Last year, Armisen performed as a comedian for the first time in the UK at a one-off show in London, which was a bucket-list moment. “I’m such a fan of the UK that I couldn’t believe it was happening,” he said. “I can remember every moment of that show because I loved it.
“I almost want to write a letter to the UK just to say thank you for all of the artists and drummers you’ve created. I felt like I spent a lot of that set saying thank you for all these bands you guys came up with!”
Armisen said he was in “total surprise” about the turnout and reaction from the crowd. “I don’t know how far it extends, I don’t take it for granted that it would just be in every country,” he said.
“The one similar thing [to performing in the US] is that I didn’t have to change anything for the people who showed up. I just did my regular set and the laughs and reactions were in the same spaces. As two different countries, there are so many similarities.”
Before Armisen ventured into the comedy world, he started as a musician for the post-hardcore band Trenchmouth and a drummer for the Chicago edition of the Blue Man Group. He now merges his passions in the Comedy for Musicians but Everyone is Welcome tour.
“The show talks about music but not in a way that excludes anybody,” he said. “Everyone loves music so it’s not as specific as it seems.
“I sometimes think that if there was a comedian who decided to do comedy about being a car mechanic or an ambassador then I would go because I like hearing a comedic take on whatever occupancy that is.”
After the success and acclaim Armisen has achieved so far, he now has more freedom to pursue a passion project like this tour.
“With Portlandia and SNL, I have gotten everything I wanted out of my career,” Armisen said. “I don’t go through life thinking, ‘someday people will see the work I’ve done’. My work on those shows was everything I wanted to say. Now I can enjoy trying different kinds of comedy.”
Niche comedy has been hugely successful for Armisen. His 2018 Netflix special Standup For Drummers received critical acclaim and even a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album.
On the response to his special, Armisen said: “I was surprised but I don’t want to just sit in being surprised. I also have faith in people finding what they like. I have faith in drummers and musicians finding what appeals to them. People like to be entertained and people have specific tastes, so I’m glad that it’s a mutual relationship.”
As an 11-season veteran of SNL, Armisen has met everyone from Sir Paul McCartney to Prince to Beyonce. He has also performed with The Clash, Elton John and Dave Grohl.
He recounts his most surreal moment when he stepped in as drummer for the new wave band Devo. “Their regular drummer couldn’t do the show and I already had tickets,” Armisen said. “The singer asked me if I wanted to take the ‘Devo Challenge’. I thought he meant one song but it was the whole show.
“It was surreal because the way I learned how to play drums was by copying the drummer from Devo.
All of those parts were more than just parts of the song, it was part of my drumming education.”
Being part of SNL often meant taking part in sketches that might seem like a fever dream to most. That was certainly the case when Armisen dressed up as Queen Elizabeth, alongside Bill Hader as Prince Philip, and made Elton John sing punk rock.
“The Elton John [sketch] felt like a personal little victory because I wanted to see Elton John singing punk rock,” Armisen said.
“When I met him, I had so many questions for him, I bombarded him with questions like ‘Did you meet Keith Moon?’. Whenever I meet people from that level of rock stardom, I don’t hold anything back and I just want to know what it was like hanging out with all those people.”
Armisen expresses excitement at finally getting the opportunity to perform in Glasgow.
He will only be in the city for one night but has already decided how he will pass the time ahead of the show.
“I like going on a walk alone and ending up on some street where I can fantasise about living there,” he said. “You know, when you go to another city and your destination isn’t a restaurant or a meeting point but you decide to take a walk.
“You’ll turn some corner and see some green door on this little brick house and look across the way and there’s a little coffee shop. Sometimes you happen upon a perfect corner and that’s what I want to experience there, an accidental perfect spot.”