“You start with a risqué premise (dirty, but not too dirty).”
“Then you craft your chorus with your strongest joke, then you throw in a smart reference.”
“Yeah, something like, ‘I miss more periods than William Faulkner.’”
“That’s good! And then, for your close, you repeat your funniest line!”
In addition to revealing the perfect equation for comedic songwriting, Garfunkel and Oates’ second episode continues to find inspiration in the Los Angeles comedy scene, this time focusing on copycats, competition and corporate gigs. It delivers another incredible roster of comedian guest stars, as well, including Tig Notaro, Chris Hardwick, Chris Parnell and, the man himself, John Oates, who plays a greasy porn shop owner with a knack for creating model ships (more on that in a bit).
The episode’s title, “Rule 34,” is introduced as a concept of the Internet age. It states that, “If something exists, there’s a porn version of it.” When porn stars Epiphany and Chevrolet (Sugar Lyn Beard and Abby Elliott) approach Riki and Kate following a gig, they reveal their work as Garfinger and Butts, a truly Rule 34 spin on Garfunkel and Oates. Relentless in their self-promotion, Epiphany and Chevrolet coerce Kate into emailing their music video to Chris Hardwick, in hopes that, should he share it, his Twitter reach will give them exposure. Hesitantly, Kate obliges on the spot. When Hardwick later retweets the link, the porn stars’ video explodes on social media. By the end of the episode, Kate and Riki are contemplating exchanging their integrity for a fat paycheck and an opening spot for their own knock-off band.
Meanwhile, other pressing matters are at play, such as Garfunkel and Oates’ corporate gig with Wesker Wynn, where the girls unknowingly aid disgruntled corporate drone Stan (Chris Parnell) into a final act of vengeance before his resignation. Then there’s their opportunity to write a wedding song for Socksley and Schubert, a gay puppet couple on the Sesame Street-esque “Pumpernickel Place.” The gentle, lullaby-like track, “Rainbow Connection,” offers the only breakaway Garfunkel and Oates video of the episode, complete with precious puppet nuptials and a banana playing a tiny electric guitar.
Overall, this episode benefits greatly from its guest appearances. Ever-funny Chris Parnell has one of the funniest bits in the show, where he delivers line-after-line of vague description regarding the business operations of Wesker Wynn. “As you probably know, here at Wesker Wynn, we focus on global pro-synergy,” he says. “You know, immersion cyber-architecture, trans-opportunistic revenue streams.” It’s complete gibberish, but, when tuned to the timbre of Parnell’s signature vocals, it a great gag.
John Oates’ brief appearance is wonderful, as well, and further illustrates my favorite aspect of the program in general: it’s self-reflexivity. Using Oates in a cameo role is as humorous as it is self-aware, proving that Garfunkel and Oates is not afraid to take us out of the moment solely for a chuckle. Oates’ inclusion is just one example of this. The breaching of the fourth wall is inherent to Garfunkel and Oates entire premise, acting, at times, as a subtle wink at viewers from behind the television screen. I imagine the same thought popping into any viewer’s mind in that particular scene: “Isn’t that John Oates?”—and surely that’s the point.
All things considered, this episode does lack in certain areas. Namely, in an overreach in subplots, unapologetically cliché valley girl caricatures and a desire for just one more Garfunkel and Oates song (but perhaps that last one is just me being selfish). Regardless, when “Rule 34” works, it really works. Not to mention, it’s commentary on the bizarreness of life in Los Angeles continues to be prime real estate for comedic television.