January 27, 2014
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SPARKS Creative inspiration from Fred Armisen

We recently spoke with Portlandia star and co-creator Fred Armisen for the premiere issue of The Fire Theft Project, our new interview series on creative fire. Here are a few of the key insights we learned from the conversation.

Stuck? Find the courage to reinvent yourself

Armisen first sought fame behind the drum kit before reinventing himself as an actor-comedian. And once he made the move, his career started to flow. “All of a sudden I was doing comedy for this company, then another company… and before I knew it, it was what I was doing without having to push very hard,” he says.

Embrace the struggle

Armisen embraces all aspects of the creative process, even things that may initially appear to be setbacks: “Obstacles are great for creativity. You need to fight for it.”

 Don’t wait for permission

Portlandia’s “overnight success” actually started back in 2005 with ThunderAnt, an internet-only sketch series created by Fred and Carrie Brownstein—just for the fun of it.

Stay open—inspiration is everywhere

“Sometimes it’s someone I bump into, sometimes it’s an article I read or something I catch on TV,” says Fred. “It’s just a lot of weird little mistakes that come my way.”

Feed your passion

Fred stays plugged in to what he loves, constantly seeking out new bands and comedians. “I’m so happy I’m alive at this time when amazing things are going on,” he says.

Honor every idea

Fred never takes the creative process for granted, so he captures every idea in his smartphone and sounds them out later with collaborators.

Be patient—timing is everything

“Some- times things don’t work and you have to be in a different venue and all of a sudden it makes sense,” he says.

Be creative and relevant

You may love an idea, but it has to have relevance to connect with people. “I just look for reactions and if it resonates with anyone I go ‘Oh, okay this is a thing,’” he says.

Create constantly

Even Fred’s vacations tend to be working vacations. “I’ll look at Paul McCartney or Tina Fey and other people who keep making things and it’s because they like doing it,” he says.

Read the full interview at

Robert Cherry is SVP, Chief Creative Officer at Seed Strategy.

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