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Fred Armisen Opens Up About His Divorce to Elizabeth Moss, Sex Addiction

By Dustin Rowles | Podcasts | September 12, 2016 |

By Dustin Rowles | Podcasts | September 12, 2016 |

Fred Armisen was on WTF with Marc Maron this week, and to be honest, this episode is not one I’d have normally listened to. I’m not a huge fan of Armisen, and I’m not particularly interested in his life (though, it was fascinating to learn that he was a drummer for Blue Man Group for two years). But I am interested in his relationship with Elisabeth Moss, with whom he was briefly married, a marriage that Moss has called “extremely traumatic and awful and horrible.”

I didn’t expect that Marc Maron would actually press him on that, but he did, and in the ensuing conversation, I got more than I bargained for. Armisen basically admitted to intimacy issues, to a problem with sex addiction. It’s a fascinating conversation, and it’s not going to translate well into print, because in print it’s going to make Armisen sound far more callous than he actually sounded on the podcast.

So, if you’re truly interested in why that short-lived marriage fell apart in under a year, I suggest you listen (the conversation picks up during the last 15 minutes of the podcast and runs for most of the rest of it).

The gist of it is this: Armisen got caught up in the fantasy of being with an actress from Mad Men and all the romantic notions about it. He liked the idea of it, and the excitement, but once that wore off, he realized that there was an actual person behind the idea, and that’s basically when he bailed. He doesn’t come right out and say it, but basically he has a pattern of escaping relationships by sleeping with other people and forcing his partners to boot him. Basically, that’s what happened here: The romantic idea of the relationship wore off, and he woke up one morning with the urge to find that excitement elsewhere.

You can imagine why that might be “extremely traumatic and awful and horrible” for Moss, who had only been married to Armisen for about eight months before he was sleeping with other people.

But, as Armisen suggests, it’s a compulsion, one for which he is seeking help.

Anyway, here’s a partial transcript of that conversation. It obviously doesn’t relay the one, or the remorse that Armisen felt. He’s very bad at relationships, but it doesn’t sound like he’s a bad guy.


Why would you get married again?

Because it’s so intoxicating.

The idea of it, or the actual being of it?

All of it.

How long were you married to Elisabeth Moss?

Under a year.

Was that heartbreaking?

I was very heartbroken at myself. I felt very … I gave myself a hard time. I felt very bad. At how little true work I would put into something. That I got so caught up in the beginning. The beginning is so intoxicating.

How long had you known her?

A year. So the whole thing was very short.

And you were like, ‘Let’s get married?’

It’s so exciting, and this is gonna sound so shallow, but I get lost in fantasy a lot … the fantasy of this person from Mad Men, you know, great actress. And then as a person is interesting … all of a sudden, it’s like a slide. Like, ‘This is great!’

It’s like being starstruck, in a way?

It is like being starstruck, and I was getting to know the other people from the show and her and it was very, very exciting, and I only got caught up in that part of it. And the problem, and we’re talking about this relationship, but this is something that’s happened to me a million times.

What the fuck happened?

I have a problem with intimacy, where all of a sudden, there’s a real person there … and now, there’s a person behind this. It’s not the girl on Mad Men. The same thing happened with Sally [Timms. His first wife]. She had this accent, this British woman who is in a band, and then all of a sudden, there’s a person there … something happens in me. It’s almost like an amnesia. It’s almost like waking up and going, ‘Where am I? Who is this person? Why is this person looking at me directly in the eye and having a conversation with me?’”

It’s like a spell?

Yes, and that was a public one, but when I lived in Chicago, I moved from apartment to apartment. I remember, I would move in with so many people, and live with them, and then I’d meet someone else and move in with them. The amount of times I’ve had furniture handed to me. It’s happened a lot.

Who ends it. You or her?

It’s me becoming impossible. I make it happen.

It’s like, ‘You’re going to go?’

It’s like cheating and infidelity. I’m neither ashamed or proud of it. It’s just something that happens in my life.

I share this. I know this compulsion. The compulsion of connecting, of engaging sexually with strangers. It’s like there’s nothing like it.

There’s nothing like it!

Now you got like a public rap. A weird thing on the street. And the weird thing about [your marriage to Moss] in particular, it’s like, when I hear that, it’s not unusual. It’s like, OK, so he fucks around a lot.


When you’re a man who likes to have sex with people and you get to a place in your life where you can do that more frequently, how the fuck are you not going to do that?


When you want to be that type of adult that restrains himself or not, that’s a life choice

Yes. Yeah. I agree with you. And that’s OK. Because even negative things help me go forward, because it could be a lot worse. I think of the lucky side of it. I didn’t have a string of children along the way or anything like that. I am actually fortunate.

What’s your hope, ultimately, in that area. Do you find intimacy in that area as you access it. Do you find that rewarding?

I do, in that — a person I can be intimate with is a person who I don’t have sex with, which is to say, Carrie Brownstein [his Portlandia partner]. I find true intimacy there, so I know I have it. I know that I’m not shut down. I know that I can be myself. Also with my friends. And through program stuff, I know that I can, there are ways every day that I can see the difference. So, today, I don’t have to worry about the phone or some stranger I hooked up with … I can, little by little … I’m having a good day today.

So, you’re learning how not to act out and use people in that way?

Yes, and it’s hard. It’s very very hard.

This struggle that I have [sex addiction], I don’t have a choice. It could be a lot worse. I could be dead.

There are worse things than having too much vagina options

Yes. And as long as I understand there is a struggle, that’s the part … where everything else falls away.


Source: WTF with Marc Maron