Tuesday night the rotting kudzu of post-ironic self-aware pseudo-hipsterism wrapped its twee tendrils around the 9:30 Club, which hosted two sold-out shows of “Portlandia: The Tour,” the live version of the cutesy sketch comedy on IFC, and it was probably the worst thing ever.
Judging by the sea of passive smiles and too-eager guffaws that surrounded me, I’m the only one who thought so. But please indulge this lonely dissenting opinion. Then you may release your prickly, cage-free outrage. Tell me how much I don’t understand about what I don’t understand.
First, the caveats: I have not been to Portland, Ore. I’m not a regular watcher of the show. I’ve seen bits of several episodes — enough to grasp its loving but repetitive send-up of the artisanal, locavore capital of the Pacific Northwest. This stereotypical mindset and lifestyle is ripe for parody, and “Portlandia” has harvested the dickens out of it, sometimes cleverly.
The live show, though, was a scam.
Thirty-six dollars for half-hearted retreads of musical numbers from the show, a “trilogy” of short sketch videos with zero laughs and a Q&A session during which Washingtonians asked stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein what it’s like to work with Kyle McLachlan, what it’s like to work with Kristen Wiig and “Are you two having sex?” The co-stars, who seemed uninterested in their own show, couldn’t come up with a pithy rejoinder to that question. The resulting awkwardness tipped the show from rambling pastiche to an ill-conceived, half-baked, rudderless, 80-minute chat about nothing.
The most insufferable episode consisted of Armisen and Brownstein narrating a slide show of photos they “found” on each other’s iPhones. The pickled egoism that they lampoon on television was presented as unspun matter-of-factness on stage, creating a self-referential, self-defeating artistic disconnect, an ouroboros in a wormhole.
The show was backloaded with seemingly under-rehearsed cover versions of popular songs like “Because the Night,” which featured musical guests Mary Timony and, on lead vocals, Eleanor Friedberger. Friedberger sang from a printout of the lyrics, occasionally shielding her face in order to get the proper amount of light onto a transcript of a song whose chorus consists of nine words. The audience stood stock-still, unmoved by — or post-ironically detached from — the rock efforts of the six-piece band. It was strange, and kind of sad.
There was no encore. One needs material and enthusiasm to do an encore.
A final, disturbing question: Is composing a rant against post-ironic self-aware pseudo-hipsterism a trope of the post-ironic self-aware pseudo-hipster? If the answer is yes, I’m going to go drown myself in a vat of plaid.