SNL's Fred Armisen Recalls Meeting Steve Jobs, Calls Social Media 'a Distraction'

Fred Armisen
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IFC has ordered 10 new episodes of the short-based comedy series "Portlandia," written by and starring "Saturday Night Live’s" Armisen (WME, Brillstein Entertainment, Morris Yorn) and former Sleater Kinney vocalist-guitarist Carrie Brownstein. 

The "Saturday Night Live" star, who famously impersonated the late Apple CEO, also spoke about music and technology at an Apple fan convention.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Unlike many comedians and sketch performers, Fred Armisen wants nothing to do with social media.

The Saturday Night Live performer, speaking in front of hundreds of Macworld/iWorld attendees Friday morning, says the whole social media landscape is "a distraction."

"I have enough to do, and for me, my personality, it's too much of a distraction," he says. "I'd get sucked into it too deeply. It's just this distraction, I want to focus on working. It's just for other people. I appreciate it exists, though."

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In a discussion with Macworld senior editor Chris Breen, Armisen, who's had sketches from both SNL and IFC's Portlandia become viral sensations, related a story from when he used to have a Facebook page and a user uploaded an unflattering photo of him from high school. It automatically turned him off to social media, in general.

"It's a privacy thing," he says.

Noting that working on SNL is like having "10 full-time jobs," the comedian, who's been on SNL since 2002 and is the second-longest tenured cast member behind Seth Meyers, also spoke about his famous impersonation of Steve Jobs and meeting him at the opening of Apple's flagship Fifth Ave. store in New York City.

"I was into the way he said numbers," recalls Armisen of his impersonation of Apple's late CEO. "He put so much love into the way he said them."

He says meeting Jobs was like "meeting a head of state or a rock star" and says that when they first made eye contact, Jobs made the hand gesture Armisen made in the famous SNL "Weekend Update" sketch where Armisen, as Jobs, introduced the iPod Invisa, an iPod so small you could not see it with the naked eye, yet it held "eight million songs" and you could play Pong on it.

The actor, who performs double-duty on both SNL and Portlandia, which co-stars former Sleater-Kinney guitarist, Carrie Brownstein, also spoke of his use of technology, and specifically Apple products, in how he works, saying that the iPad has become indispensable as a creative tool, using it to develop sketch ideas, take notes or even compose music on it for Portlandia through the many music apps available.

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"Every musician I know uses Mac products," he says.

A musician and noted drummer in his own right, Armisen also addressed the frequent use of Apple products on Portlandia, which have been the subject of numerous sketches on the show.

"Apple's not pushy," he says. "I just write to them and ask if we can use this or this, and they say 'okay'." He also notes that other companies can be incredibly cautious with how their products are portrayed, without naming names, but Apple is not.

After a week off, Armisen will return to Saturday Night Live on Feb. 9 with Justin Bieber serving as host and musical guest.

Portlandia is currently in the middle of it's third season on IFC.


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