Garfunkel and Oates will perform at the BENTZEN BALL STAND UP SHOWCASE on Friday, October 11 at The Sphinx Club and the BENTZEN BALL MUSIC REVUE on Saturday, October 12 at The Lincoln Theatre.
If you’ve never heard their songs before, the comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates have a way of sneaking up on you. They’re cute, the songs are perky, and they build toward some hilarious and/or dark conclusion about modern life, particularly for women. “Pregnant Women Are Smug” is about how, well, pregnant women annoy the shit out of everyone with whom they converse. I’ve been singing “Go Kart Racing (Accidentally Masturbating)” to myself all week because the chorus is so damn catchy. Then there’s “29/31,” which is all about how the ticking clock for women gets inexorably louder.
But Garfunkel (Riki Lindhome) and Oates (Kate Micucci) are more than just YouTube darlings. Their accomplished actors and comedians who are poised to explode with a new comedy show for IFC. I recently chatted with the duo about their songs, their show, and, um, my love life.
BYT: I am a huge fan of your song “The Loophole.” Have you encountered a lot of young women who preserved their virginity with anal sex?
KM: We always knew girls like that growing up. I went to a Catholic college, and I knew girls who were doing it back home. But as we were traveling around the country, we would encounter women who were very open about their experience.
RL: Yeah, people at shows would shout, “I did that!” It always happened while we were introducing the song, and we weren’t sure how to respond. I think I said, “Thank you for sharing.”
BYT: A typical stand-up comedian can start and pause while the audience laughs. To what extent do you think about pacing in your songs so listeners don’t miss a punch line?
RL: We’ll pause if we think a joke is really good. Otherwise, we think, “Whatever!”
KM: A lot of it will get worked out later. When we have an early version of a song, afterward we’ll say something like, “Gosh, they really laughed at that one joke, so let’s focus on that.” The first time out of the gate with a song can sometimes be a little bit tricky, but we’ll usually figure it out as we go along.
BYT: What’s an example of a song that didn’t get the laughs you think it could, and took a lot of revamping?
RL: “29-31” is a good example. We had originally had a really big version of it, and it got better and better as it went on.
KM: That song is really about waiting and pausing, so you can never really tell where the audience will laugh. Every audience is so so different with that song. Sometimes we’re waiting for what’s usually our biggest laugh, so just shrug and keep going.
BYT: I’m glad you brought up that song. I think it’s hilarious, but I’m friends with women who laugh at the song so they can hold back tears. Is that something you noticed in feedback from women?
KM: Yeah! We also meet women who are 26 and they say, “Oh, my god! That’s going to be me soon!” So they anticipate this feeling that the song creates.
BYT: Did you write the song after the despair in that song, or as it was happening?
RL: Definitely the former. In hindsight, we noticed how we felt one way at a certain age and another once we’re a bit older. If we were being truthful, the song would be called “30-32,” but “29-31” had a better ring to it and felt more universal.
KM: My 29 year-old mentality arrived a little bit later, too. I’m a little slow in developing.
BYT: As much as I like the song, I don’t think I can relate to it, ever, because I’m a man.
RL: Some men relate to it! It depends on the guy, but it’s written for women, for sure. The biological realities are different for men and women. But we’ve met men in small towns who relate to the song because there are so few single women left and everyone else is married.
KM: We usually close with that one because it has our biggest laughs. Actually, no, I don’t want to say that because hopefully all our songs have big laughs in them [giggles]. The only time the song bombs is when we play colleges because 18 year olds are like, “What are you even talking about?”
BYT: How do reconcile that fans want to hear their favorites while keeping your material fresh? Do you throw surprises into your older songs?
RL: It’s weird. When we play LA, we try to play as much new stuff as possible, but when we go to someplace new, we play songs we think everyone will want to hear. It’s not as fun to play old songs, but people are paying money and we want to give them what they want. We try to change it up, but it also helps that hearing a song live is different than watching it on YouTube.
KM: When we’re on the road, a lot of people don’t realize who we are. They’re just going to the comedy club because they want to see a show. That’s a lot of fun for us because that’s when our audience hears our songs for the first time.
BYT: That’s a good point. So I’ve never actually seen you perform live before. I’m going to the show Saturday, and–
KM, RL: Yay!
BYT: Yeah, it’ll be fun! So how is your live show different? What else is different for fans who only know you from YouTube?
RL: There’s a lot of improv and talking. We like to go out and tell funny stories about our day or whatever. All the shows are different in that way.
KM: We’ll explore the town we’re in, and there’s usually some story about traveling.
BYT: Have you played DC before?
KM: No, we haven’t!
RL: Yeah! We’re really excited.
BYT: It’s a weird week to be in DC because of the shutdown.
RL: Is anyone going to be there? I assume everyone went on vacation.
BYT: I don’t think so, actually. If someone were to go on vacation and the government reopened, they’d have to go to work tomorrow. [ed. note: interview happened on Monday]
RL: Right! Oh, God, that’s so strange!
BYT: You’re coming to town for The Bentzen Ball. Is there anyone you’re super excited to see?
RL, KM: Tig Notaro!
RL: We’ve done stuff with her before, but I just haven’t seen her perform in a while.
BYT: As tough as it was sometimes to hear, I loved last year’s LIVE album.
KM: Gosh, yeah. Riki and I sat together and laughed and cried together.
RL: Has a set ever been that honest ever? I don’t think our songs will reach that level, and I’m ok with that [laughs].
BYT: Congrats on your new show for IFC! What stage is the show at, and what is the format going to be?
KM: Thank you! Right now we’re in the process of writing, and we’ll start filming in January. It’s based on our lives.
RL: A condensed version of our real lives. We’ll be playing ourselves. It’ll be very musical, very girly, a little fantastical, but it also deals with what we’re going through.
BYT: One last question, and the premise for it is true. I’m going on a first date soon, and I was wondering what advice you have for me.
KM: That’s a great question! What are you doing?
BYT: We’re going to a neighborhood dive bar.
RL: That’s good. Just be prepared to grab dinner later.
KM: Have it ready to go, though, so you don’t have to make it up while you’re there. Oh, and if it gets cold, offer her your jacket. If we see you at the festival, can you give us the scoop?
BYT: Sure. I’m going to use your advice, so if it doesn’t hold well, I’m going to hold you responsible.
RL: My advice is to kiss her as soon as you can, just to get it out of the way.
KM: You have to make sure that you feel it from her that it’s going to happen. I have a good feeling about this; I think you’re at least going to make out a bit tonight.
BYT: [laughs] We’ll see! Thanks for taking the time to talk with me.
RL, KM: No problem! Thank you!