Garfunkel and Oates bring music and comedy to The Venetian
Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci became an Internet sensation after they began posting videos as Garfunkel and Oates, carving a comedy niche with fresh, satirical takes on sex, dating and social mores on songs such as “29/31,” “The Loophole” and “Fadeaway.” Those concert favorites are included on the guitar-and-ukulele duo’s newly released 17-track recording, Secretions. They return to Vegas Nov. 7 for their second appearance as part of The Venetian’s Lipshtick stand-up series. Las Vegas Magazine’s Matt Kelemen recently spoke to the pair.
You both have so much going on between television, films and podcasting. Is it getting difficult to narrow your focus and attend to recording and performing live?
Riki Lindhome: I think it is. I think as the years have gone by it’s become more difficult to figure out what to focus on, but it’s also forced us to let go of the things we don’t love. It’s forced us to narrow down what we love doing and just focus on those things.
For the fall it’s all about Secretions and the tour, right?
Kate Micucci: Next week, we’re shooting our special in Seattle, so that’s been a big focus. And then the album being out has been really exciting, and the Vegas show, and then we’re working on a bunch of other things as well.
RL: The album and the special and our Vegas show are kind of the main focus. We’re really happy with how the album turned out, and people seem to like it, so that’s cool.
It’s No. 4 on iTunes (top comedy sellers) right now. What is the special going to be about? Is the special going to contrast with the material on the album?
KM: It’s a lot of the material that’s on the album. We’ve been touring for the album, I guess … last year we did a big tour. The special’s going to be similar to what we’ve been doing on the road, but I guess a couple of extra magical things. I think we want to capture what we’ve been touring with. It’ll be nice for people who haven’t had a chance to see us live.
I saw your last show at The Venetian.
RL: Oh, cool! It was a blast.
One of the things I was looking out for was what kind of audience you would draw in Vegas, and it was all ages.
RL: We’ve been all ages since the beginning. I guess we were maybe surprised at first because the L.A. comedy scene is kind of all 20s and 30s, but our audience is really diverse and I think it’s more fun that way.
You riffed off the audience a little bit. Do you customize the shows by improvising with the crowd?
RL: Yeah, we like to interact a little bit. We keep it limited but if something happens, we address it.
KM: The other thing is we like to keep it like almost like if you were in our living room and we were sitting around playing songs for everyone, like having that kind of feeling like we all know each other and we’re having a good time. I think that’s a thing that happens with our shows, because Riki and I don’t even really plan, when we go out there, what we’re going to talk about. We obviously have certain things we’re going to talk about, but it is this kind of style like we don’t know what’s going to happen—in a good way.
Now that you mention it, it did feel like we were in your living room and you were playing for us?
RL: Yeah, exactly. That’s what we go for. We want to make it feel like it’s personal and special, and people feel like they’re just at this show and not every show’s the same.
I was interviewing a comedian a few weeks ago and he compared how a comedy audience expects fresh material and a music audience wants the hits. Where do Garfunkel and Oates fall on this spectrum?
RL: We try to do a mix of both. We want to play the songs that people love because they came to see those songs. Obviously we’re going to do that, but we only have an hour and we can only play so many. And then we also like to challenge ourselves by trying to make people laugh with new stuff.
The first song that got me hooked was “29/31” (Micucci and Lindhome play the same character at different ages, with Micucci as confident optimist and Lindhome the jaded, slightly older pessimist). There was a time in March 2010 when Riki was 31 and Kate was 29, for like a month. Did it come out of that time, or is it more general symbolism for different phases in life?
RK: We just thought those ages were funny. We weren’t those ages (when “29/31” was written), sadly. That would have been a great story. We just thought those seemed like fun ages, and the right ages to pick for that particular song. Either one can happen at any age.
KM: Yeah, and also I never realized there was one month when we were 29 and 31 (laughs). You’re the first person that pointed that out to us.
I had to check it out. It’s a great song, but it really hits when Riki lets loose.
RL: Aw, thank you!
“Fadeaway” was topically prescient. Two year later and we started seeing articles about “ghosting.”
RL: We were hoping that they’d say “fadeaway” instead of “ghosting,” but you know (laughs).
I was saying “fadeaway.” Did you catch that flurry of media attention?
RL: Yeah, totally.
Did you feel like you were there first?
RL: I think it all happened at the same time. It was a pretty obvious thing to point out, but we just had fun. … It’s a fun song for us, but I don’t think we were the first ones there.
That song made me feel guilty, like “I’ve done that, and it’s been done to me.”
KM: Almost anyone can say that too.
RL: Everyone’s done it. Everyone’s had it done to them. No one likes doing it or having it done.
But we do it anyway.
KM: It’s something you really couldn’t do before the Internet or cell phones or texting. It’s a newer thing. I think, like Riki said, it was all coming together before people were calling it something.
Do you have favorite songs lately that you like to perform, or are they all your “children?”
RL: My favorite to perform is “29/31.”
KM: I think my favorite lately is “Frozen Egg Babies Lullaby.” That’s also a newer one for us. It’s got a kind of fun excitement behind it.
RL: Yeah, I agree. That one’s really fun right now.
Do you every have problems remembering lyrics? They stream out of you so fast (in performance). Is it easy, once you write them, to remember them or is it still kind of hard?
KM: I think when we’re learning it, once they’re in our brains they’re kind of in there. Obviously we’ll have moments of forgetfulness, but basically there’s two of us and literally when we’re together, we’ll sometimes forget at the same time.
RL: We forget the same lyrics at the same moment all the time.
You did do that once at The Venetian.
