SNL Vet Fred Armisen Reveals Origin Of His Californians Sketch Character And How It Connects To Another Former Cast Member

Fred Armisen as his character in the Californians' sketch holding tangerines.
(Image credit: NBC)

Fred Armisen’s silly accent and actions from the over-the-top soap opera sketch the Californians is something that lives rent-free in my head, specifically him saying “What are you doing here?” whenever the week's guest shows up. It turns out this outlandish accent has surprising origins, as Armisen revealed he was inspired by SNL alum Dana Carvey’s son.

In the sketches, Armisen leads an ensemble of silly characters who talk almost exclusively about driving in Los Angeles (because it’s notoriously difficult to drive in Southern California). Armisen’s character Stuart fumbles over his words, speaks with an outlandish Valley accent, and is overall a very goofy character. While chatting with Dana Carvey and David Spade on the podcast Fly on the Wall the comedian revealed who helped inspire the character, saying: 

I had seen Dana — I was with him and we did a stand up show in San Francisco — and Dana was telling me about his son. And he's just like, 'It's hard to be mad at him,' because, I think he got pulled over or something. He does this impression of his son and he goes, 'No, but, no, Dad, no, you don't,' you know? And, from that, as we were trying to do a California accent, as we're writing the sketch, that kind of came up.

He went on to say that the way his character talks is based on Carvey’s impression of his son. The comedian behind the Church Lady went on to do the impression of his kids in a funny Valley accent on the podcast, and it became clear how this all helped inspire the iconic Californians sketch. 

It’s hilarious that Carvey’s kid helped inspire this character for a few reasons. One: it’s fun to know that this goofy bit is based on a real person, and two: this adds to the list of characters that Carvey’s family has inspired. It’s famously known that the Wayne’s World actor based his character Garth on his older brother Brad. Also, Mike Myers has opened up about how Carvey indirectly inspired Austin Powers. So, not only is Carvey a beloved Saturday Night Live alum, but he’s also inspired multiple classic characters over the years. 

During Armisen’s tenure on SNL, the Californians was a popular recurring bit, many of the sketches have over 2 million views on YouTube, with some that have more than 7 million. Big stars have also played ridiculous characters in this sketch, including Mick Jagger, Josh Brolin and Justin Bieber. You can check out this hilarious classic sketch here: 

Both Armisen and Carvey are some of the best in the business in my opinion, and it’s fun to learn about how the younger comedian was inspired by the ‘90s SNL alum. 

While Armisen left SNL back in 2013, he’s gone on to have a wildly successful career in comedy. You can catch the actor all over the 2022 TV schedule in shows like Big Mouth and Documentary Now! He’ll also appear as Uncle Fester in Wednesday, which can be watched with a Netflix subscription on November 23. Armisen will also make an appearance on the 2023 movie schedule in The Super Mario Bros. Movie as Cranky Kong. As for SNL, you can catch watch Season 48 of the show on Saturdays at 11:30 ET on NBC or you can stream it with a Peacock subscription. 

Riley Utley
Weekend Editor

Riley Utley is the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. She has written for national publications as well as daily and alt-weekly newspapers in Spokane, Washington, Syracuse, New York and Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated with her master’s degree in arts journalism and communications from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Since joining the CB team she has covered numerous TV shows and movies -- including her personal favorite shows Ted Lasso and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She also has followed and consistently written about everything from Taylor Swift to Fire Country, and she's enjoyed every second of it.