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In the sixth episode of the third season, Aidy Bryant’s Annie tags along with her boss, Gabe (John Cameron Mitchell), at the alt-weekly The Thorn to meet his onetime bandmate Bongo, played by Fred Armisen. “We wanted to show John Cameron Mitchell’s character as checked out of his job, feeling old and irrelevant and turning his attention to other pursuits,” says showrunner and executive producer Rushfield.
“Fred was happy to help out Aidy, his Saturday Night Live former co-worker and friend, as well as our co-producers Broadway Video, which also made Portlandia,” says Rushfield.
The record store location fueled Gabe and Bongo’s nostalgia trip. “The location was brilliantly accurate and looked like a true relic from the early ’90s,” Rushfield says, adding that the scene “was also shot in a beautifully loose way,” reminiscent of Penelope Spheeris’ 1981 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, which followed the punk scene in Los Angeles from 1979 to 1980.
“The scene was from Annie’s point of view, but it was also evocative of the looseness and fun Gabe and Bongo used to have,” says Rushfield. “Bongo didn’t just seem like some addled acid casualty. He seemed like the guy who Gabe collaborated with to make The Thorn great and cool, the publication that inspired Annie to want to be a journalist.”
“I am a first lady buff,” says Rushfield. “I went down a short rabbit hole trying to come up with obscene lyrics for Gabe and Bongo to sing about first ladies from the past.” A reference to Tipper Gore emphasizes the era in which the song was written, even though Rushfield had a ball thinking of alternate options. “I’m not sure our mostly millennial-age audience really cared about rhymes involving Rosalynn Carter,” she says.
This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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