Last year, I saw Conan O'Brien's "Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television" tour in Austin (after failing to get tickets in New York, where I live), and while it was okay, it did contain some elements that the "Portlandia" live show should try to avoid. To wit:
1. Don't rely too much on local talent. It's great to freshen up a tour by welcoming appearances by people who happen to live in the respective towns where you'll be performing. But you can't really use that as an excuse to skimp on preparing material. On the "Prohibited" tour, some of the show's running time was eaten up by sketches by the likes of Jon Stewart. In Austin, we got some rockabilly guy whose name I don't even remember but who flew JetBlue with me last year.
2. Don't waste audience's time with your sob story. "Portlandia" is an underdog of a show that doesn't attract blockbuster ratings, but Brownstein and Armisen should make sure not to devote too much time in their live show to "fake" complaints about the show's status. On his tour, O'Brien spent roughly half of the show "joking" about his mistreatment by NBC, to an audience of people who already (a) knew the story and (b) liked O'Brien enough to spend money to see him do things they normally would have enjoyed on TV for free. Whining to your most loyal fans about what a loser your show is/you are is a turnoff.
3. Less music, more comedy. This is not to say that Brownstein and Armisen aren't very talented musicians. They are. O'Brien is too. But audiences coming to the "Prohibited" tour may have expected more of the Masturbating Bear, and comedy of that sort, than O'Brien's electric guitar stylings. If the audience for Armisen and Brownstein's tour is being attracted on the basis of "Portlandia," then the comic sensibility of "Portlandia" is what the show should be about.
- Fred Armisen
- Carrie Brownstein