Fred Armisen: My Mother Was Nuts

If you're keeping up with your comedy, (or your autobiographies), then you might have seen Fred Armisen's newest (reprised) role as Penny Marshall. We caught up with DCH performer, Dale Alexander, the man behind the scenes.

Tell us how you got started on this project. Dale: Amazon is a client of ours (The Marketing Arm), specifically their publishing division. We were tasked with coming up with the marketing and promotion of these various book titles, the first of which was Penny Marshall's autobiography "My Mother Was Nuts." (Click here for the Some eCards link!)

What was the inspiration for Fred Armisen as Penny Marshall?< Dale: For me the biggest hurdle is that millennials knowledge of Penny Marshall is very low, but their knowledge of Fred Armisen is presumably higher. And I recalled a sketch on SNL about 4-5 years ago called "The Looker" where Fred played Penny on a fake TNT show. Penny basically just looked at people and got a confession out of them. It tickled me to the point of remembering it.

What was the pitch process like for this segment? Dale: I wrote up a treatment for Fred to reprise his Penny role to be her hocking the book. It was a labor of love that I did more for me rather than thinking it would actually happen. Amazon liked it. Penny loved it. Fred and Portlandia director, Jonathan Krisel, said they were game too. The catch is that we needed to work it into their Portlandia shoot schedule.

How much of the script was written, and how much did you rely on Armisen's improvisation skills? Dale: There were a few set beats for Fred to hit, but then we would improvise in character for about 10 minutes per take. I'm still trying to get all the raw footage for my own personal amusement, because there are some gems in there that we would never be able to use. What advice would you offer to aspiring comedians and writers? Dale: The biggest takeaway for the comedy community is whenever you have a good idea, do it to the best of your ability and see what happens. If you do nothing, you are guaranteed that your idea will go absolutely no where. But, you will get to sleep more.

Any other exciting projects we can look for from Dale? Dale: I'm in the middle a project for AT&T is On the Way to Saturday. We cast two improvisers to be on the road with us going from ESPN college game day every week, but to get in they have to do these school/tradition/mascot/etc challenges. We are literally figuring out the destination on Sunday morning, writing loose scripts/sketch beats to shoot Monday/Tuesday, edit and get approvals Wednesday to deliver finished :60 spots to ESPN by Thursday. For 14 weeks. Yeah.

We did A&M last week and the videos and social clips are on the site. New contact based on the school destinations each week at

Dale performs every other Friday Night at Dallas Comedy House with Pavlov's Dogs.