Kate and Riki’s 1000th gig turns into a hellish nightmare on this week’s Garfunkel and Oates, but, as Riki and Kate prove, they’re woman enough to handle it in stride.
“Road Warriors” begins on a highway somewhere outside of a familiar American metropolis. Kate and Riki embark on a several-hour long journey to play their 1,000th gig, accompanied by a driver (played by Gerry Bednob) who, despite being put on the guest list, ditches the girls after dropping them off at the club. Stranded in an unfamiliar town, and with no means of returning home, the girls attempt to make the best of it—but it isn’t easy. When Dennis (Steve Little), Garfunkel and Oates’ number one anti-fan, a riled-up and incredibly sexist protestor, shows up, it’s one more proverbial nail in their landmark show’s coffin.
Dennis’ character is a fascinating one. An awkward presence and open misogynist, he is committed to disenfranchising female comedians like Kate and Riki. It’s a goofy projection, but each of his jokes lands with a prickly recognition: that shades of Dennis exist in the male-dominant world of comedy. That said, he is an extreme example, and, even then, his resentful lines are garnished with humor that make him seem next to harmless. When Kate asks Dennis why he calls her “Baby Bones,” he wraps up his explanation with: “You’ve got your semi-calcified baby bones that I could just snap!” It’s the kind of joke that offers an easy laugh, but that is punctuated with a huh of uncomfortable realization that, although exaggerated, Dennis’ character was likely inspired by real people.
Dennis isn’t the only person our protagonists are up against this week. In fact, despite the should-be highpoint of performing their 1,000th show, the whole world seems to be working against them. There’s Andrew (Kevin Pollak), the club’s owner, who, after point-blank stating that Kate and Riki avoid the topic of menstruation (a stereotype which they later play into during a hilariously graphic conversation about periods), alerts them that he’ll be crashing their set to propose to his reality star girlfriend. Then there’s Tom (Toby Huss), the manic sound man, who responds to any request made by Riki with extreme defensiveness. When prompted for a second microphone, he responds with an explosive, “Hey, can you step of my jock for, like, two seconds, bossy?” before quitting his job an hour before showtime.
Last but not least is the opening act, a “calculator magician” (Andy Kindler) with no discernible talent, who is so disrespectful of Garfunkel and Oates’ set that he runs nearly an hour over his allotted time. That said, his stage time gives Kate and Riki opportunity to get into more trouble, starting with their idea to relieve themselves in the club’s back alley. The two get locked out, but not before Riki falls into Kate’s stream of urine. Eventually, they make their way to the stage, but one song, a doomed proposal later, and several sound issues later, they’re outside, asking Dennis for a truce, and a ride home.
There is no shortage of rotten times for Kate and Riki in “Road Warriors,” but this is not your typical slapstick, bad-luck-for-laughs fare. With every dissenting character presented, Garfunkel and Oates pokes fun at the banal side effects of being a woman in comedy. Even the bouncer is skeptical of Kate and Riki’s comedian titles, telling them they lack the it-factor that, say, Zooey Deschanel has when she “puts her glasses on.” Dennis agrees (“She’s the Red Buttons of our time!”), in what is, perhaps, a damning homage to the tired, more male-accessible, manic pixie dream girl typecast.
Then, of course, there is Garfunkel and Oates music video of the week, “29 and 31,” the title of which reflects the ages of the song’s single protagonist. Kate, playing a 29-year-old woman, is presented as smiling, surrounded by handsome man, and glowing with youth. Riki, playing the same woman but at 31, yells her lines with utter frustration, from a constantly gloomy landscape or alone in her bedroom. It’s hilarious commentary on heavy societal pressures toward aging women, and one that works well within the greater context of the episode.
Overall, “Road Warriors” is Garfunkel and Oates at its best: equal parts witty, charming, sly and intelligent. With clever writing and great performances from all involved parties, viewers are left with a fun, energetic and socially relevant half hour. Not to mention, I’m adoring the interplay between Micucci and Lindhome as the season progresses. Their hilarious banter feels so authentic, with perfect, in the moment delivery that lacks any trace of constraint by way of memorization (seriously—watch the green room bit, where they reference a famous Shawshank Redemption scene, and try not to relate). No doubt about it, Garfunkel and Oates’ latest episode cements IFC’s still-new program as a smart watch, complete with two hilarious protagonists who, with each episode, manage to make us laugh, think and singalong—and often all at the same time.