Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein on the Return of Portlandia

Be warned: Your artisanal hobbies and asinine habits are still fodder for Portlandia, IFC's hit sketch show. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein's biting satire has sharpened since Armisen quietly left SNL this past summer to dedicate himself full-time to poking fun at the foibles of Portland. Season four of Portlandia is, as Armisen puts it, "a new beginning," and it's clear the duo can still tailspin a precious topic into a deranged case study. Want to put a bird on it? Don't even think about it.

PLAYBOY: Portlandia turns a satirical mirror on many of our idiosyncrasies. Is there a particular sketch that really hit a nerve with viewers?

CARRIE: Countless people have approached us about the sketch in which the characters Doug and Claire binge-watch all of Battlestar Galactica. People related to that kind of escapism. They identified with living vicariously through a TV show in a compulsive way.

PLAYBOY: The show has been accused of ruining everything from brunch to decorative birds by shaming us into changing our clichéd behaviors. What is your reaction?

CARRIE: Fred and I and many of us exist in communities that are self-aware and self-critical. We're aware of the things that seem precious. We might want to hit our head against the wall because we're enacting these things, but we still do it because we're just living. I don't think we're literally ruining things. I think we're adding awareness by being part of a conversation. A lot of graphic-designer friends e-mailed me after seeing the "Put a Bird on It" sketch and said, "Oh, that's the last bird I'm going to draw." And I thought, Great!

PLAYBOY: Carrie, do you think you would be doing comedy if you hadn't met Fred?

CARRIE: I don't know what I would be doing. I think a lot of creative endeavors now come from underground, organic forces that stem from friendships and other unlikely origins. These unique voices have had to write themselves into existence. I don't know any other way I could be doing comedy, but I'm glad this new paradigm exists.

PLAYBOY: Fred, this is the first season of Portlandia since you left SNL. How does it feel?

FRED: It's been nice because I can focus on Portlandia. When we shot season four, I didn't have to stress about going back to New York for SNL. I felt very present, like I could take the time to look at the details and take care of them. I'm still friends with everybody at SNL, and I have no regrets. Now I'm able to watch the show as a viewer and enjoy it. This season of Portlandia feels like the beginning of something.

PLAYBOY: Some great actors are returning this season, including Jeff Goldblum, Steve Buscemi and Kyle MacLachlan. How did MacLachlan come to be the mayor of Portland?

CARRIE: Kyle met with us in Los Angeles and took a leap of faith. He totally created that role. His willingness and excitement to do something a little weird and absurd really opened up the world of Portlandia to other people. We owe so much to him.

FRED: He has all the right sensibilities when it comes to improvising. It's like being in a band with someone with the same musical tastes.

PLAYBOY: Will we ever find out his character's name?

CARRIE: Probably not.

PLAYBOY: He's just going to be Mr. Mayor?

FRED: What makes you think the mayor is a he?

PLAYBOY: That would be a very Twin Peaks twist. What kind of themes will you be exploring on the show this season?

FRED: Early on we had this idea of human bandwidth, as in the number of things you can have going on at the same time and your capacity to control them. I don't know how much of it ended up on screen, but it's in there somewhere.

PLAYBOY: Let's talk about your relationship. Has there ever been a time when the person you were dating felt jealous of the friendship between the two of you?

FRED: For me, maybe. I don't know if it ever came to a confrontation, but it might have happened a little with the people I've dated.

CARRIE: Oh, I didn't know that. Anyone who knows us knows that Fred and I are creative partners. We're best friends, so you have to deal with that.

FRED: I think it can happen whenever someone has a platonic relationship with a person of the opposite sex. There are always moments when there's some tension and it eventually goes away. You need time for people to get over any tension. It's a common, natural thing. It's not threatening by either party. It's just part of relationships.

PLAYBOY: If you had to live the rest of your lives together as characters on Portlandia, who would you be?

CARRIE: I would choose [feminist bookstore owners] Toni and Candace because they're friends and they exist in a place that's not incredibly cloying.

FRED: I agree. There's a calmness to Toni and Candace. They're very motionless. Moving around as much as the other characters would be exhausting. Being Toni and Candace would be a nice way to spend our 60s and 70s.

PLAYBOY: What will the real-life Fred and Carrie be doing in 30 years?

CARRIE: Ideally, still working.

PLAYBOY: Not playing cards together in a retirement home?

FRED: We would never do that. [laughs]