Fred Armisen is well known for his successful run on Saturday Night Live and his critically acclaimed TV show Portlandia , but not many people are aware that he’s also a drummer. Netflix has recently released Fred Armisen: Standup for Drummers, in which Fred combines his music and comedy chops to bring us this hour-long special.
Many comedians possess talent in other areas. Seth MacFarlane has a few swing albums. Jack Black is part of the rock group Tenacious D. It’s quite common for comedians to utilize music in their acts. Demetri Martin often strums guitar as he delivers deadpan puns. The majority of Bo Burnham’s show consists of funny songs he plays at the piano. While Martin uses music while he tells jokes, and Bo Burnham uses music to tell jokes, Armisen uses music to tell jokes about music.
That’s what’s special about this piece. It may be geared toward specifically musicians, or even drummers, but if you’re in that niche market, this special is for you. When I say music jokes, I’m referring to Fred apologizing to you if you’ve ever seen “one of these bands,” and then playing a comically terrible looped track. I’m referring to Fred speaking about how blues concerts are really fun… for the first ten seconds. I’m referring to Fred doing goofy impressions of famous drummers, like Ringo Starr. These jokes that are narrowly tailored to musicians are where the special soars.
If you’re looking for the Fred Armisen you know and love from SNL, look elsewhere. There are a few great moments of some non-drummer humor, such as when Armisen pulls out a map and takes us on a tour of all the nation’s accents, or when his signature weirdness shines as he imitates a decaying fox, but the majority of the set is not this sort of humor most viewers are used to.
Unfortunately, Standup for Drummers is not an hour of straight laughs. There are some very unfunny moments, such as when Fred travels from drum kit to drum kit showing the styles of 50s through 2000s drumming. There’s no comedy there. If you want to hoot and holler, this and other sections like it will seem pointless, but if you’re a fan of drums and music, this break from the comedy will be permissible and even entertaining. Additionally, Fred brings some drummers he knows up on stage with him, such as Tré Cool of Greenday, who don’t add laughs, but bring some refreshing musical talent. Overall, Standup for Drummers is quality special that isn’t afraid to put its use of drums and niche market humor in the way of a traditional standup special.