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Macworld/iWorld 2013: Fred Armisen talks tech, dead British actors

Sections: Apple News, Conferences, Macworld

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Fred Armisen

Musician/actor/writer Fred Armisen—whom you know from Saturday Night Live on NBC but should also know from Portlandia on IFC—visited Macworld/iWorld 2013 to discuss his love of tech and how it applies to his work and life. And, as one would expect at a tech expo, he also had some kind things to say about Alec Guinness.

Fred kicked off the interview with an instant shout out to the iPod classic, which certainly appealed to my music/Apple sensibilities. Fred’s point was that the larger storage space more easily accommodates entire albums, which is the best way to listen to music. Fred’s right, of course…provided you’re not listening to the type of music Apple tends to promote on the iTunes launch screen.

Fred himself is a drummer, playing in a punk band but also messing around with some Latin salsa. His love of music is part of what draws him to Apple. “Apple and Mac products are so synched into music,” Fred explained, noting that every musician he knows uses Apple products. He writes music for sketches with GarageBand on his iPad.

Fred used the iPad to illustrate his passion for Apple and tech products in general. “I remember not knowing what the iPad was at first, and I just bought it excitedly.” Now, aside from music, Fred uses it for jotting down notes and sketch ideas; he uses his laptop for writing full sketches in FinalCut Pro.

Technology doesn’t completely dominate his life, however. Fred doesn’t use social media, for example, finding it a distraction because he’d get too into it (he has a sketch on Portlandia that features a character spiraling out of control as he’s bombarded by social media posts and invites). This doesn’t mean he’s against FaceBook, Twitter and the like, but that his style of engaging his audience isn’t conducive to their delivery, and that he’d rather focus on working.

The conversation of course covered Fred’s SNL work—how ideas become sketches, how he prepares for imitations and female roles, etc.—and there was an interesting detour regarding the work of Alec Guinness (he would like for you to watch Kind Hearts and Coronets).

Fred then told the story about the day he met Steve Jobs at the opening of an Apple Store in NYC. It was soon after Fred had portrayed Jobs in an SNL sketch revealing the iPod Invisa, and when Steve approached Fred, he pointed at the comedian and held up the hand gesture Fred had used in the sketch to hold the fictional device. Fred revealed after telling the story, “Steve was a huge hero of mine.”

This shows through in Portlandia, which is full of tech-based sketches—culture and products—many of which focus on Apple products. iDevice users will see a lot that’s familiar, and they’ll see the actual products, which Apple has been happy to lend to the crew of the show without too much content restriction.

Although Fred has quite effectively portrayed Jobs many times in his career (he always most impressed with how Steve pronounced numbers), the person he was the most fun impersonating is the Queen of England.

Tech may be fun, after all, but it’s safe to say it’s not as much fun as being a punk rock drummer in drag.

Be sure to check out more Macworld/iWorld news at AppleTell.

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