Watch Fred Armisen’s brilliant impression of punk guitar through the decades

Fred Armisen appeared on The Tonight Show last week, and took the chance to whip out a Telecaster and guide host Jimmy Fallon through a history of punk guitar.

In the five-minute clip, Armisen runs the gamut from Velvet Underground whist (“Walking down the boulevard… with a flower”) through to yelping angular of British punk’s halcyon 1977 period, countrified Replacements riffs and '90s Seattle’s beefier octave riffs (and shouting ‘yeah!’ a lot).

The comedian takes a bit of risk occupying what is probably a pretty niche space (observing punk guitar tropes on mainstream talk shows), but Guitar World is absolutely here for this.

Armisen and punk music go way back. He was in the math-y/post-hardcore band Trenchmouth until 1996 and has previously appeared in several punk documentaries, including The Damned: Don’t You Wish You Were Dead and Salad Days, which looked at DC punk through the '80s.

He has also repeatedly collaborated with Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein, notably in the series Portlandia. However, a special mention has to be made for his recurring SNL character, Ian Rubbish, the English punk icon who really liked Maggie Thatcher.

Last month, Fallon demonstrated his own six-string skills in a Tonight Show performance of Chris Stapleton's You Should Probably Leave.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar,, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.