The night Kate Micucci met Riki Lindhome, they were both on bad dates.
Says Kate: “When I met Riki…You know when you meet someone who is important in your life and you just have that feeling like you know it’s a bigger deal than usual? Like I couldn’t stop thinking about Riki after meeting her. I knew we were going to know each other. I just didn’t know that we would be singing and making shows and touring the country together.”
The bad dates took place at a Upright Citizens Brigade show, where the pair were introduced by Doug Benson. They became fast friends, but they didn’t start working together until after Riki saw Kate performing “Like a Virgin” through a snorkel at the M Bar during Whitney Cummings’ show. Even when they actually did start collaborating, they had no intention of forming a group. The goal was to write the songs for Riki’s short film, Imaginary Larry, which was shot during the 2007-2008 WGA strike.
Despite initial expectations and intentions, they did in fact, form a group. Under the name “Garfunkel and Oates,” they began playing together in September 2007 and haven’t stopped since. They’ve made it through countless YouTube videos, international tour dates, several meals at Olive Garden, an HBO web series, a song about how pregnant women are smug and they just wrapped shooting an eight-episode season of their new show for IFC, which will premiere Thursday, August 7 at 10:00 p.m.
The show is a scripted musical-comedy following the misadventures of the title characters. The first episode pits Kate against Ben Kingsley in an acting audition for the role of “hot slut.” The second introduces new rivals “Garfinger and Butts,” a band who makes porn parodies of Garfunkel and Oates music videos. The show will be run by Dennis McNicholas, a former head writer at SNL who was with the legendary sketch comedy show for 10 years.
It’s difficult to imagine how two very different kids—one outgoing and into cheerleading, and one more interested in staying at home doing art—who first met at music camp in 1990 would eventually become a successful musical-comedy duo. Their experiences at that music camp really underline the differences in their childhood personalities. Riki was into making friends, viewing the befriending others as a vacation from her parents. Meanwhile, all Kate wanted to do was call her parents. Born in New Jersey and raised in Nazareth, Pa., she was more of a homebody. She wasn’t necessarily shy, but she was content to eat her lunch in the art room. She started piano lessons when she was four and began competing at six. For her, music had always a very strict affair. When she started writing her own songs, she says she “kind of found a freedom in it.”
Riki, whose dad was an oil and gas lawyer, grew up in upstate New York, and finished college at Syracuse a year early in order to move out to L.A. Kate made a similar move after living with her grandfather in Hawaii for three months and being inspired to act by shows like Freaks and Geeks.
By the time they re-met in Los Angeles as adults, they each had managed a somewhat successful acting career, and have continued to land individual roles even after forming Garfunkel and Oates. Kate starred in indie films and had roles in shows like Bored to Death, Scrubs and The Big Bang Theory. Riki achieved similar success; most recently, Comedy Central picked up her pilot, Another Period, which Riki will write and produce alongside Natasha Leggero in the Victorian Era spoof of Keeping Up With The Kardashians-style reality shows.
Their busy careers—which include starting a summer tour at ComicCon on July 25— don’t seem to affect the “Garfunkel and Oates” writing process. Despite taking their time and gathering extensive notes on each idea they have, they are still manage to be prolific in their output, and their topics run the gamut. In a single song they reference Ed Hardy, Jon Dunne, the TV show Home Improvement and Margaret Sanger. “They’re just references that we like and we hope other people like them,” Kate says. “We just do what we think is cool, which is Jon Dunne and Margaret Sanger, and we see what people think.”
However they’re not afraid to drop a song that isn’t funny enough. “We’ve done that a lot of times,” says Riki. They also don’t shy away from irreverence or risks. Their song “The Loophole,” about Christian girls retaining their virginity by performing anal sex, has over 2 million hits on YouTube.
One can only hope they maintain this resolve with their new show. Based in part on their real lives, it’s about musical comedians in their mid-thirties trying to have a life for themselves. “It’s also about dating and finding your way when things turn out better and worse than you thought,” Riki adds.
While they maintain a control of their own material, creating the show is a collaborative process; Fred Savage directed all eight of the episodes in the first season. “He really helped us to see our vision through which was awesome,” says Kate. A string of guest stars include Tig Notaro, Anthony Jeselnik, Abby Elliott, Natasha Leggero, Chris Parnell, Steve Agee and the actual John Oates. Riki explains, “It was pretty overwhelming too, when you realized that all of these people, the crew, the actors, are here to make your vision a reality.”
It makes sense that their TV show would heavily feature collaboration. According to them, it’s at the heart of their own success. “I think we have different strengths,” Riki says. “I feel like most partners have that, where there are different strengths that compliment each other.” Kate calls Riki the “idea girl” in many situations, though. “Riki’s really great at having a vision and seeing it through,” she says. “Me, I’m more of a wanderer.”
“But Kate adds a magical element,” Riki adds. “She definitely puts the cherry on top of everything and turns everything up. I’m like a workhorse and Kate’s like a magician.”
So, while they never would have expected it at first, things seem to be working out great for Garfunkel and Oates. “Yeah I never in a million years would’ve dreamt of this scenario really,” says Kate. “I feel like with touring or even singing songs on our couch and putting them on YouTube—well YouTube didn’t even exist when we first moved out here—but the idea is what we’re doing now is something I don’t think I could’ve dreamt in a million years.”
“Yeah neither of us envisioned this,” Riki agrees, “but we’re very happy about it.