’s not that important, he should just let it go.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But I also think he should reevaluate what is important quality time. Because you’re sitting in front of a television not communicating. Even if you’re both focused on the movie.

Rico Gagliano: …And she’s multitasking on her phone. She’s two levels divorced from the time they’re sharing together.

Fred Armisen: You don’t know how her brain works! You don’t know this person.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Maybe she’s texting him love notes.

Fred Armisen: Or trivia questions on the movie.

Carrie Brownstein: Or live-tweeting it. I think the onus is on him to let her know that it’s important. And if it’s not that important, let it go.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Jordan, if you really are focused on the movie in the way that you want her to be focused, how do you know? How do you know what she’s doing over there?

Fred Armisen: Exactly. Where are his eyes?

Carrie Brownstein: They should watch the movie on her phone.

Fred Armisen: I’m pointing at Carrie right now.

Rico Gagliano: That’s the middle way.


Talking to the Famous-ish

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s good. All right, we solved that one; this question comes from Michael from Tipton, Pennsylvania, and Michael writes: “In my work, I occasionally encounter actors and other celebrities, some of whom I recognize more than others. Can you recommend how, or if, one should ask that potentially ego damaging question, ‘Where might I have seen your work?’ P.S., this would not apply to Fred and Carrie since I’m a big fan of their show.”

Carrie Brownstein: I don’t think one should be any more nervous or deferential about a performer than anyone else. So if you really don’t know but are curious, I guess just be honest. I mean,Fred loves when he gets mistaken for Rick Moranis.

Fred Armisen: It really happened. In Disneyland. A family from India, the dad came up to me and said I was great in “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”

Carrie Brownstein: Which would make Rick Moranis look so amazing now.

Rico Gagliano: But you were okay with that, Fred? You enjoyed that?

Fred Armisen: I said thank you.

Carrie Brownstein: And sometimes people say, “Carrie Bradshaw, right?” Which is the character from “Sex and the City.” And I just say, “Yeah, that’s my name.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: So there you go, Michael. Just go ahead and ask.

Carrie Brownstein: Go ahead and ask. Just be polite.


Internalizing the Glare

Rico Gagliano: All right. Julia in South Pasadena, California writes: “You’re driving on the highway and the super slow car you’ve been tailgating finally changes lanes. Is a stare-down merited, or some other form of reproach?”

Carrie Brownstein: Wow. That is a big pet peeve of mine.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Which one? Which part?

Rico Gagliano: Yeah; she’s tailgating!

Carrie Brownstein: I know — Being tailgated, but also having someone drive really slow in front of me.

I don’t think a glare is ever worth it. You think you might glare and then speed ahead, but you never know, traffic patterns change and then all the sudden you’re just right up next to that person again. I would just internalize that glare.

Rico Gagliano: Although let’s also talk about the fact that this car may be driving super slow because Julia’s been tailgating the hell out of this person and they’re mad.

Carrie Brownstein: Well she has to leave a certain car length.

Fred Armisen: It’s the law. It’s the law.

Rico Gagliano: This is why we brought Fred and Carrie here, to answer legal questions.

Fred Armisen: It’s the law! Let’s see how many times I can say “It’s the law.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. Now this is honestly our last question…

Fred Armisen: Wait, I wanna add something. I thought of something else, something about Carrie that is remarkable. I know this is off-topic…

Rico Gagliano: Earlier in the show, for those who didn’t hear, Fred and Carrie were telling us trivia about each other.

Fred Armisen: You can just edit this in later, real quick: She knows all the girl groups from the early ’60s, like an encyclopedia. It is crazy.

Carrie Brownstein: One time Fred and I were in a small town in Washington State. We were driving back from a wedding — this is tying everything in, we were driving back from a wedding where there were no kids and we weren’t tailgating anyone — And there was some music playing over the speakers in the restaurant and I could name every song. And it was like that ’50s doo-wop stuff, and I don’t know how I retain that information but somehow I did.

Rico Gagliano: What’s the most obscure band?

Fred Armisen: I can’t even remember the names. Names that if I told you, you’d be like “I don’t know if that’s a real group.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Maybe they aren’t real groups.

Fred Armisen: Oh no, I checked.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, you did. On your phone while you were listening to her.

Carrie Brownstein: Oh, right!  He was really distracted and I was upset.

Brendan Francis Newnam: There we go.

Rico Gagliano: There you go; it all comes full circle. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, thanks so much for telling our audience how to behave.

Carrie Brownstein: Well thanks for having us.

Fred Armisen: Thank you for having us.