RL: It’s a weird phenomenon because we’re so linked. Something kind of happens to us when we’re performing, where we become this one unit and we do forget at the same time. It’s really strange. … When we do start out, we have the lyrics onstage for the first few times we play it, so we have a safety net.
When was your last writing session? Do you go through phases where you can focus and allow yourself to be receptive to ideas?
KM: We’ve been apart for the past few months, so we’ve been writing over the Internet and through email. We’re still writing together, but there’s definitely waves when we have time: “Let’s make this a writing couple of weeks.” But lately it’s been a lot over email.
Garfunkel and Oates on the vanguard of entertainers that successfully used Youtube. I discovered you that way. Is Youtube’s usefulness to your career evolving?
KM: I think in the beginning we owed so much to Youtube because before we were even a band Riki had posted videos online to share with her family back in New York, then other people found them through Youtube. We did not set out to be like, “Hey everybody, look at our videos!” We were like, “Hey Riki’s family, come check out our videos!” I think in the beginning Youtube really helped us—“Oh, wait, people liked us. We should do more.”
RL: I think Youtube is one of those things where the more you use it the better your channel gets, and we don’t put up videos often. We used to all the time, but the people who are really successful on Youtube post once or twice a week. We’ve been focusing on touring and acting writing our show, and so it’s hard to maintain that level on Youtube.
How do you look at your TV show in hindsight? How do you look at the experience?
KM: Well, unfortunately we’re not doing another season of it.
I know. I just watched all eight episodes before the interview.
KM: Oh, thanks for watching it.
How do you look at it now? Was it a positive experience? Was it more of a learning experience for the next time you try something on TV?
RL: I’d say it was a positive experience and a learning experience. I’d say it’s both.
KM: We’re really proud of them, so yeah, overall it was a really cool opportunity to put our songs into a television show.
Would you do it again, a show along those lines?
RL: I think we’re looking to do different things now. I feel like we did that, and now we’re thinking about our special, and maybe something else after that. Probably not TV.
KM: Yeah, we have some ideas that have been formulating in our brains, so yeah, we’re not quite sure what the next thing will be but we have some thoughts.
It looked like you were increasingly getting your stride, like by the third or fourth show you were really getting a feel for it. Were there other writers involved for the first few shows before you did most of the writing for the rest of the season?
KM: Nope. There weren’t a lot of writers at all.
RL: We only had one other writer in our writers’ room.
Did it make you look at TV differently? Did you start to analyze your binge-watching shows?
KM: I think whenever you’re working on a show, especially with editing, you can’t help but watch any other show and see how it’s made and see how it’s edited, and pay attention to continuity a whole lot more. I think it’s hard to enjoy things when you’re editing because you’re so focused, but then that goes away.
You’ve talking before about how you brought elements from real life into the show. One of them, I remember you brought up Riki and the eggs on the last tour, but for Kate, it was being diagnosed with Peter Pan Syndrome. What became of that after the show?
KM: Nothing really came of it after the show. That was based on a true story, someone diagnosing me with Peter Pan Syndrome, but it’s not really a syndrome that’s … it’s a name for someone. It’s not really anything.
It was like a totally informal “diagnosis,” right?
KM: Right. Well, it was a therapist that diagnosed me with it, but at the end of there was nothing to it (laughs), other than she did say that to me.
How are your eggs, Riki?
RL: Fine, thank you!
Do you have a game plan yet, like a five-year or 10-year plan?
RL: Not yet. We’re just going to see what happens, you know?
Kate, you’re Velma now (on Cartoon Network’s Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!), and you’ve got a movie …
KM: Yeah, that’s been a real fun job to have, voicing Velma on Scooby-Doo. I just did two movies and Riki’s working on Season Two of (Comedy Central sit-com) Another Period, so there’s a lot happening.
RL: Another Period's been my main focus, I would say.
Yeah, congratulations on that getting renewed, and becoming Fozzie’s new human girlfriend (on ABC’s new The Muppets series).
RL: That was also amazing. That’s been a wonderful experience.
Kate becoming Velma and you becoming Fozzie’s girl, you’re both really tied into pop culture now, you know?
RL: We both feel really lucky. It’s really crazy.
Kate, how did your summer art show go? I saw some advanced promotion of that but I didn’t see post coverage.
KM: Oh, thank you. Thanks for asking. It went really well. It sold out, and I’m going to do another one Dec. 2 in Dallas. So yeah, I really gotta start painting (laughs).
What was the theme behind it? What kind of mediums were you working in?
KM: It was a lot of my cartoons on bigger canvases and some paintings and murals, mostly works on paper and canvas with ink. I don’t know. Mixed media.
Once you got in the groove with Garfunkel and Oates, did you start to look at yourself as part of a lineage of comedy teams? It never occurred to me to compare you with anyone else, but when I started doing the research I read someone had described you as a female Flight of the Conchords. I thought that was an over-generalization, and the first thought I had was you were more like the Smothers Brothers.
RL: We just take it as an honor. There’s so few comedy bands that people can name in history, and the fact that we’ve become one of them is so cool. The fact that it happened is just crazy. Call us the female whatever, we’re just happy to be part of that category of people.
Did you ever watch (1978 Beatles parody) The Rutles?
RL: Yes. Oh my gosh, love it.
Something about your music reminds me of (Rutles member and song satirist) Neil Innes.
RL: That’s great. Yeah, The Rutles is hilarious.
You get questioned a lot about your name, but can you tell me about the moment when the light bulb went off and “Garfunkel and Oates” came to you?
KM: That was Riki’s doing. We’re both huge fans of Simon & Garfunkel and Hall & Oates.
Seeing John Oates on your TV show was great, but by now Art Garfunkel has have heard of you. Has there been any communication at all?
RL: No, none sadly. We would love to hear from him. That would be amazing.