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Interview: Comedy Darlings Garfunkel & Oates
The lovely ladies, Garfunkel & Oates. Photo via G & O.
It seems that in the past month, you can't throw a joke book without hitting Garfunkel & Oates at some show around town. Not that you'd want to; these lovely ladies are quickly mastering the craft of beautiful songs with enough comedic edge to keep you in your seats. Both Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci are well known faces on television and film, but their most recent musical endeavors have made them fan favorites around the Los Angeles alternative comedy scene, as well as online, where their single-take 'couch videos' are blowing up all over YouTube. LAist was fortunate enough to catch up with the ladies in the middle of their whirlwind month of performing, recording, and making new music videos for the fans. And let's not forget their UCB show on Wednesday!
How long have you two been performing together?
Kate: Since September.
Riki: What?! 10 months? It feels shorter than that.
I would have actually assumed longer.
Kate: Oh, thank you. That is because we’re very professional.
Where did you meet and decide to start performing together?
Kate: We knew each other from auditions and things like that, like I knew who Riki was, but I didn’t know her, really. And then we were both going to see our friend Doug Benson at Upright Citizens Brigade and we were both in the lobby and we were both on bad dates. And then I noticed Riki and she noticed me and I said ‘hey, I’ve seen you around’ and we started talking and hit it off. That was awhile ago, like three and half years ago, maybe. But this stuff, the music stuff, really began last March.
Riki: I wanted to do something with Kate, and I wrote a short for us to do, and I said let’s turn it into a musical, so she came over to write the music, and we wrote three songs in an hour. And Garfunkel and Oates was born. Then, I went out of the country and Kate went out of the country, and Garfunkel and Oates got put on hold until September because we both got acting work.
When Did you guys actually start performing live?
Kate: September. We did the Tomorrow Show first, and then our first real gig was in Santa Monica.
Riki: The most random place. A friend of mine’s band was performing, and I was at my friend’s house, and everyone started playing music, and I said ‘well, Kate and I started writing songs’, and they’re like ‘alright, whatever’ because we’re girls, and whatever... And I just played for them and they just died, and were like ‘will you open for us’, and I said we’ve never actually booked a gig before. They said they didn’t care.
Kate: It’s crazy to think how far we’ve come from then. It doesn’t seem like we’ve been together for a long time, but that seems like ages ago.
Where else are you performing around town now?
Kate: We jump around. A lot at the Steve Allen, UCB, MBar.
Riki: Just wherever people have us. We haven’t sought out any gigs yet because we’ve been so busy with things that people give us.
Kate: We’ve done 10 or 12 shows so far this month, and we didn’t ask for any of them. They just happened.
Riki: We haven’t made a goal list of where we want to play, because our goals just keep getting extended. We’re like ‘it would be awesome if in three years we could get our own show at UCB’ and two months later we get our show.
Kate: And starting in August, we’re going to be doing our own monthly show there.
You already seem to be so well connected in the alternative comedy scene. What do you attribute that to?
Kate: I don’t know. We’re still figuring that out.
Riki: Well, Kate was already performing her own show at Steve Allen (Playin’ With Micucci). People were already aware of her. She performed at the Montreal Comedy Festival, the Vegas Comedy Festival, so people were aware of her already, which... I think that helped.
Kate: Yeah, I think sometimes I’d be like ‘rather than me play, can my band play’.
Riki: That’s pretty much what got the ball rolling, I think. I was a special guest at her show... And literally, every gig we did, we’d walk off and someone would offer us another one. Every single one for the first few months.
Kate: So that’s helped.
There isn’t much of a path for you to take in terms of other female comedian songstresses.
Riki: We have bit of a corner on the market, I think. There aren’t too many comedy bands that are both good AND small. There’s Tenacious D, and they’re not going to play 10 minutes at the Laugh Factory, there’s comedy bands that are good and huge, but there’s a relatively small number that are good and tiny.
Kate: Maybe someday we’ll be playing the El Rey.
Riki: And also, I don’t know of any other female comedy groups.... I think this may be the one case, where (being girls has) helped us. Because the comedy world is still so male dominated, even the other comedians like to have girls in there so it’s no seven white dudes. And we’re not competition for anyone, so we don’t get that flak from people.
Kate: We’re doing our own thing, really. And also the fact that as girls, we’re allowed to say things that guys couldn’t say.
Riki: Girls are automatically the underdog, so we get to sing about more stuff.
You both do a lot of acting work. Is Garfunkel and Oates what you would rather be doing?
Riki: The timing is kind of perfect, actually. We sort of go in and out of it. In the last month, the acting world has been dead. The SAG strike, post-pilot season, there’s been nothing. So we’re like OK, let’s take this month. That’s why we’ve performed 12 times this month, when while we’re working we perform once a month. We just adjust according to our schedules.
Kate: The minute one of us gets a job, this gets put on the backburner. Right now, the past few weeks, it’s been all we’ve been doing I feel. We’re exhausted.
Riki: But the timing has just worked out. We saw this lull and everyone said ‘we’re so bored’, and Kate and I were like: ‘OK, now we’ve gotta do it’. We’ve been recording our album this week, playing out every night, we’re recording a video this weekend.
Kate: It’s a big push.
You have this dynamic, where Your songs are 80% cute as a button and 20% brutal.
Riki: That would be our two personalities.
Kate: I’m the timid one when it comes to saying certain things. I don’t want to be all sexy-like.
Riki: She has to pull me back, because I always want to go further.
Kate: It’s a nice balance, I think. I’m singing some stuff that I never ever thought in a hundred million years thought I would be singing.
Riki: I love it, because I think it’s funny when she swears.
Kate: I didn’t even say the F word, ever, until like three years ago. And now our first song is called Fuck You.
You guys also have these really great, really beautiful songs that aren’t funny but are still such a great part of who you are and what you do.
Kate: I think right now, where Riki and I are in our lives, we’re these single girls in the city, we write about dating, we write about all this stuff that, five years from now, we might not relate as much. We might not relate to the songs, whereas right now is such the time to be writing about these things, for us. It’s kind of nice, it’s like this really great little moment where our careers are in a certain place and our lives are in a certain place, and we’re able to write these things... That’s not too deep, is it?
Riki: Kate and I are in that weird place where no one knows who we are and everyone knows who we are. People always say ‘did you... go to my high school?’ Did you... work at my Starbucks?
Kate: For me it’s like ‘hey, I saw you in that sausage commercial’.
RIki: People keep writing GO MEAT on our MySpace page.
Kate, you’re definitely more the animated one and Riki, you’re more deadpan.
Kate: Which, we didn’t realize. People started to tell us that. I didn’t know that I was doing that.
Riki: And I’m not necessarily deadpan in real life. We just sort of adopted that, but not intentionally.
Kate: Not intentionally at all. It was months before I saw a video of us, and my roommate was telling me that it’s so funny, because we’re opposites in every way, like our height, everything. And then I saw us, and I said OK, now I see what they’re saying.
Riki: We’re still developing. I think we’re still a really new act, we’re still just trying to see what’s funny.
Kate: I don’t feel like I’m trying to do one thing or another. I’m just trying to get the words right.
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