Fred Armisen: Comedy for Musicians but Everyone is Welcome Review – A Warm, Genuine Night of Comedy

Walking into a cold Astor theatre on a rainy Sunday evening, I couldn’t help but recall seeing Crispin Hellion Glover’s monologue and film event way back when in 2012 in the same theatre. That night was equally cold, and had a much smaller turnout that the event I was going to, but that didn’t stop the enigmatic Glover from entrancing everyone with his extremely unique identity. At the end of his evening, Glover made time to sign books and engage with his fans, ensuring to show that he was grateful that the small crowd had appeared to see him.

While Crispin Hellion Glover is a vastly different person than Fred Armisen, there was the same kind of reverence for the small Perth crowd from the American comedian. The auditorium was far from full, but those who were there to see Armisen deliver his observational brand of comedy were dedicated fans who had likely devoured much of Armisen’s work – whether it be SNL, Documentary Now!, Portlandia, or the vast array of cameos and characters that he’s played throughout the years. And, sure enough, they were treated to a warm, intimate show that entertained.

Given the show is called Comedy for Musicians but Everyone is Welcome, it wasn’t strange to see local musician Carla Geneve take the stage to warm up the crowd instead of a local comedian. Carla’s songs are exceptionally well written, and with her stunning voice, they manage to fill the auditorium with ease. Listening to Greg’s Discount Chemist a few doors down from said chemist should be twee, but there’s a kind familiarity to the song that made it a pure treat to listen to. But, what made Geneve’s presence more than just the ‘token local act’ was how welcoming and supportive Fred Armisen was to her. He later mentioned that he’d been made aware of her work through Courtney Barnett, and while that was nice to hear, it was already evident that Armisen had genuinely paid attention to Geneve and her music, and genuinely enjoyed it.

That genuine aspect to Armisen extended to his relationship with Perth, and in turn, Australia. Earlier in the day he’d taken part in an instore music gig down at Fremantle (or, as Fred said, ‘or is it Freo?’, managing to get the enunciation of both Fremantle and Freo correct, which is something that not even most Australians can do) and had nothing but nice words to say about the city. Look, living in Perth, and going to many live events, whether it be stand-up comedians or bands, you get to know the tokenistic mention of Perth, or something particular about the city of Perth (a shout out to Cottesloe beach, or a random question about what on that green thing is in the city), and while it’s nice to hear someone famous say ‘how’s it going Perth?’, we’re also well aware when it’s said out of obligation rather than because of affection.

And that’s what made Fred Armisen’s show such a joy to sit down and watch. There was genuine affection and appreciation for this city, for the people who came out to see him perform stand-up, for anyone who even knew who he was. When he gives the audience a lesson in the history of drumming, and wraps up with a mention of Tame Impala, he makes sure to clarify that he’s not mentioning them just because he’s in Perth, but has mentioned the band at every instance of this gig. He just really likes that band, and it shows. When Fred mentions the often quoted trivia about Perth being the most isolated city in the world, he does so with a joyful on the spot observation that that’s the kind of city he’d be if he were a city. One that moves as far away from everyone else.

Maybe that’s why the audience lapped up every moment with Fred Armisen? There was a lot of us in him, and we sure do like having ourselves reflected back to us. Fred Armisen was welcoming, opening, accepting, and at the end of the gig, he made sure to make himself available for signings and photos, and when he mentioned this, you could tell that he was as excited as the audience was for the opportunity to spend a few more minutes with each other. This appreciation for having an audience extended to having a few guests on stage to read a play he’d written. He’d met these people at the instore earlier in the day, remembered their names without referring to a sheet of paper, and enjoyed spending time with them on stage.

For a review about a comedians act, I sure am spending a lot of time writing about us – the people of Perth – but, I only do so because Fred Armisen is such a welcoming person who works hard to embrace his audience, and by doing so, you can’t help but feel valued. Armisen’s brand of comedy is unique and observational, and with this show he took the audience of a musical journey, pointing out the oddities in music, of the absurdity of different instruments, the lack of editing in classical music, the time counts of drumming, and a lot more. It’s odd and a little bit weird, but so is the audience he’s fostered throughout the years. As the title suggests, it’s musical comedy, and while that could be exclusionary, it is far from the case.

As the evening wrapped up, Fred Armisen pointed out how nice it was to have an early show on a Sunday night – the kick off time was 7pm, and it was all over and done by 9pm. He mentioned about how he loves going home after an early show and just heading straight to bed, and sure enough, that was exactly what I did when the show wrapped up. The show was short, and joyfully warm and accepting, and most importantly, truly genuine. I already loved Fred Armisen’s comedy before seeing him live, but having spent an evening being entertained by him, and having felt his affection for the audience of Perth – yes, the most isolated city in the world –, I can’t help but love Fred Armisen, the person, too.  

Andrew F Peirce

Andrew is passionate about Australian cinema, Australian politics, Australian culture, and Australia in general. Found regularly talking online about Sweet Country, and reminding people to watch Young Adult.

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