Fred Armisen Harasses Innocent New Yorkers For Heineken (Exclusive Video)

Fred Armisen in the Heineken "Payphone" campaign.
Fred Armisen in the Heineken "Payphone" campaign.
 Anders Krusberg

If you answered a ringing payphone and the voice on the other end told you to leave whoever you were with and go across the street, what would you do?

What sounds like a scene from a horror film was also an experiment conducted by Fred Armisen and Heineken for the beer company’s “Cities” campaign, an extended video of which The Hollywood Reporter is debuting exclusively.

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Last month, Armisen called a payphone across the street from New York City’s Comedy Cellar and invited whoever answered to go across the street to his stand-up show and step onstage. But he couldn’t tell the person on the line that.

“They said to keep it vague and mysterious, which I’m like, ‘Great!’ That made it more inviting, so that’s just what I started doing,” Armisen explains. “I just started trying to get people to walk across the street, which is a lot to ask a person who’s busy…. On top of that, I had to ask them all to go alone, so if they’re with somebody, I’m like, ‘Not the other person, just you.’”

The SNL alum says he thought no one would pick the phone, and as the video shows, the majority of people ignored the call, with many not even answering the phone, and one guy shown picking up the phone and instantly hanging it back up.

Others were a bit wary of what they were being asked to do, with one responding to Armisen’s request to go across the street by saying, “That’s terrifying.”

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“No, no, nothing dangerous, nothing bad,” Armisen replies.

But five people took Armisen up on his offer, with the video showing the comedian and crowd welcoming one of the people who showed up.

The Portlandia star says he was interested not only in how the campaign incorporated the increasingly archaic payphone but also in its “hidden camera” component.

“When they first told me about it, the description of what was going to happen intrigued me at first, because it was kind of a hidden camera kind of thing, which I’ve done in the past and I really enjoyed it,” Armisen says. “The second part of it was there was a payphone involved and I was thinking about how payphones are kind of becoming part of our past, but they’re still kind of alive…they’re still around.”

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The Heineken campaign is just the latest gig for Armisen, who’s juggling starring in Portlandia with being the Late Night With Seth Meyers bandleader.

But he doesn’t mind being busy. “All of these things are just incredible, lucky opportunities, so I just find a way to to make it all work,” he says. “I just travel a lot. It’s all like a dream come true…. I loved doing comedy, I loved doing TV, I loved playing music, and now I get to do it all. So it’s worth getting on a plane.”

As a lifelong New Yorker, Armisen already knows his own city, but he says there are still parts he’d like to explore.

“I keep rediscovering new parts. Brooklyn: I feel like every time I go there, they invent a new part of it. I’m like, ‘What part of Brooklyn am I even in?’ and I look around and there’s a whole community with a history. I consider that undiscovered. I consider Queens undiscovered. I lived in Queens when I was a little kid, but I still feel like I know so little about parts of it,” he says. “And then also, way up north, like up in the 200s. I went to this concert recently [up there] and I was like, ‘What is this area?’… It keeps unfolding…recently I’ve been discovering around the West Side and Chelsea and the High Line. That’s a whole other world.”

The video, which will run on Heineken's social media accounts, directs users to the beer company's website, where they can enter for the chance to get a call to experience a mysterious underground event this summer.

Watch Armisen and Heineken’s "The Payphone" video below.

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