Portlandia, Population One
By Jason Lamphier
But while Portlandia skewers exclusivity and precious first-world concerns, its crackpot caricatures are often endearing — relatable “superheroes,” as Brownstein puts it. They’re also meant to defy expectations. In one upcoming sketch, Toni and Candace attend a feminist wilderness retreat in which a character played by lesbian singer k.d. lang falls for a man. “We’re aware of how weird that seems, and I like that,” says Brownstein.
That’s partly because Brownstein, who eschews labels when addressing her sexuality, didn’t have a conventional upbringing. Her mother left when she was 14, and her father, a lawyer, raised her and her sister, only to later come out to her in his fifties. His straight brother, Brownstein’s uncle, has been one of the foremost sexual reassignment surgeons in the U.S. since the 1970s; he was responsible for Chaz Bono’s surgery.
“My whole life has been indicators — here are the expectations of what a childhood looks like, then that sort of gets upended, taken out from underneath you,” she says. “I’m not interested in being normal. I don’t know what that is.”
With the fourth season of Portlandia underway, Brownstein is working on a memoir and a new album with an undisclosed group of musicians (her most recent group, the all-female indie-rock outfit Wild Flag, announced they were on hiatus in December). What she won’t necessarily be doing, though, is hunting for material for Portlandia — even when she’s in Portland for half the year. “I think people see me as a sort of documentarian, so if someone approaches me they have this weird, heightened sense of reality — like, ‘Oh, are you looking for something in this moment?’ ” she says. “The truth is I’m not. I’m just trying to go to the bank.”
Season 4 of Portlandia premieres Feb. 27 at 10 p.m. EST. Watch a clip from the new season below: