Long before he gained fame on "Saturday Night Live," Fred Armisen spent many years in Chicago. He returned this week to be part of Second City's 24-hour Letters to Santa event which benefits families in need from Chicago's Onward Neighborhood House.
"It's so cool and the vibe was so great," Armisen said Thursday when he stopped by RedEye to chat. "I've never experienced anything like it. It was really, really, really great."
When you consider Armisen's comedic work in "SNL" and as co-creator (with Carrie Brownstein) of the hilarious "Portlandia," you'd think his time in Chicago revolved around Second City. But he was part of the city's music and art scene for about 10 years in the 1990s, playing in the punk band Trenchmouth and hanging out in then-burgeoning Wicker Park (an experience which Armisen says informs some of what he comes up with for "Portlandia").
He and his Chicago friends celebrated many Christmases together, he said.
"You know that time in your life when ... you don't go visit your family, you just hang out with your friends just cuz you're newly sort of independent and you make your own sort of punk-rock version of Christmas?" he says in the video above. "My memory is just being with friends."
With "Portlandia" returning for its third season Jan. 4, Armisen says fans can expect a lot of the same characters they've grown to love. But the show, while still comprised of sketches, has evolved, with guest stars such as Chloe Sevigny appearing in multiple episodes and continuing storylines. Sevigny will play Fred and Carrie's new roommate, Alexandra.
"There are story arcs that go throughout the season this time," Armisen said. "The episodes are a little more interconnected. That's cuz we're fans of TV and such fans of 'Homeland' or 'Game of Thrones' and we're like, 'How do they do that? How do they draw you in?'
"So we just tried to include some of that."