On the Saturday of San Diego's Comic-Con, amid the throngs of cosplayers hovering at the Hilton Bayfront, Garfunkel and Oates — a.k.a. Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci — are being asked to take a selfie with a women in her 50s. The two are more than obliged, but the moment speaks volumes: No longer are Garfunkel and Oates the cult faves of the L.A. alter-comedy scene. They're now mainstream draws. Further bolstering Garfunkel and Oates' popularity at Comic-Con was their cameo at The Bang Bang Theory panel before an audience of 4,800, where they performed their song “Bernadette” from the show.
After a few days at the convention, Lindhome and Micucci are already pros in celebdom, able to weave their way throughout private entrances at the Hilton Bayfront. “Here, this way!” suggests Lindhome as they duck into an elevator in search of a private space to talk.
“We know all these secret ins-and-outs because we came through here the other day with make-up on and wearing beautiful dresses,” adds Lindhome, referring to the duo’s press day for their new show IFC TV show Garfunkel and Oates, debuting Thursday, Aug. 7 at 10 p.m.
Soon after Flight of the Conchords ceased its run on HBO in late 2009, the buzz began to percolate that Garfunkel and Oates were developing their own musical-themed show. The timing couldn’t be better, given how the duo, with their absurdist romantic songs and quirky personalities, are the femme flip side of Conchords. Like Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement’s adventures in clubs and black box theaters, Garfunkel and Oates are the only sane ones in a world that’s filled with acerbic entertainment industry personalities, egotistical artists and offbeat lovers. For example, in episode two, titled “Rule 34”, the duo realize that they've become so successful, they’re already being parodied by two porn stars (played by Abby Elliott and Sugar Lyn Beard) who call themselves Garfinger and Butts. Comedy ensues as Garfunkel and Oates contend with these hanger-ons.
They initially developed the show at HBO, though it morphed into a web series on the HBO GO app in 2012. Thanks to IFC, Garfunkel and Oates, with fully-fleshed out plotlines, will see the light of day as eight 22-minute episodes.
Explaining the concept of their show, the two talk like hummingbirds in a David Mamet play — sans the swearing, but finishing each other’s sentences in a rhythmic way.
“It’s not a docu, it’s scripted and it’s a lot about us being in our 30s in this comedy band,” says Micucci.
“It’s about us figuring out what we want to be when we grow up,” adds Lindhome.
Romance, and all its foibles, is a long-running motif in Garfunkel and Oates' song canon, and it's also prime fodder for their millennial Laverne & Shirley-like series. (They are in their 30s and single.) One of their popular stage tunes is “Me, You and Steve,” about a guy who drags his best friend along on a date as a distraction, a situation many people have weathered. Accentuating their lyrics is their folk sound reminiscent of Peter, Paul and Mary and the Indigo Girls, but with one major difference: The duo never harmonizes.
“We’re actually terrible at harmony, but we mostly sing in unison” explains Lindhome.
“We joke often that maybe we’ll be so off tune in a song, that we’ll begin to harmonize,” adds Micucci.
For the IFC show, most of the initial episodes were written around the songs that Garfunkel and Oates already had in their repertoire, butr a number of new ditties were churned out, particularly ones that were toned down for basic cable. Also in episode two, Garfunkel and Oates are hired by a Sesame Street-like show, Pumpernickel Place, to pen a gay wedding song for the marriage of two puppets, Shoebert and Sockley. While Garfunkel and Oates can often take a pungent tone toward the foibles of men in their songs, they put their satire on the back burner and crafted a nuptial song that's so moving, it could put Fiddler on the Roof’s “Sunrise Sunset” out of business as a go-to wedding theme:
Just after the storm breaks
With the perfect amount of light
You can catch a glimpse of magic
If the timing is right
Rainbows are improbable, beautiful and rare
But so are you
And so is this
The love that we share
When it comes to their ability to dial into the hijinks of modern day relationships — as in their toe-tapping song “I Would Never Have Sex With You,” about a girlfriend who’ll never hook up with her longtime b.f. — Garfunkel and Oates never claim that they're Oprah, or even Billy Joel. Ask them about their philosophy when it comes to the current state of love in our day and age, and it gives them pause.
“I think everyone is doing the best they can with the information they have,” says Lindhome about the secret to making romance work. “Nobody knows everything.”
What also fascinates the duo are the pressures and expectations that society places on their demo — the whole notion that by a certain age, a woman has to settle down. It's a topic that the duo plan to continually knock on the show. For instance, in the first episode, Lindhome is so desperate to find a lover she can relate to, she tries dating a stand-up comedian, which doesn't go so well.
Even though their IFC show details their uphill battle as comedic folk singers, their careers outside the show couldn't be better. The twosome are already in demand as go-to songsmiths, whether it’s onscreen (such as Micucci’s uke playing on Fox's Raising Hope) or as songwriters (“Bernadette” on Big Bang Theory) or two wedding-themed tracks for the Scot Armstrong comedy Search Party.
“For eight to nine years, I feel like we were making bad decisions, but the last three to four years have been great,” observes Lindhome.
Long before Micucci met Lindhome during the mid-aughts at a Upright Citizens Brigade Doug Benson show, the latter co-starred in the Clint Eastwood Oscar-winning film Million Dollar Baby. When prodded whether Eastwood parlayed any worthwhile showbiz advice that she still follows, Lindhome reveals, “I overheard him say to someone else on set, ‘Plant your feet and tell the truth,' but I don’t know if that applies to comedy.”
But if there’s one thing that Garfunkel and Oates have been doing throughout their musical career, it’s always planting their feet and telling the truth about life and love. Or at least, Lindhome responds, “We try, we try.”
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