Sometimes a comedian comes around that just takes you by surprise. For me, that happened with Fred Armisen. Now, to be fair, Fred has been around as a comedian and a musician for a long time, but for some reason, he was not on my radar…he doesn’t seem to jump out at you like some of the other people that have come from Saturday Night Live. Whereas, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy would be the Hot Dog– Fred Armisen would be the condiment, to use a metaphor from my favorite food…for most people, Fred would be the mustard. He just makes the Hot Dog that much better.
My first experience with Fred was very very recent. It was while watching the Netflix special, Fred Armisen: Stand Up For Drummers…and I was mildly entertained for the first 15 minutes or so…quietly enjoying the fact that he’s so unassuming. He comes across as very comfortable and nice and amusing. And then he got to the part where he explains accents and dialects from all around the United States while pointing to a blue map of the US…and he blew me away! He is a MASTER at accents from all around the world, really, I was to learn later. I haven’t ever seen anything quite like it.
Not only can he nail any accent, but he does it down to the city or even suburb… even describing the slight differences in regions of the same place…it’s amazing. what I love most is that these are not parodies of the accents…but the actual understated minute-detailed versions of the accents. I saw a couple of Interviews pulled from Youtube later that showed when an accent got to be from a certain place that was very big or showy– that he would get uncomfortable doing the accent as it would come across as racist or rude…like when he’s asked to do a Jamaican or Vietnamese accent.
He reminds me of Peter Sellers in his ability to do just about any accent as if it was his natural accent. And it becomes that much more hilarious– because the accent is so real instead of outrageously phony. My train of thought brought me back to the old Pink Panther and the Inspector cartoons of the sixties and I remember the Inspector’s sidekick being a Spanish gendarme who does not comprehend the intricacies of the French language… a Sergeant Deux-Deux, who is diminutive, soft-spoken, timid yet low-key and seldom wide-eyed. Now, I wish Fred was around when the Pink Panther movies were being shot, because they could have easily slipped Fred in as Sergeant Deux-Deux.