Classic Punk Rock Sketches from Saturday Night Live, Courtesy of Fred Armisen

Come­di­an Fred Armisen is best known for his years on Sat­ur­day Night Live, his eight sea­sons of sur­re­al sketch com­e­dy (with Car­rie Brown­stein) on Port­landia, and his unnerv­ing com­mand of region­al accents and impres­sions. True fans also know that for much of his career he’s also been a musi­cian, pri­mar­i­ly a drum­mer, since col­lege. Start­ing in high school, he’s been in var­i­ous bands, includ­ing Trench­mouth, the Blue Man Group, and some­times sit­ting in with Seth Mey­ers’ house band.

So the above skit from SNL is fun because Armisen gets to indulge his love of punk music. It’s a basic set-up, a 40-some­thing groom and his best buds “get­ting the band back togeth­er” to play one more song at a wed­ding. But here the band used to be a polit­i­cal punk band along the lines of Fear, The Dead Kennedys, and Sui­ci­dal Ten­den­cies, and the anti-Rea­gan lyrics (you too, Alexan­der Haig, you fas­cist!) have been pre­served in amber.

Like most SNL sketch­es it unfolds kind of how you expect (and just kinda…ends), but man, this must have been fun to shoot. And yes, that’s the Foo Fighters/Nirvana’s Dave Grohl on drums.

If that skit was a trib­ute to Amer­i­can punk, then this oth­er one is a nod to the Sex Pis­tols and the steady right­ward drift of John Lydon. Armisen plays lead singer Ian Rub­bish (you know, of Ian Rub­bish and the Bizarros) whose lyrics decry and attack everything…except for Mar­garet Thatch­er. The Queen? She’s use­less (and oth­er words we can’t write on Open Cul­ture), but Mag­gie? Ian has a soft spot.

This 2013 skit came short­ly after Thatch­er died and Amer­i­cans were treat­ed to videos of some Britons (not all, but *a lot*) cel­e­brat­ing her death much as you would the death of Hitler or Mus­soli­ni. Good­bye, good rid­dance, and let me know where she’s locat­ed so we can pee on her grave. That sor­ta thing. And if that’s where you’re at, you might find the turn this sketch takes a bit too nice. But kudos to ex-Pis­tol Steve Jones for turn­ing up and doing the Rut­les-like thing. There’s even a nice par­o­dy of the infa­mous Bill Grundy inter­view.

(Bonus info: Ian Rub­bish and the Bizarros played some actu­al shows.)

Armisen had anoth­er crack, by the way, at the reunion joke. In Sea­son 8 of Port­landia, the “Band Reunion” skit brought togeth­er Hen­ry Rollins (Black Flag), Krist Novosel­ic (Nir­vana), and Bren­dan Canty (Fugazi) to bring back Armisen’s character’s band “Riot Spray” and record one more time. (Brown­stein only fig­ures a bit in the skit, but her reac­tion is price­less). The humor is just a lit­tle bit more mel­low, a bit more empa­thet­ic, and hurts just that lit­tle bit more.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Sex Pis­tols Make a Scan­dalous Appear­ance on the Bill Grundy Show & Intro­duce Punk Rock to the Star­tled Mass­es (1976)

The Sex Pis­tols’ 1976 Man­ches­ter “Gig That Changed the World,” and the Day the Punk Era Began

The Sex Pis­tols Play in Dal­las’ Long­horn Ball­room; Next Show Is Mer­le Hag­gard (1978)

Ian Rub­bish (aka Fred Armisen) Inter­views the Clash in Spinal Tap-Inspired Mock­u­men­tary
Nev­er Mind the Bol­locks, Here’s … John Lydon in a But­ter Com­mer­cial?

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

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