I don’t think I’ll ever forget the moment when I realized that Fred Armisen, the actor behind Garth, Lawrence Welk and so many of my favorite Saturday Night Live characters was sitting in the same room as me. My hands began to shake as my eyes skipped around the room, frantically looking for his signature disheveled hair and black-rimmed glasses. I was a predator, ready to pounce once I acquired my target.
I perched up in my seat to get a better view of the audience. I continued to scour the room as I thought about my dream that, one day, Fred Armisen would approach me, asking me to replace Carrie Brownstein on Portlandia. I mean, I already had the name down – it was basically meant to be. I, of course, would accept the offer, and we would run off to film the most successful season the show would ever see.
My love for Fred started at a young age. My feelings for him are not that of a celebrity crush, but more of a loving grandfather whom I adore and admire and believe to be a comedic genius.
I grew up watching SNL. While my friends were watching SpongeBob and Ed, Edd n Eddy, I was going through hours of SNL clips on Youtube because I was too young to stay up until airtime. A lot of the time, I couldn’t even name the host or recognize the musical guest. For me, the real stars were the permanent cast: Chris Parnell, Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey and, of course, Fred.
Then, with the marvelous invention of Hulu a few years later, I was able to get a better experience and watch full episodes online. Then, when I was finally old and able enough to stay up until midnight, I got to watch Saturday Night Live actually live. It was a whole new experience.
While many of SNL’s skits and characters tend to disappoint, Fred always brought flair to the show. I don’t know if it was his on point facial expressions, his genius comedic timing or his signature gaze that almost says laugh ... or else. Whatever it was, I learned to love Fred at a young age, and that love has not wavered since. On the contrary, my love for Fred has grown into an extensive plan to become a permanent member of his comedic posse and through that, his life.
Now, with Fred sitting in the same room as me, the dreaming was over. The day had finally come. Despite my inexperience in acting, Fred would be able to see my raw talent. He was here, at Northwestern, to find me. Why else would he find himself in the middle of Illinois? It all made sense. The plan was coming together perfectly.
After about two minutes of frantic searching, I finally spotted him in the front row and decided there was no reason to wait for him to spot me. I would make the first move.
I snuck to the front of the auditorium, unnoticed by the rest of the audience. I walked up to him, breathing slowly, trying to calm down before I attempted to speak. With my voice shaking, I managed to get out, “Hi, could I possibly take a picture with you?”
Dammit Carrie, now you sound like any other star struck fan as opposed to his contemporary as you hope to be.
I shook off the blunder and took the picture. He’s shorter in person, I thought as I stood next to him, smiling hard for the camera. I touched his lower back with my violently shaking hand, trying to take in all I could.
As I basked in Fred’s greatness, a crowd began to form around us, as I had brought attention to his presence in the auditorium. Now is my chance, I thought, I have to say something memorable and show him that I’m more than just any other fan, that I’m his next comedic partner. I’m what he has been waiting for, what he didn’t know he was missing in his life.
Unfortunately, at that moment, the moment I was supposed to prove my worthiness, the only thing I could do was force him into an uncomfortable hug. I am touching Fred Armisen. Oh my god, look how close we are. This feels so right. I closed my eyes and took it all in, his smell, his soft sweater, everything I could. A few seconds later, I realized the hug had continued for an unacceptable amount of time. As I pulled away, I awkwardly whisper into his ear, “I love your work.”
I love your work! That’s all I could think of? I can practically name Fred’s whole repertoire and all I could say was “I love your work.” In the most important moment of my young life, my mind went blank, and it probably cost my comedy career.
I knew I had blown it. There would be no invitation to join the cast of Portlandia, no chance to replace Kristen Wiig as Kat in the SNL skit "Kat and Garth." Fred and I wouldn’t move in to a gorgeous penthouse on the Upper West Side of Manhattan together, and Andy Samberg wouldn’t be our butler. My dream would stay merely a dream.
I walked away from my hero, sulking in my mistakes. Let’s face it, accidental discovery was my only chance at stardom. I’m not talented enough to actually audition and receive any role. As I sat back down in my seat, I knew my dream was officially dead. I would have to fall back on my less glamorous life plan of being a Fred Armisen groupie. Maybe I could plot the demise of Carrie Brownstein and then replace her. No, I shook away the thought. The dream was over.