Garfunkel and Oates figured out the perfect way to raise money to fund their first hour-long comedy special: They held a benefit show … then released that benefit show as their hour-long comedy special.
That’s the premise behind Garfunkel and Oates: Trying to be Special, which premiered on Vimeo on Demand on May 5. Trying to be Specialcombines the comedy duo’s stage show with the quirky offstage bits and improv banter that has earned Garfunkel (Riki Lindhome) and Oates (KateMicucci) a dedicated cult following since they banded together in 2009.
“We’ve been wanting to make a special for a very long time,” Micucci said in an interview with The Interrobang. “We’ve been touring for seven years now. We did a half-hour special for Comedy Central years ago and we really wanted to do a full hour. We wanted to capture this hour-long show we’ve been doing on the road so people who don’t have a chance to see us live can still experience what it’s like to see us live.”
That experience can vary from show to show, Micucci said. “The great thing about our live shows is that we never really know what’s going to happen,” she said. “We have a set list that we loosely stick to. We don’t plan what we’re going to say, so oftentimes Riki will surprise me with something or I’ll surprise her. There are moments in the special that we’ve never done on stage before, but that’s just the nature of our shows. You never really know exactly what’s going to happen.”
One of those moments occurs when the duo performs their rap “Hand Job, Bland Job, I Don’t Understand Job,” an ode to their professed lack of expertise with heavy petting. A few moments into the song, they realized that there was something wrong with the music track accompanying them. They stopped the show and Micucci ran backstage to grab her laptop to find the correct track. With the way it was handled, a potentially show-ruining mix-up organically became one of the funniest moments of the show.
“That was definitely not a bit” Micucci laughed. “That was me accidentally giving the sound guy an earlier version of our track. We started rapping and then realized, ‘Oh no, this is an early version without all of the other parts of the track that we’ll need.’ That’s why we stopped it. The first thought was ‘I can’t believe this happened as we’re doing a special,’ but then I thought this could be really funny. So I ran up to the dressing room and it just so happened that our behind-the-scenes photographer was right there to catch me running up the stairs. It worked out perfectly without planning any of it, so we kept it in.”
As Micucci scrambled, Lindhome was left alone on stage trying to kill time. “I’m glad (Kate’s) gone. She’s a terrible person. She’s so mean to me,” Lindhome cracked. She then wondered aloud I she knew any good jokes to tell, a charmingly silly comment for a comedian to make mid-set.
Trying to be Special also features an appearance by Anthony Jeselnik as the world’s worst opener, delivering a set that skewers Garfunkel and Oates right before they come on stage. That off-kilter, self-deprecating humor is a key component of the duo’s charm.
In 2014, Garfunkel and Oates starred in a self-titled comedy series on IFC. Garfunkel and Oates last one season but was not picked up for a second. That kind of setback could prove devastating to some performers. Micucci said that wasn’t the case with them.
“Riki dove into her show on Comedy Central, Another Period, which they’re currently editing season two. I did a bunch of movies. And we continued to work together all the time, so it was never like ‘Oh no, we’re done.’ It was just that life seemed to be bringing us other things at that moment, so let’s keep going with the flow and seeing where it takes us,” she said.
“The cool thing about what’s happening now is that there are so many different outlets to make stuff,” she said. “We still think about maybe someday figuring out what a season two could be. The Comeback did that so well 10 years later. Anything is possible.”
In the meantime, Micucci said Garfunkel and Oates will be touring throughout the summer. Micucci – who draws and paints when she’s not writing songs, acting, or performing on-stage – has a solo art exhibition at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles on May 27. “I’m a little nervous. I’ve been out of the country for two months working on a movie, and now I’m frantically trying to prepare for this show,” Micucci said. “I draw and paint every day. I like being able to make stuff and share it. It’s not a money-making thing or anything, it’s just about sharing it with people.”
Micucci also appears in Mike Birbiglia’s film Don’t Think Twice which premieres July 22.
Micucci praised Vimeo for its commitment to its artists and for its willingness to work with its artists to ensure that their vision is realized. She said she was extremely proud of Trying to be Special, particularly because it offers an up-close look at the genuine friendship she and Lindhome share.
“You can’t really plan to have a partnership work the way it has,” she said. “We’re so lucky that we clicked and have remained such good friends. We still love hanging out and working together. We’re friends and we’re comedy partners. And I think that’s one of the things about our special, that you get to see that, and to feel a little more of our friendship in a way. With the photos (personal photos that are shared between songs during the show) and us sharing stories, I think you kind of get a feeling for what we’re like as friends, too, which I really like.
“It’s not a love letter to each other … but it sort of is.”
To watch Trying to be Special, go to www.vimeo.com/garfunkel-and-oates