Garfunkel and Oates Aren’t Funny

Am I the first one who’s willing to say on the record that the Emperor has no clothes?

The comedy team Garfunkel and Oates is composed of two actresses (Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhorne) who have taken to writing comedic songs. The two have been garnering tons of buzz, gathering a legion of fans, and recently scored their own HBO show.

The only problem is, they are not funny.

And as musicians, they’re thoroughly mediocre.

Some call them “The female Flight of the Conchords.” Really? Is the bar that low for women in comedy? These two aren’t CLOSE to being as funny and original as Jemaine and Bret. The love they are getting is totally baffling to me.

What’s more, their little self-deprecating, ironic tactic of naming themselves after “two famous second bananas” is irksome on a deeper level. “Oh, tee hee, we aren’t super talented, we’re just little old Garfunkel and Oates.”

Let me tell you something. These two WISH they could sing like Art Garf. They WISH they could rock a tune like John Oates. If they could, their comedy music would be a whole hell of a lot better.

Look, I’m a sucker for a good comedic tune. In theory, this stuff should be in my wheelhouse.

I grew up wearing out my parents’ old Tom Lehrer LPs and listening to Monty Python songs on cassette tape. I think the musical efforts of Trey Parker and Matt Stone are nothing short of brilliant. I flipped out when Tenacious D dropped their first album and made everyone I knew listen to it. When I was first dating my current lady, I threw on some Flight of the Conchords and was all, “Isn’t this hilarious?? Hahaha, let’s make out.” It worked and I’m forever grateful. Jon Lajoie is brilliant on “The League,” and I enjoyed the Youtube stuff he did before that as well. These days, I worship at the altar of The Lonely Island and think their Digital Shorts are about the funniest things on earth.

So it’s not like I’m some uptight snob that doesn’t enjoy a hilarious, immature song. I just don’t enjoy THESE songs.

What am I missing here? Because from what I can tell, this is thoroughly mediocre material:

So…you two don’t like the ‘tude that pregnant women are copping. That’s fine by me, but where are the punchlines?

I guess the strongest lyric is “You’re just giving birth now…you’re not Mother Earth now.” Nope, I’m still not laughing. Look, I find the cult of childbirth in the age of Facebook irritating as hell and would like to go back to the Middle Ages when children were pretty much ignored. But even I, the ideal audience for something like this, did not enjoy it whatsoever.

I tried to give Garfunkel and Oates the benefit of the doubt, but the more of their material I watch, the less I understand their appeal.

This song is maddeningly stupid…I do not understand why people think this is good. Let me count the ways in which I hate this:

1. So many of the lyrics do not scan. Say what you will about the intellect of hip hoppers, but even a purple drank swilling lunatic like Lil’ Wayne manages to fit the appropriate amount of syllables into each line and apply iambic pentameter when needed. If you want to write comedy rap lyrics, I recommend that you spend a little time creating ones that are competently constructed.

2. The pop culture references are SO lame and have no inherent comedy. “I should have explored new frontiers like Wil Wheaton, but I was more conservative than Alex P. Keaton.” I watched those TV shows too, but that doesn’t mean that referencing them is clever or witty. This song is PACKED with such references and it turns the whole thing into anti-comedy, as far as I’m concerned.

3. The refrain makes no sense. First of all, what do they mean by “bland job”? Handjobs are bland? Then what’s the problem, just skip ‘em and move on! I guess the joke is that they don’t know how to give handjobs and “I don’t understand” rhymes with “hand”? Again, what am I missing here???

4. Shake Weight joke. How original! Actually, the original Shake Weight ads are funny, but simply referencing them does not make hilarity automatically ensue. It seems like Garfunkel and Oates (and their fans) believe that merely making a reference to something that the listener knows about constitutes comedy. I really don’t agree.

5. It’s just not a very good song. To my mind, a comedy song should actually be a well-written song BEFORE the jokes are applied. Bad rapping interspersed with a pathetic refrain doesn’t cut it. It’s almost as though the idea of a couple of women creating a comedy song about HJs is good enough for some people. I guess I just like my comedy musicians to be both talented comedians and talented musicians. Is that too much to ask?

Compare “I Don’t Understand Job” to the brilliant compositions of The Lonely Island, many of which are masterful examples of the genres they parody. (Frankly, this is inspiring me to create another post praising the greatest hits of Samberg, Schaffer and Taccone.) It’s no surprise that music stars like Timberlake, Rihanna and Akon want to work with those guys — they are legitimate musical geniuses as well as hilarious comedians.

