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The Late Movies: Portlandia

Tonight: sketch comedy by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein about Portland, Oregon. As a longtime Portland resident, I can tell you that these videos are made with love and respect for the inherent contradictions of Portland's youth culture. Portland isn't so much a place as it is a state of mind -- a sort of blissed-out, shaggy-haired, "Wow, is is still raining?" kind of thing, that's equal parts ridiculous and wonderful. This is a place where a bumper sticker reading "Keep Portland Weird" is found on 25% of cars. We accept people who have a lack of ambition (and people who are ambitious about small things); we know it's sometimes ridiculous, and we love it.

Armisen and Brownstein launch their Portland-based sketch series Portlandia on IFC in January. Below is the first official clip from the show, plus some older sketches the duo made before signing the TV deal.

The Dream of the '90s is Alive in Portland

This has already become the official theme of Portland. I used to work two blocks from where this was shot -- it's a smallish town. I cannot tell you how many Portlanders love and agree with this.

Armisen: "Remember when people were content to be unambitious? To sleep till eleven, to just hang out with their friends? I mean they had no occupations whatsoever...maybe working a couple hours a week at a coffeeshop?" Brownstein: "Right. I thought that died out a long time ago." Armisen: "Not in Portland. Portland is a city where young people go to retire."

Portland Pet Haven

Armisen: "This is Sissalee. She's a Dachshund, she's fourteen years old, really active, and wants to live in a home with no children and no adults."

Feminist Bookstore

Brownstein: "I fire-walk in my bathroom sometimes, just when I get out of the shower...."

Feminist Bookstore Part 2

Brownstein: "I don't want to play anything that would be offensive to somebody, or make somebody feel like they're having sex." Also, secret neti pot reference.

The Perfect Song

Brownstein (who is, by the way, formerly of Sleater-Kinney): "So I was thinking on the sixth chorus we could do something like, 'la-da-da-da-da-da, if you'd walk with me in the rain, if you held my hand and didn't call my insane, I'd love you more, I'd take you to the grocery store.'"

Featuring a special appearance by Corin Tucker and Lance Bangs wearing an Electrelane tee-shirt. Now that's Portland.

Katchenza

Armisen: "I am full-on sick from the food at this place. I vomited so much that my doctor called me 'A New Era in Food Poisoning.'" Brownstein: "I feel like 'A New Era' in anything is a compliment, and that's what we're trying to do with Katchenza, so...."

This is Nice

A meditation on satisfaction, validation, and existential aloneness. Recommended for fans of Jim Jarmusch.

Closed

If you can handle a lot of anger over nothing, check out Closed. "I don't wanna feel like this anymore!" Most things in Portland are closed sometimes. It happens. It can be rough. My favorite YouTube comment: "I? really appreciate the anger involved."

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Cory Doctorow, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
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Pop Culture
When MAD Magazine Got in Trouble for Printing Counterfeit Money
Cory Doctorow, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Cory Doctorow, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

MAD magazine has always prided itself on being a subversive, counter-culture presence. Since its founding in 1952, many celebrated comedians have credited the publication with forming their irreverent sense of humor, and scholars have noted that it has regularly served as a primer for young readers on how to question authority. That attitude frequently brought the magazine to the attention of the FBI, who kept a file on its numerous perceived infractions—like offering readers a "draft dodger" card or providing tips on writing an effective extortion letter.

The magazine's "Usual Gang of Idiots" outdid themselves in late 1967, though, when issue #115 featured what was clearly a phony depiction of U.S. currency. In addition to being valued at $3—a denomination unrecognized by the government—it featured the dim-witted face of MAD mascot Alfred E. Neuman.

The infamous $3 bill published in a 1967 issue of 'Mad' magazine
MAD Magazine

When taken at its moronic face value, there was absolutely no way anyone with any sense could have confused the bill for actual money. But what MAD hadn't accounted for was that a machine might do exactly that. Around the time of the issue's release, automated coin change machines were beginning to pop up around the country. Used in laundromats, casinos, and other places where someone needed coins rather than bills, people would feed their dollars into the unit and receive an equal amount of change in return.

At that time, these machines were not terribly sophisticated. And as a few enterprising types discovered, they didn't have the technology to really tell Alfred E. Neuman's face from George Washington's. In Las Vegas and Texas, coin unit operators were dismayed to discover that people had been feeding the phony MAD bill into the slots and getting actual money in return.

How frequently this happened isn't detailed in any source we could locate. But in 1995, MAD editor Al Feldstein, who guided the publication from its origins as a slim comic book to netting 2.7 million readers per issue, told The Comics Journal that it was enough to warrant a visit from the U.S. Treasury Department.

"We had published a three-dollar bill as some part of an article in the early days of MAD, and it was working in these new change machines which weren't as sensitive as they are now, and they only read the face," Feldstein said. "They didn't read the back. [The Treasury Department] demanded the artwork and said it was counterfeit money. So Bill [Gaines, the publisher] thought this whole thing was ridiculous, but here, take it, here's a printing of a three-dollar bill."

Feldstein later elaborated on the incident in a 2002 email interview with author Al Norris. "It lacked etched details, machined scrolls, and all of the accouterments of a genuine bill," Feldstein wrote. "But it was, however, freakishly being recognized as a one-dollar bill by the newly-introduced, relatively primitive, technically unsophisticated change machines … and giving back quarters or whatever to anyone who inserted it into one. It was probably the owner of those machines in Las Vegas that complained to the U. S. Treasury Department."

Feldstein went on to say that the government employees demanded the "printing plates" for the bill, but the magazine had already disposed of them. The entire experience, Feldstein said, was "unbelievable."

The visit didn't entirely discourage the magazine from trafficking in fake currency. In 1979, a MAD board game featured a $1,329,063 bill. A few decades later, a "twe" (three) dollar bill was circulated as a promotional item. The bills were slightly smaller than the dimensions of actual money—just in case anyone thought a depiction of Alfred E. Neuman's gap-toothed portrait was evidence of valid U.S. currency.

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entertainment
Watch 18 Minutes of Julia Louis-Dreyfus Seinfeld Bloopers
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Getty Images

Sometimes you just need to settle in and watch professional actors cracking up, over and over. That's what we have for you today.

In the two videos below, we get a total of 18 minutes of Seinfeld bloopers, specifically focused on Julia Louis-Dreyfus. When Louis-Dreyfus cracks up, Seinfeld can't help but make it worse, goading her. It's delightful.

Sample quote (during an extended break):

Seinfeld: "We won an Emmy, you know."

Louis-Dreyfus: "Yeah, but I didn't."

Her individual Seinfeld Emmy arrived in 1996; the show started winning in 1992. But in September 2017, Louis-Dreyfus—who turns 57 years old today—set a couple of Emmy records when she won her sixth award for playing Selina Meyer on Veep.

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