Musical comedy duo Garfunkel & Oates are Kate MiCucci and Riki Landhome, who have been creating folk-tinged tunes under the moniker for years ahead of their brand new IFC series. The show follows fictionalized versions of the actresses as they navigate their personal lives, show business and the intersection of the two in Los Angeles.
Appropriately, the series begins in a comedy club. Backstage after their set, Riki’s new boyfriend dumps her over suspicions that a bit in her act was inspired by his unsightly genitalia. Kate, on the other hand, is having trouble breaking up with her boyfriend Daniel. Devastatingly sweet, she claims to be “letting him down easy,” with their watered-down relationship being reduced solely to text messaging.
In the crowd as Thomas (Anthony Jeselnik) completes a set, Vivian St. Charles (Natasha Leggero) suggests that the girls try dating comics. Thomas talks about Riki frequently, she says, and would feel no remorse should a song be written about his balls. (“In fact, he’d insist on it.”) Following his set, Thomas invites Riki outside, where the line between flirtation and comedy becomes convoluted. This begs a clarification of each person’s intentions: a kind of first-glimpse into dating and relationships for comedic entertainers, and a focal point of the episode.
The next morning, while giving Riki a ride home from Thomas’ house, Kate’s cellphone rings: It’s Boomer, their manager, who Kate envisions (and we see) as a buoyant muppet in a nice suit, existing on the other end of the phone line in a fancy office. Boomer has landed her an audition for a “hot slut” part in a Ben Kingsley movie, and, although excited, Kate is confused by the consideration. Hot slut, both girls agree, is outside of her usual type-cast repertoire.
For help, they turn to Vivian and her expansive wardrobe of furs and bikinis. Amidst the trials and errors of finding the right audition outfit, Kate receives another text from Daniel asking about her plans, and she vaguely responds that she is busy. The exchange inspires conversation about exiting relationships sans confrontation, which leaves Kate and Riki with the seed for their next song, “The Fadeaway.”
Later, Kate arrives at her audition, looking outrageous with teased hair and a tight dress, where she reads a scene with Ben Kingsley. Confused by his adoption of stage directions, she follows suit, awkwardly grabbing his forearm, hesitantly kissing him on the cheek, then fumbling through her script to find her next line. It’s disastrous, and, after momentarily running in place beside the door, she exits the room—and her audition—by escaping to the street outside. Kate calls Boomer, who offers clarification: He had intended the audition to be for Riki, but admittedly got the girls confused.
Meanwhile, Riki and Thomas stop into a gelato shop, where a robotic woman samples her way through the cold case. After finally reaching the counter, Riki makes a punchy quip about the woman, and Thomas, half-requesting to use Riki’s joke, instantly tweets it. Riki is lightly annoyed at this, stating that she, herself, was planning on sharing it, but let’s it go.
Wallowing in the aftermath of her audition, Kate stops into a toy store to find a pick-me-up, still in her audition garb. There, she runs into Daniel, who is with another woman. He introduces her as Caroline, a former girlfriend that he reunited with weeks ago. He claims to have made several attempts to reach Kate, but her busy schedule had always prevented him. The presentation of Kate and Caroline, in both appearance and character, offers a hilarious comparison of life on disparate career tracks. Kate, upon hearing about Caroline’s work benefits, for example, adamantly states that she is dreading them—a clear sign that Caroline’s adult lifestyle is absolutely foreign to her.
The next scene, between Riki and Thomas, provides us with our first could-be stand alone Garfunkel and Oates bit, and outlines awkward moments associated with, well, giving fellatio. The inherent sweetness of the song, and it’s poppy, musical theatre quality, is peppered with frequent (literal) gags and perfect comedic timing. The vignette subsides when Riki’s previously-established “worst” gag reflex comes into play, and Thomas’ lap is covered in vomit.
The next night, Thomas jokes about the experience during a set at the comedy club. Riki, watching from the crowd, admits the difficulties of becoming a punchline, but also establishes the unique toughness of dating other comedians, where all privacies become fodder for material. The episode closes with “The Fadeaway,” a track with uproariously inappropriate one-liners, such as “Not ‘The Good Wife’ type like Christine Baranski, so I’ll put out and leave like I’m Roman Polanski,” and wonderfully cheesy special effects.
Garfunkel and Oates exists in the same vein as popular shows like Girls and Broad City, which similarly follow the lives of a particular demographic of women. That said, it is unique in its self-reflexive nature, as well its marriage of sitcom, sketch comedy and musical performance. After covering a large handful of topics in the first episode, I can only imagine where Garfunkel and Oates will take us this season, but I’m more than willing to find out.