Garfunkel & Oates Get All Over Your Face

Let’s get one thing straight: Riki Lindhome is Art Garfunkel and Kate Micucci is John Oates — not the other way around. The reasons why the musical-comedy duo has come to inhabit these specific roles are actually pretty simple, though. “Riki’s Garfunkel because she’s tall and blonde,” Kate says. “I’m Oates because I’m short and if I’m not careful, I can get a mustache.”

Over the past two years, Riki and Kate have been popping up on stages and computer screens everywhere as Garfunkel & Oates, building their reputation one ukulele solo at a time. Their original comedy songs run through many different styles, stemming from a shared love of Broadway musicals and 80s pop music, but the thread that binds them together is that they all manage to pack in as many punchlines as possible in the space of a few minutes. Their lyrics read like tight McSweeney’s pieces that happen to rhyme.

The origin story of Garfunkel & Oates starts at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in LA a few years ago, where the two met on separate, boring dates. The two actresses recognized each other from auditions they’d been on, and an instant friendship was born. This friendship turned into collaboration when Riki decided to turn a short film she was making called Imaginary Larryinto a musical. “We sat down with the ukulele and guitar and two hours later we had three songs,” Kate recalls. “It was a surreal experience. Everything just clicked. A few months later, we were playing shows.”

Although neither Kate nor Riki had experience doing stand-up, they had performance roots in the LA comedy scene and support from friends like Doug Benson, Scott Aukerman, and Neil Campbell. The Garfunkel & Oates Hour began at a small venue in early 2009, but by the end of the year it had became a monthly hit at UCB, where the duo had met.

Around this time, their videos began to catch on too. Songs like “Pregnant Women Are Smug”, “I Would Never (Have Sex With You”, and “One Night Stand” are filled with sharp observations and hilarious stories that are distinctly feminine and quirky. It should surprise nobody that G&O quickly developed a following. The video for “Sex With Ducks”, a song about gay marriage, ended up on CNN a week after it landed on YouTube, and it was the duo’s first video to reach a million hits.

Garfunkel & Oates have since gone on to grace the Tonight Show stage multiple times, perform at festivals like Bumbershoot, and even open for one of their heroes/namesakes. “Opening for John Oates was definitely a memorable show,” Kate says. “We also played ‘Maneater’ with him during his set. For the bridge, I played a trombone solo while Riki stripped from one modest dress to another.”

Although they’d both found success as actors before striking a nerve in comedy, Riki and Kate were interested in music from an early age. “I grew up playing the flute and Kate grew up playing the piano, Riki says. “We had actually first met in music camp when we were in 5th grade, but we didn’t realize that until a few years ago.” Despite similar musical upbringings, the pair diverges in where their senses of humor developed. While Kate’s comedic instincts were informed by a love of Lucille Ball — “I’ve seen every episode of I Love Lucy many times over,” she says — Riki was influenced by something more modern. “The State on MTV was the first thing that made me want to get into comedy. It’s completely shaped my view of what I think is funny.”

Part of what makes Garfunkel & Oates songs so funny is that they wring a lot of Curb Your Enthusiasm-like social observations out of the interactions between men and women. The blunt, detail-packed way they rebuke potential suitors or reveal embarrassing personal insights seems brutally honest. It’s hard to tell just from listening, though, whether these are just characters in the songs, or if something like the late-bloomer humor of “I Don’t Understand-Job” is legitimate. “Almost all of our songs are based on real things that happened to us,” Kate says. “So I’d say our onstage personas are pretty close to who we really are.”

As for the actual people who have inspired certain G & O songs, it turns out that being immortalized in a funny way is practically an honor, even if the portrait is kind of unflattering. “Honestly, no one has been mad — at least not to our faces,” Riki says. “Most people we know can laugh at themselves and some are even flattered to have had a song written about them.”

Pretty soon a lot more people are going to be laughing along with Riki and Kate, as 2011 is poised to be their biggest year yet. The self-released album All Over Your Face is out this month, and the band will be touring various cities and playing more festivals throughout the year. The big news, though, is that they’ve just sold a Garfunkel and Oates TV show to HBO, the network that developed and hosted the Flight of the Conchords show for two seasons of charmingly absurd musical comedy.

Landing at a network that is famous for nurturing creativity and artistic talent is a bright omen for the future. In the case of Flight of the Conchords, an HBO series lead to shows at venues like Radio City Music Hall in New York. Still, even though the pair recognizes the enviable position they’re in, Kate and Riki remain humble about it. “Mostly we’d love to keep doing what we’re doing,” says Kate. “We get to travel and perform and do shows with some of our comedy idols — we’re pretty fortunate.” Hopefully, no matter how fortunate things get, though, there will still be enough grievances left to inspire new Garfunkel & Oates songs.

Joe Berkowitz edits books and writes stuff. He also has a Tumblr.

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