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Fred Armisen Shares How a ‘SNL’ Skit Led Him to Live out a Punk Dream With His Heroes the Clash (Exclusive)

Pretending to be a punk ultimately led Fred Armisen to rock out with a pair of punk icons, and the Saturday Night Live alum still can’t believe it actually happened.

Armisen, 56, met with Questlove for an installment of “Quest for Craft,” the award-winning digital series launched in partnership with the Academy Award-winner and The Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Whisky. In an Us Weekly exclusive clip, Armisen explained how his 2013 skit, “History of Punk,” would lead him to spend time – and rocking out – with his heroes Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of The Clash.

“The Clash were promoting this boxed set,” said Armisen, “and they were like, ‘let’s do a funny video on Funny Or Die.’ And somehow, their management got ahold of [me]. I do this character, Ian Rubbish – a London punk who liked [the late British Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher, the only one who liked Margaret Thatcher.”

Fred Armisen Got To Play With The Clash Because Of This SNL Skit
Fred Armisen and Questlove The Balvenie

“I did it on SNL, and they connected me with The Clash,” continued Armisen. “And we did, like, an interview with me as that character, and we played music together!”

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Questlove, 52, asked what songs he played with The Clash, assuming that Armisen would have done hits like “London Calling,” “Clampdown,” “Know Your Rights” or “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” It turns out Armisen didn’t play any selection from the Clash discography. “[We played] Ian Rubbish songs,” he said. “Oh, they played your songs!” remarked Questlove, which Armisen agreed was pretty “crazy.”

“As I’m telling you, I can’t believe my own story,” said Armisen.

Fred Armisen Got To Play With The Clash Because Of This SNL Skit
Fred Armisen, Taran Killam, Bill Hader and Bobby Moynihan Saturday Night Live/YouTube

History of Punk” aired on Season 28 of SNL. The skit saw Armisen, Taran Killam and Bill Hader portray the fictional Ian Rubbish and the Bizarros. A few months later, Funny or Die ran the interview between Jones, 68, and Simonon, 67, as they promoted Hits Back, a greatest hits collection. True to what Armisen said, Jones, Simonon and Armisen-as-Rubbish each picked up a guitar and played “Hey Policeman,” the original song written for the SNL skit.

Fred Armisen Got To Play With The Clash Because Of This SNL Skit
The Clash with Fred Armisen Funny or Die/YouTube

The Funny Or Die skit and the “Quest For Craft” episode were full-circle moments for Armisen, as they were recorded at Electric Lady studios in New York City. “Going back to when I was in high school, me and my friend Kenny used to come here and stand in front just because The Clash records would say ‘Recorded in [Electric Lady]. It’s not even like they were here – we were just, like, ‘Woah,’ he said.

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The third season of “Quest For Craft” launched on Monday, October 16. Each episode explores a specific theme in what’s been called a “conversational investigation” of craft and creativity. The third season has Questlove talk with Grammy-winning Anderson .Paak about using art to bring happiness.

Questlove also spoke with legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma about how art can create connections with other humans. Lena Waithe shares how she works her perspective and point of view into her work, while Armisen – in his full episode – discusses how being committed to your craft can yield amazing and unexpected results.

Fred Armisen Got To Play With The Clash Because Of This SNL Skit
Questlove The Balvenie

All episodes are currently available on The Balvenie’s YouTube channel.

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