The premise of Fred Armisen’s comedy special “Stand Up For Drummers” is in the name. The Netflix special starts with cuts of fans in line outside a theater playing snare drums as a drumming trial to get into the show, with the bouncers letting only the competent drummers pass. Already, the show was a little different and I was intrigued.
Armisen is best known for his time as a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 2002 to 2013 and for his performance on the popular Independent Film Channel show “Portlandia.” He is now the leader of The 8G Band, which is the house band for “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Armisen proves his drumming chops with a little solo at the beginning of the special and with other solos and riffs throughout the show.
Armisen’s jokes and bits move quickly. He switches from thought to thought with few long, drawn out premises. He relates to his crowd and doesn’t go too far above them. It’s very conversational, clever and relatable and the laughs for his jokes build from smatterings to very collective within each joke. It feels as if the people in the room are looking around at each other, recognizing they’re all drummers, and realizing how funny the jokes are because of their common thread.
But even for the non-drummers at home like myself, it resonates. I was in my high school band so I have a decent amount of musical knowledge and I can see the humor in it, but I think it would resonate for everyone. While the majority of Armisen’s premises are music based, they often split off into impressions, funny hypotheticals or a genre-related critique encompassing a switchboard that Armisen himself controls from onstage with the tap of his finger.
Armisen touches on hotel lobby music, jazz, circus music, blues, heavy metal and doo-wop music within the first 10 minutes of the show. The hilarious remarks on each give the feeling that only Armisen could come up with them, because they are so uniquely him.
He then begins to point out drummers’ quirks and the sometimes ridiculous lengths drummers go to because of their particularities and neuroses. Armisen fills the silences perfectly and plays off the audience’s reactions masterfully, similar to the way he did on SNL and now does in bits on Late Night.
Beyond the already inventive idea of drumming while doing stand up and centering most of his jokes on drum equipment and the comedy of drumming, Armisen also gets creative with a bit where he walks offstage saying he’s going to go get a double kick pedal and then appears on a TV screen onstage in a prerecorded bit.
He then takes a break from drumming and indulges the crowd with accents from across the United States. After saying he’s toured a lot and noticed the way different people talk, Armisen brings out a long pointer stick and a map of the United States and proceeds to point his way across the country, offering hilarious accents along the way — including him rapidly switching between the different accents of the boroughs of New York City. It is masterfully done from start to finish, an absolute riot and a quick break from drumming-related comedy.
A little over halfway through the show, Armisen takes the audience on a journey of “drum kits through the decades,” starting with the 1920s and 30s and ending with the 2000s. Armisen still drops funny lines but this portion is primarily dedicated to teaching and basking in his, and the audience’s love for drums.
Don’t be deterred if you’ve never drummed, thought about drums or cared at all about drums. This special will make you laugh, as Armisen’s range is on full display and it’s staggering.