Review: Garfunkel and Oates at The Straz

The comedy duo delivers a healthy mix of preciousness and vulgarity

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The epitome of cuteness and cleverness (with a nominal veneration for rock sidekicks), comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates have cornered the market on delightfully politically incorrect, perky folk tunes. With their self-titled IFC show and HBO webisodes, Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome have developed quite the cult following. Backed by a four-year discography, their current tour made a stop at The Straz Center Ferguson Hall on Friday.

Tampa’s own Matt Fernandez opened the show with a self-deprecating set that included a statistic that marijuana outsells vegetables in the U.S. and his theory that Quentin Tarantino wrote the bible. Fernandez’s timing and delivery made even the most offensive of jokes endearing.

Thus was the theme of the night — polarizing topics delivered preciously. Garfunkel and Oates (a tiny brunette and tall, lanky blonde) trotted on stage, each adorned in a dainty dress and black tights. The adorability continued, as Riki’s (Garfunkel) guitar strap broke and Kate (Oates) fumbled to help her fix it. They also fumbled through the banter that preceded their first song (chatting about hanging chads and the Magic Kingdom). They did so through their soothing, buttery speaking voices, maintaining the duo’s endearing quirkiness.

“Weed Card,” a song about how you can get a prescription for pretty much any ailment in California, opened the set. The tune was followed by an audience interaction that went as follows:

Audience member: “Marry me, Kate!”

Riki: “Just Kate?”

Audience member: “Yeah.”

Riki: “Cool.”

The interaction, although only a few words, was a highlight of the evening, proving that simple, quick wit is endlessly effective. Therein lays the beauty of Garfunkel and Oates — the ability to find humor in the simple and minuscule. The everyday.

“I Don’t Know Who You Are” perfectly illustrates this. A song about a situation we’ve all likely encountered, in which someone says “hello” to you and you have no idea who they are. Garfunkel and Oates raise the question, “Am I an asshole, or are you just boring?” The verdict? It’s usually the fault of the person we don’t recognize, and they should probably get a face tattoo or an accent.

As is the case with most relevant comedians, Garfunkel and Oates have a knack for verbalizing thoughts that are widely internalized by the masses. Their quirky, cutesy delivery makes it digestible. In “Pregnant Women are Smug,” the duo delivers the lines, “Pregnant women are smug. Everyone knows it, nobody says it, because they're pregnant. This zen world you're enjoying makes you really annoying.” 

The between-song banter may have been the weakest point of the show. It seemed a little too forced and uncomfortable compared to the sharp, clever comedic/musical material. However, there were moments where it worked, such as the duo recalling a time where a director told them that his baby falls asleep to their music. They responded by saying, “That’s our target audience.” And I can (regretfully) relate to Riki’s admission that she sometimes works 17-hour days and winds down by drinking two glasses of wine and guiltily watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

With songs like “I Don’t Understand Job,” some of the real comedic gold of the material becomes lost in the cutesy, precious delivery that Garfunkel and Oates so steadfastly stick to. Some of the brilliant and obscure pop-culture references (Samantha Ronson, Miyam Bialick, Chris Hardwick) got a little lost in a live delivery. But the lyrics – about a sexual act that rhymes with “understand job” – are totally brilliant.

The duo then played a stream of consciousness song they’ve recently been working on about what a woman thinks while she’s giving oral sex. There was something delightful about the juxtaposition of these adorable women delivering this NSFW material, because it is so rarely seen/accepted in the realm of entertainment. It’s a testament to the fact that women can be vulgar, funny, opinionated and charming all in the same breath. 

Garfunkel and Oates ended the short set (only an hour long) with a song about failed bisexual experimentation and (probably their most popular tune) “God’s Loophole.” Do yourself a favor and Google the lyrics. Trust me.

The last song, “29/31” details the struggles of being a female on the opposite sides of 30 years old. It garnered the most crowd participation of the evening. Three people sitting in the row in front of me raucously sang every word.

Between the last few songs, the duo jokingly described themselves as a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” and a “clumsy workaholic blonde girl.” The Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope had been running through my mind the entire show. In film, she’s an eccentric, bubbly female character whose main purpose is to teach brooding young men to embrace life and happiness. Ultimately, (despite their cute, charming dispositions) Garfunkel and Oates reject the trope. Their material is honest, politically incorrect, merciless and hilarious. It may sound precious, but it is aggressive and witty. Although the sugary delivery becomes a bit repetitive, the content is brilliant.

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