Episode 178: Fred Armisen, Fishy Business, and Kinky Etiquette

Fred Armisen/Courtesy Christopher Hornbecker / IFC

This week, “Portlandia’s” Fred Armisen cops to working blue… legendary satirist/musician/Governor-to-be Kinky Friedman serves up Texas-sized etiquette tips… rockstar classical organist Cameron Carpenter thinks outside the Bach box… We toast an infamous Alabama pest… Fish fraud!… And “Kumare” documentarian Vikram Gandhi teaches you how to become a guru. Plus, a ‘Fun.’ joke, Da Vinci Code: Rhode Island, and your letters… all the way from Kyrgyzstan.

Icebreaker: Andrew Dost

Andrew Dost, keyboardist for the band fun., riffs on guitars and grime. (Fun. just racked up six Grammy nominations this week, including best album, best song, and best group.)
Small Talk: Sadie Stein
Sadie Stein, deputy editor of The Paris Review celebrates the news that a centuries-old code was cracked by a Brown student… and not by Tom Hanks.

A History Lesson with Booze: Monument to a Pest and The See No Weevil

Back in 1915, the insidious boll weevil decimated the cotton crops of Enterprise, Alabama… and paradoxically paved the way for a stronger local economy. Hear about the monument they erected in gratitude, then take a cotton to a drink that celebrates Enterprise’s alternate crop:

“See No Weevil” – a philosophy and a custom cocktail courtesy of Wes Fraser, bartender at Bottletree in Birmingham, AL.

In your favorite cocktail glass, add…

  • 4 parts Stoli vanilla
  • 2 1/2 parts Creme de Cacao
  • Splash of vanilla coconut simple syrup (to taste)
  • 1 part Half & Half

Shake and pour over ice. Sprinkle with cotton-esque toasted coconut, and dust with cinnamon. Raise it high, like Lady Enterprise with her weevil. Go nuts.

Guest List: Cameron Carpenter

Organist Cameron Carpenter’s virtuoso playing and rock-star persona have made him one of most sought-after classical performers in the world. He’s also an innovative arranger, known for organ versions of everything from Bob Dylan to his specialty: Bach. He shares a list of his favorite works inspired by that baroque master.

Guest of Honor: Fred Armisen

This season marks Fred Armisen’s eleventh as a cast member of “Saturday Night Live.” He’s also the co-creator and co-star of the Peabody award-winning sketch comedy show “Portlandia.” Next Friday a special episode called “Winter in Portlandia” airs on IFC; the show starts its third season on January 4. Brendan chats with Fred about SNL’s punk ethos, his days working blue, and the mean streets of everywhere.

Eavesdropping: Khanisha Foster

Khanisha Foster serves as associate artistic director of the collective 2nd Story, which preaches – and practices – the telling of real, personal stories. She and her cohorts just published some of their best stuff in the collection “Briefly Knocked Unconscious by a Low-Flying Duck.” She gives us a taste by gamely recounting her last hurrah (and first drink) in London. (Catch Khanisha at live 2nd Story events in LA and elsewhere).

Chattering Class: Vikram Gandhi

Documentarian Vikram Gandhi initially pretended to be a spiritual leader named Kumare… but then this persona – and his teachings – became very real to a group of followers. Gandhi’s resulting film “Kumare: The True Story of a False Prophet” (out this week on iTunes and VOD) takes a fascinating look at his short-lived days as a spiritual leader. Vikram teaches Rico about the “hard business” of helping others, and what it takes to be a guru.

Etiquette: Kinky Friedman

Legendary satirist – and self-proclaimed “last of the Jewish cowboys” – Kinky Friedman knows a thing or two about how to behave…and how not to. In addition to touring with Dylan in the ’70s and running for Texas Governor in 2006 (he earned 13% of the vote), he wrote the foreword to Willie Nelson’s new memoir “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” Kinky’s in the midst of his “Bi-Polar” tour, in which he plays twenty-eight shows in twenty-seven days, but he takes a break to graciously teach our listeners the finer points of Texas etiquette… including some grammar lessons for y’all.

Main Course: Faux Fish

When your fish is labeled as, say, red snapper, it’s natural to think that you’re eating red snapper. Often, though, you’re not. This week Jenn Abelson and Beth Daley of the Boston Globe ran a follow-up to a story about fish-mislabeling they published in 2011. It reveals the problem is just as rampant as ever: Most of the mislabelers still haven’t corrected their ways. Beth tells Rico about the realities of fish fraud, and about what goes on in the Globe’s “fish lab.”

Listener Letters: You

Our mailbag runneth over! This time, we beg for forgiveness for a classic(al) mistake, hear from a second “Karl from Kyrgyzstan,” then get the 411 on dinnertime N.P.R. Feel free to send us your corrections, conniptions, or compliments. You can also contact us via the DPD hotline (a.k.a. the phone at Brendan’s cubicle): 213-621-3554.

Other Music In this Week’s Show:

The Sea & Cake – “The Argument”

Aphex Twin – “Boy/Girl Song”

Tipsy – “Liquordelic”

Eubie Blake – “Boll Weevil Blues”

Banco De Gaia – “Amber (Insect Intelligence)”

Frank Fairfield – “Boll Weevil”

Bach: “Sheep May Safely Graze”

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra & Richard Hickox – Bach: “Blithe Bells” (Arr: Percy Granger)

Cameron Carpenter – Bach: “Rejoice, Beloved Christians”

Bach: “Rejoice Beloved Christians” (Arr: Ferrucio Busoni)

Bach: “Prelude in C Minor (The Well Tempered Clavier)”

Benoit Charest – “Bach a la Jazz” (from “The Triplets of Belleville”)

New Kids on the Block – “Hang Tough”

Daft Punk – “Around the World”

Alexandre Desplat – “Just another Dead Rat in a Garbage Pail (Behind a Chinese Restaurant)”

Sex Pistols – “God Save the Queen”

Matlock – “God Vs. Money”

Kinky Friedman – “We Have the Right to Refuse Service to You”

Radiohead – “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”

Microscopic Septet – “The Happy Twin”