Singer-songwriter/comedian Kate Micucci is not as young as she looks, which is about 12. Because of her diminutive build and pixie face, her eyes are proportioned like one of the sweeter-looking Muppets. The look is combined with a squeaky voice and an expression that flips between being slightly dazed and 10 steps ahead of the rest of us, which she actually is.
With this precocious, childlike quality, she can pluck a ukulele with the best of them, or a guitar, or keyboards, and croon a lyric in honeyed tones: "My self-esteem's not low enough to date you. It's getting close, but it's not there yet."
She plays at the Steve Allen Theater and at Upright Citizens Brigade when she isn't taping for the TV show Scrubs. A racy duo act she has with Riki Lindhome — named Garfunkel and Oates after the second bananas of two famous singing duos — appeared on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno in March. The song, "Pregnant Women Are Smug," describes self-entitlement absorption of women with child — a bitter song sweetly sung, which is the very blend that adds up to the smart, wry tonality that packs Hollywood's hipper clubs with 20-year-olds.
Micucci was born in New Jersey and grew up in Pennsylvania. Theater and music have always been part of her life. She has one brother, a stage actor who builds sets for the Public Theatre in New York. Her mother is a piano teacher, which explains a lot. Her father is an electrical contractor in a small town, "but he's really creative," Micucci explains. "He used to make our toys by hand. There was always that kind of imagination in our house, which was always a little crazy. People at my school used to say, 'I just want to have dinner at your house to see what it's like.' "
As a child she was always seeing professional plays because of bus tours administered by the public school system. And her mother was always taking her to see plays.
She describes herself as a late-developing child who didn't date until after high school, yet she was writing songs at a very early age. So rather than write about boyfriends and love, she wrote music without words. In college she started writing songs with words. "My first songs were about animals and shoes. I wrote one song about PF Flyers, and one to my fish.
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"Near the end of high school, I was always supershy, backward. I thought I needed a plan. Everyone says you need a plan, and my dad was sick of taking me to different colleges. One day, it was hailing after we'd checked out Cornell and my dad had just had it. He'd taken me to 20 schools. He stopped the car. 'Why don't you visit your aunt and uncle in Hawaii?' he said.
"I said, 'Really?' So I lived in Kona for three months on my aunt and uncle's porch. I woke up one day with a really strong feeling that I had to go to Loyola Marymount University in California, a Catholic school, though I was never raised Catholic.
"So I dressed for L.A. — black miniskirt, lime-green T-shirt with sequins, my mom gave me her sandals. I was wearing these chunky mom sandals, and a black purse, and I had just gotten a cell phone that was peeking out of my purse, and I figured, hey, I'm, like, cool, I really fit in. One girl walked up to me and said, 'Your're not from here, are you?' "
Being not quite from here, and being only vaguely aware of it, is really the underpinning of her stand-up act and her music. Garfunkel and Oates are more brazen, but the essence is the same as when Micucci is solo, singing in the voice of a generation struggling to find its way.