These two, on the other hand, just seem like adorable hacks.

Now, the comparison is a bit skewed because TLI have Saturday Night Live as their stage, and the videos we’ve been watching from G&O are homemade. But now that they’re starting to blow up, G&O are quickly acquiring video budgets and celebrity friends.

In fact, they dropped a new video this week that’s laden with the fruits of their success. And guess what, it sucks just as much as, if not more than, their previous efforts.

This is the one that pushed me over the edge from just saying “I’m not into this,” to hollering “Why is this considered funny?”

In 2011, is there anything clever, original or topical about dissing Ed Hardy-wearing and Axe-body-spraying douches? If anything, the success of the Jersey Shore crew demonstrates that club-going, fake-tanning meatheads have actually come around the other end from extreme lameness to ironic hilarity.

Again, and most fundamentally, the lyrics are stupid. Yet many people apparently disagree with me! The Huffington Post gushed:

It features some of their best lyrics to date (“I ain’t in love with you cousin/I ain’t George Michael Bluth”).

Yeah, see, in my world, that is NOT funny. It was unbelievably hilarious on Arrested Development when George Michael and Maeby went to see “Dangerous Cousins” and Michael Cera was tormented with lust for his aunt’s daughter. But simply reminding us that George Michael wanted to bang his cousin is not funny in and of itself.

If a rapper dropped this line in the midst of a true banger, I’d appreciate it as a little added pop-cultural bonus. But when lines like this constitute the alleged value of the song (it certainly isn’t the musical value that people are tuning in for) I have to protest.

I touched base with a couple of wise heads in the ROTI organization to see what they thought. C. Dave commented, “AHHH! Had never heard of them but after a minute of Pregnant Women are Dumb and Gay Boyfriend I’m at a loss to think of the last thing I found as annoying and self-satisfied and unfunny. HBO deal? Chelsea lately.”

Nils Coq au Vin had an interesting theory. “I get the sense that they are part of the comedy scene…all the comics know them, they are probably on Comedy Death Ray and other circuits in LA. I mean, the thing with the ‘alternative’ comedy scene, they all identify themselves as outsiders to a degree. They can’t really kick anyone out who keeps showing up. Especially if you’re a woman, because comedy nerds have a huge blind spot for women. If you keep doing the circuit, eventually you get asked to do things that lead to other things, and then boom, suddenly people at HBO think ‘they must be really good!’”

I realize that my pantheon of comedy songsmiths is an all-male affair. Call us comedy sexists if you will. But I believe that the REAL sexists are those who would celebrate a couple of unfunny women simply because they are moderately attractive and sing songs about handjobs. There’s tons of female comedy geniuses out there, but I don’t think Micucci and Lindhorne deserve the laurels that they’re getting.

And step the fuck off of Art Garfunkel and John Oates. Those men may have been overshadowed by their musical partners, but they were geniuses in their own right who wouldn’t be caught dead singing a stupid line like “handjob, bland job, I don’t understand job.”

Disagree? I’d love to know what I’m missing so I can understand this puzzling phenomenon. The comments section is ready to receive your outrage.

In the meantime, I’ll be cleaning my palate with some REAL comedy.

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38 Responses to Garfunkel and Oates Aren’t Funny

  1. Rudy Gamble says:

    Ha. Nice post. Yeah, I didn’t mind the pregnancy song but there is nothing lamer than parodies set to rap. Lazy Sunday hit at the right time.

    • Thanks, Rudy. Put it this way, if there was a comedy fantasy league I would put these two on the “Do Not Draft” list.

  2. KH says:

    All their songs sound exactly alike. Probably because they just jam in as many syllables as they want without rythym and then go throughthemreallyfastlikethis.

  3. popa says:

    I AGREE WITH YOU 110%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m baffled as to why ppl think these two women are funny! I dig the brunette when she plays her quirky roles on scrubs and raising hope but the duo produces crap, unfunny songs. I do think the bar is lowered b/c they’re women and that sucks.

  4. C says:

    The amount jealousy in this article hurts my brain.

    • Yeah, because anyone who criticizes anything is simply a jealous hater, right? I’m jealous of people who actually have a talent for comedy music — Flight of the Conchords and The Lonely Island, for instance — not of a couple of unfunny songstresses.

