Carrie Brownstein On Sleater-Kinney, Amy Schumer, And How She Stays So Productive

Catching up with the musician/actor/writer, who’s one of Fast Company‘s Most Creative People.

Carrie Brownstein On Sleater-Kinney, Amy Schumer, And How She Stays So Productive
Carrie Brownstein MCP 2012 Then Writer, actor, Portlandia Now Writer, actor, multiple projects; guitar and vocals, Sleater-Kinney [Photo: Greg Endries, Contour by Getty Images]

When we highlighted Carrie Brownstein on our Most Creative People list in 2012, she was pretty busy. The Portland, Oregon–based musician and actor had created critically lauded TV show Portlandia with Saturday Night Live vet Fred Armisen and was a member of indie-rock supergroup Wild Flag, among other things. Turns out that was nothing. These days, Brownstein is creating at a blistering pace. First of all, she, Corin Tucker, and Janet Weiss have re-formed their beloved band Sleater-Kinney, which had broken up in 2005. “I’m very wary of nostalgia as a motivating creative force,” says Brownstein. “So I said I would be happy to do the band if the way we approached it was to be in dialogue with the present, not the past.” Their new album, No Cities to Love, came out in January, and they’re now on their first tour in almost a decade.


But that’s just one of the projects occupying Brownstein’s time. Season 5 of Portlandia premiered in January, and she’ll reprise her role in the acclaimed Amazon show Transparent when it returns for season 2 later this year. She also has a part in the upcoming Todd Haynes film Carol, is writing the script for a U.S. version of British mini­series Lost in Austen, and is polishing a memoir, due this fall. “I thrive with work,” says Brownstein. “I’ve actually found that the busier I am, the more that matches my internal mode and actually creates a kind of stillness. I enjoy my days more if I’m productive.”

How She Stays Productive

Work is (duh) hard work. “There is no great mystery. George Balanchine said, ‘My muse must come to me on union time.’ There is no circumventing the discipline of working.”
But it shouldn’t be too hard. “Find a ritual and a routine that allows for productivity without the corrosive element of exhaustion. Working yourself until you’re tired is depressing and it creates a sense of isolation.”

Best development of the past two years:

Outrageous sketch comic Amy Schumer, star of Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer. “She is one of the best things that’s happened in comedy. Her show is amazing and has such a strong point of view and is really funny.”

Worst development:

The accusations against Bill Cosby. “There’s nothing funny about it. It’s someone who was held up as a real paragon of comedy and humor and the intersection of that with family. That’s a pretty terrible situation.”

Who would appear on her list of the Most Creative People:

The author and filmmaker Miranda July. “She continues to inspire me all the time, and I’m always blown away by her intelligence.”


About the author

Nikita Richardson is an assistant editor at Fast Company magazine.