A bit of Ashland in 'Portlandia'

Has this ever happened to you in Ashland?

You're in a restaurant with a friend who is about to order chicken, but first she must pepper the waiter with a barrage of questions. Is it organic? Is it local? Is it free-range?

If that sounds familiar, you'll likely see parallels between Ashland and the Portland portrayed in the Independent Film Channel's television series "Portlandia." Starring Fred Armisen of "Saturday Night Live" and singer/guitarist Carrie Brownstein of the band "Wild Flag," the show features skits that usually start out fairly normal, then delve into the ridiculous.

In one, Carrie and Fred contemplate ordering chicken at a restaurant.

Their waitress tells them, "The chicken is heritage breed, woodland-raised chicken that's been fed a diet of sheep's milk, soy and hazelnuts."

But Carrie and Fred want to know if the chicken is local, if the hazelnuts it eats are local, how much space it has to roam in and whether it has chicken friends. The waitress hands them a dossier on the bird with a photo.

"The chicken you'll be dining on tonight, his name is Colin. Here are his papers," the waitress says.

Not content with the information they have gleaned, Carrie and Fred leave the restaurant to visit the farm where the chicken was raised, 30 miles away.

"We're going to go check it out, if you don't mind," Fred says to the waitress. "If you would hold our seats."

In another skit, Fred and Carrie take their dog, Quicksilver, to a dog park. They admonish the other dog owners to only whisper the word "water" since their dog was rescued from a tsunami and is "still dealing with some trauma."

Another skit finds Fred and Carrie in a café, where Carrie asks Fred whether he's read an article in The New Yorker about how golf is an analogy for marriage.

Fred has read the article, so Carrie asks, "Did you read that thing in Mother Jones about eco chairs and eco ways to sit?"

Each tries to outdo the other for reading more and more obscure writing.

"Did you read that skywriting over the Willamette River?" Carrie asks.

"Did you read that fortune cookie?" Fred parries.

"Did you read that thing that guy wrote in the sand on the beach?" Carrie counters.

"Did you read the closing credits to that movie?" Fred asks.

In another skit, a basket of produce from a community supported agriculture program arrives at their house. Mixed in with peppers and other familiar items, Fred and Carrie find a bowling ball-sized brown fruit covered in hard prickles. They vow to figure out how to eat the strange fruit. They try to boil it, hurl it against a tree and attack it with a knife, rolling pin, power drill and torch, but are still unable to break its shell.

Another skit finds Fred as the maker of artisanal light bulbs.

"Why buy hand-crafted light bulbs? Is it the price? No. These are $68 each," Fred says, noting that his light bulbs burn out after a few days.

A customer, sitting in the dark, says he ordered artisanal light bulbs 14 months ago, but they have yet to arrive. The customer says that Fred ignores emails he sends asking about his order, but notes that he really doesn't mind, since his eyes have adjusted to the dark.

For Ashland fans of "Portlandia," the fun will go on. On March 21, the Independent Film Channel announced the popular underground show has been renewed for a third season. For people who want to get a sampling of "Portlandia," or who don't have the Independent Film Channel, IFC has clips on its website and videos of skits abound on YouTube. The series is also available on DVD and Netflix.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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