The fifth season of Fred Armisen's hipster sketch show Portlandia premieres tonight, and if you spend enough time reading about the comedian online, you'll be left with two impressions: First, that he's funny and charming. And second, that his charm and humor mask something of a reputation. For what exactly depends on whom you ask, but here are some adjectives that have been used to describe him over the years: "womanizer," "sociopath," "traumatizing," and, from Armisen himself, "terrible."
The majority of allegations—which broadly hold that Armisen is a manipulative and duplicitous lech—are scattered across various comment sections and social media platforms. It'd be easy to dismiss them as the grumblings of anonymous haters if they weren't so great in number—and if they were all, in fact, anonymous. But Armisen's most recent ex-wife, Mad Men actress Elisabeth Moss, has been quite public about her ex-husband's failings. She described her one-year marriage to Armisen in a New York cover story from last March:
"Looking back, I feel like I was really young, and at the time I didn't think that I was that young," Moss says. "It was extremely traumatic and awful and horrible."
A year earlier, she said that Armisen has to pretend to be a "normal person":
"One of the greatest things I heard someone say about him is, 'He's so great at doing impersonations. But the greatest impersonation he does is that of a normal person.' To me that sums it up.
Both of Moss' quotes were very public examples of the way Armisen has been characterized for some time on gossip boards and rumor sites. In December 2007, Armisen wrote an end-of-year post for the New York indie rock blog Brooklyn Vegan, which has a large and seemingly plugged-in community of gossipy gadflies. Many of the comments on Armisen's post—which continues to gather comments years after its original posting—portray Armisen as a lothario who seeks out women who might be influenced by his celebrity, only to use and discard them.
In January 2008, a group of commenters joked that Armisen slept around so much that he was passing diseases to his partners:
of course he likes petra. she's his new arm candy. he gets around .poor girl better get checked for disease
oh dang! you got diseases from fred too...
he does get around.
yeah. freds quite giving in that herpes kinda way. maybe he could release an instruction video on it for sex doctors to sell
A few months later, another commenter fleshed out how Armisen allegedly treats the women he dates:
I'm not sure about Fred and diseases, but I do know firsthand that he abuses his semi-celebrity status to meet women and then abruptly discards them (all the while playing the nice, sweet, down to earth role.) He's only interested in friending and/or dating celebrities. Between serious relationships, he seeks out "everyday girls" such as myself to mess with and ultimately sleep with (something he didn't get from me - I'm a bit too wise for you Fred, and you know that.) That Petra person should watch out. If - and I stress IF - someone more famous comes along, she'll be on the chopping block faster than Fred can get into his sell out black face. Despicable.
As the years wore on, people kept adding comments to the post. This one is from nearly a year later, in March 2009:
Fred Armisen acts like a JERK. He hurts people he "loves" and walks away without a care, leaving the mess behind him. He cheats too. Gross.
Then, in May 2009:
You know what girls and boys?
up until today I thought you were all mean.
I came back to specifically say you are all right about Fred, sadly.
He gets off on hurting people in his life, I think. I'm yet another one of his victims and it's bs - and people need to stop feeding his ego and fame. He's NOT A NICE MAN. He's cruel and he uses people and then punishes them later, emotionally sadistic. People like me end up writing up it publicly because he turns his back to you. Happy, Fred? Good.
Maybe, Figures, but Fred has had a thing for many, many women in the past few years. I don't think he was that attached to Joanna Newsom. He's known to go after famous people while keeping "regular" girls on the side and string' them along.
Fred's an asshole, plain and simple. From a girl who dated him.
Fred got me pregnant, I had a miscarriage and he abandoned me.
A person who hurts women the way he does must be very sick.
He's honestly very sad. And I get sad thinking about him.
Fred is busy making people think he's a nice guy. But in reality he's horrible - and a lot of people know it
It goes without saying that these are all anonymous comments, and it's impossible to confirm or disprove any of them. Armisen might very well be a nice guy who's being mischaracterized by a handful of comments on Brooklyn Vegan, and also his ex-wife.
Of course, comments about Armisen aren't confined to Brooklyn Vegan. A year ago, a writer for xoJane posted a glowing account of meeting Armisen after emailing him out of the blue. Here are some of the comments on that post:
Homeboy is a huge horndog. I know that from personal experience but I will keep that shit under wraps because that's not the point of this discussion. But yeah, New Agey stuff aside, he probably came over b/c he wanted to bone you. (Seinfeld voice) "Not that there's anything wrong with that..."
i've heard that about him, too, and that it lead to his wife leaving him. O.o
One commenter—echoing a similar comment on Brooklyn Vegan, or perhaps repeating her story on another website years later—accused Armisen of getting her pregnant and then leaving her:
Fred, everyday I feel the pain you caused me emotionally , You were my hero and we dated for 7 months last year, you got me pregnant and you rejected me and abandoned me. You owe me a serious apology. I don't think you will ever give it to me. But I'll accept it-hope
Again, we should say: It's not at all uncommon for celebrities to be followed around the internet by one or two very intense and very obsessive borderline stalkers. It's possible that Armisen has several obsessive fans with remarkably similar pathologies. And also his ex-wife.
A few months after the xoJane post, Stereogum blogged the announcement that Armisen would be part of Seth Meyers' late night band. One commenter wrote that Armisen is "not a very nice person," and when was asked to elaborate, said:
It's pretty well known around Chicago rock circles that he's a bit of a sociopath, and many of his former romantic partners would agree. I definitely have heard a few personal stories, but I'm just some guy on the internet.
He's pretty good with the tongue, but otherwise very wham bam. What he really gets off on is stringing multiple women along, for as long as he can, and making them feel special. Lots and lots of texts and check-ins etc. Really sick. Basically a real life catfish. He just counts on the women he does this to being too embarrassed to out him. Elisabeth Moss gets slammed for being a Scientologist but everything she said about him was true.
Another chimed in:
What Melina said, exactly to a T. And he's so whiney on top of it. And a horrible person in general if you know him beyond surface. Not sure how he has friends. Guess he's faking them out.
Hope Natasha is up for this. Fred is a sociopath, and well known sex addict; his marriage to Elizabeth Moss broke up because he was sleeping with prostitutes, among others. Sweet as pie at the beginning - and to strangers - cold cold cold and cruel at the end.
Later in August, an artist named Alice Lancaster—who is rumored to have dated Armisen—revealed what is believed to be a painting of the comedian under the title "Portrait of a Sociopath." On Instagram, she tagged it simply as "#sociopath," now a word used by several different people to describe Armisen.
For his part, Armisen explained that he feels "entitled to more women" in an interview with Howard Stern in which he called himself "a terrible husband" and "a terrible boyfriend." Via Us Weekly:
"I want it all — fast," he explained. "I want to be married . . . the amount of girls I've lived with right away . . . and then somewhere around a year, two years, I get freaked out."
"Do you feel entitled to more women?" Stern asked.
"I don't want to admit that out loud to myself," Armisen said, "but that probably is it."
"I feel bad for everyone I've gone out with," Armisen said.
If you have dated Fred Armisen, or have heard stories from people who have, leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, anonymity guaranteed.
[art by Jim Cooke]