At 57 years old, Fred Armisen has this physical status:
In 1984, Armisen played drums in a local band along with his high school friends in Valley Stream, New York, but the group soon ended. In 1988, he moved to Chicago to play drums for the punk rock band Trenchmouth, and in the 1990s he played background drums with Blue Man Group.
Armisen played drums on three tracks for Les Savy Fav's 2007 album Let's Stay Friends, as well as tracks for Matthew Sweet's 2011 album Modern Art and Wandering Lucy's 1996 album Leap Year.
Armisen is the bandleader and frequent drummer of the 8G Band, the house band for Late Night with Seth Meyers, as of February 24, 2014.
In 2018, Armisen played drums as part of Devo at John Waters' Burger Boogaloo festival in Oakland, California.
In July 2021, he performed at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island.
While not playing with the band Trenchmouth, Armisen's interests switched to acting. In a January 2006 interview, he said, "I wanted to be on TV somehow. For some reason, I always thought it would be an indirect route; I didn't know that it would be comedy and Saturday Night Live. I just wanted to do something with performing that would lead me there."
Armisen's subsequent television work, such as some "memorable Andy Kaufman–esque appearances" on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, as well as work for Crank Yankers and Adult Swim, led to a role in 2002 as a featured player in the cast of Saturday Night Live. In the 2004 season, he was promoted to repertory cast member status.
Armisen has landed several minor yet memorable roles that were defined by an interviewer as "feral foreigners" in comedy films such as Eurotrip, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Deck the Halls, The Ex, The Promotion, The Rocker, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, and Confessions of a Shopaholic.
Further television work included an appearance on Parks and Recreation in the 2009 episode "Sister City". For the Cartoon Network series The Looney Tunes Show (2011–2014), Armisen voices Speedy Gonzales. He and fellow Saturday Night Live alums Bill Hader and Seth Meyers write, produce, and star in the IFC mockumentary series Documentary Now! which premiered in 2015.
Armisen starred in the IFC sketch series Portlandia alongside Carrie Brownstein (of Sleater-Kinney); the first season debuted on January 21, 2011. With Brownstein, he appeared on the 2012 Simpsons episode "The Day the Earth Stood Cool", in which they play the Simpsons' new neighbors, who encourage everyone to be cool like them.
In 2014, Armisen worked as bandleader on Late Night with Seth Meyers, for which he received positive reviews for his deadpan comedy and especially for his interplay with the host.
Armisen joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2002. He was promoted to a repertory player in 2004. After 11 years as a cast member, he decided to leave the show. At the time of his 2013 departure from the show, Armisen was the third-longest-tenured cast member (behind Seth Meyers and Darrell Hammond), and he appeared in the second-highest number of sketches (856) of any cast member. Since then, Armisen has come back for multiple cameo appearances on the show, including when he hosted the season 41 finale on May 21, 2016, with musical guest Courtney Barnett.
The following is a partial list of notable roles Armisen has played in Saturday Night Live sketches.
Armisen's list of notable impressions has included:
In 1998, he posed as a music journalist for the short film Fred Armisen's Guide to Music and South by Southwest. It was filmed by then-girlfriend Sally Timms and featured Armisen's "pranking musicians and industry types" during the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. In various segments he asked self-described "stupid" questions, pretended to be German, and also acted blind. A year later, Armisen starred with alternative rock legend Steve Albini in Chevelle's Point #1 EPK.
Armisen is part of ThunderAnt, a comedy duo with Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein. The duo specializes in creating comedic short skits often about independent vocations such as one-man shows, feminist bookstores, and bicycle rights activists.
Armisen has directed music videos for bands like The Helio Sequence. Armisen also had a role in the Wilco documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, which featured footage from his stint opening for front man Jeff Tweedy's 2001 solo tour. He also appeared in video segments on Blue Man Group's How to be a Megastar Tour 2.0. Armisen occasionally writes for Pitchfork Media and interviewed Cat Power for that company. He appeared as Jens Hannemann on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on October 19, 2007, promoting a 28-minute DVD called Fred Armisen presents Jens Hannemann: "COMPLICATED DRUMMING TECHNIQUE". In 2010, Armisen briefly joined Joanna Newsom's tour for her album Have One on Me as his character Jens Hannemann. On SNL, Armisen often plays musical instruments in sketches, has two recurring characters who are musicians (Mackey the drummer from the Rialto Grande and Ferecito from Showbiz Grande Explosion), or impersonates famous figures in the music world such as Liberace, Phil Spector, Lou Reed, and Prince.
Armisen appeared in the official music video for Man Man's song "Rabbit Habits", playing a man who charms his blind date (Charlyne Yi) but runs away after she turns into a werewolf.
In 2013, Armisen appeared in the official music video for Portland, Oregon-based band Red Fang's song "Blood Like Cream". In 2021, he appeared as the protagonist in the official music video for the 2020 mix of George Harrison's song "My Sweet Lord".
Along with Bill Hader and Jason Sudeikis, Armisen voiced radio characters in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV.
Armisen performed as a singer/drummer/comedic actor in the Blue Man Group's "How to be a Megastar Live!". He played the part of a salesman on TV who advertises for the Megastar Rock Manual. He also drummed in the performance and was a backup singer.
In late 2014, Armisen was featured on the popular comedy web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with host Jerry Seinfeld.
Armisen is a longtime fan of punk rock music and can be seen in the documentaries Salad Days and The Damned: Don't You Wish That We Were Dead.
In 2015, Armisen was the recipient of Smithsonian magazine's American Ingenuity Award for Performing Arts.
In 2018, Armisen provided the foreword to The Yacht Rock Book by author Greg Prato.
He appears as Michael on the sixth episode of the revival of The Kids in the Hall, released on May 13, 2022.