  5. Caleb the anti-feminist says:

    You’re absolutely right about these two. I stopped trying long ago to wonder why real comedy is being forsaken for utter hipster crap, but I just make myself angry in doing so. Nice article.

  6. daryn says:

    they’re obviously horrible. why the fuck did you devote an entire page to these idiots? now when you Google search “funny female musicians” this fucking page appears. i am so much worse off now in life knowing that these unfunny bitches exist.

  7. h says:

    Hi! I stumbled on some Garfunkel & Oates videos & immediately had to google “Garfunkel & Oates not funny” just to see if I was going crazy!

    Agree with everything you’ve written. I don’t know why people pretend this stuff is brilliant, but it must have to do with the fact that these two are cute and peppy. Don’t underestimate the pep. :P

    • Wayne says:

      I did that exact same thing!! they appeared on =3 as guests to host the show and it was just awful. RayWilliamJohnson’s videos get millions of views and a ton of likes but this one only has 600 thousand and over 75% dislikes. These two are nothing but crap and I personally believe I could come up with a comedy better than what they have been ATTEMPTING to do.

    • I did exactly the same thing.

  8. Hi! My name is says:

    their horrible and should just stop they ruined =3 for RWJ

  9. grintintin says:

    thank you for writing this. i thought it was just me who find them mediocre, my boyfriend who is an aspiring comedy writer thinks these 2 are hilarious and he thinks i’m wasting my time watching family guy (which i really enjoy) when i could be watching this. for the benefit of the doubt, and because i love him, i watched 3 clips, and i thought them mediocre and wtf? so thanks, m glad im not alone in pointing out the emperor has no clothes.

  10. pizzazone says:

    right on dude. i fucking hate them too

  11. So says:

    I actually happen to really like their music and have for some time. I like their cheery and fun melody’s and I happen to agree with a lot of what they say. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe they just aren’t for you? Everything is NOT for everybody. I know multitudes of people that never found Monty Python to be funny. It’s a matter of opinion…so just have yours…why try to bash someone else for doing what they enjoy doing and even more so bash those who happen to like what they like. If you like crushing dreams and pissing on what other people might enjoy (regardless if you get it or not) then become a professional critic. Until then just get it…not everyone has your exact feelings on things in life.

    PS- Watched that Flight of the Concords vid too and I found it mildly entertaining…I’m sure it something a guy might find to be more interesting but again probably just not my thing. EVERYTHING – NOT FOR EVERYONE

    • Marduk says:

      it’s not simply a matter of opinion. the objective quality of the music is bad in terms of the way it is played and the sub par compositions and the overly wordy lyrics. The execution of their humor is without polish or discernible grace. There are objective quantifiables that make separates a bad song or joke from a good one.They execute NO PART of their bailiwick well and quite frankly it does a disservice to the good female comedians/musicians who want to put their work out there but find if they aren’t being compared to they are being judged based on those two hacks. That’s what they are: Hacks. Trading on their sexuality to make up for the lack of talent and effort that much better, MUCH more deserving female comedians have in spades (“Slippery When Moist” shut the fuck up!). I feel bad for any female comedian/musician who wants to be respected that now has to ice skate uphill as comedy booking agents look at them and go “Oh god not another Garfunkel and Oats.”

      And you know what, I’m sure there are people out there who love McChickens and butter on a stick and fried mayonnaise balls but their liking it no more makes it good than it makes it healthy. No one is saying you shouldn’t like them. We just don’t understand why you or anyone with standards does.

    • If you’re simple minded enough to find humor in these hacks, then you’re probably too dumb to understand Monty Python.

  12. D. Monroe says:

    “I believe that the REAL sexists are those who would celebrate a couple of unfunny women simply because they are moderately attractive and sing songs about handjobs.” You speak the unvarnished truth. These two are thoroughly unfunny. Watching them makes me cringe. Listening to them makes me shudder. Neither funny nor musically inclined. Total crap. Thanks for calling a spade a spade.

  13. Elwyn Chow says:

    They aren’t that good.

    When it comes to lady comedy musicians, I enjoyed Girl’s Guitar Club years ago. I’m also a big fan of The Kransky Sisters from Australia who are just bizarre. They mainly perform covers with their weird assortment of instruments and stay oddly funny things between songs to introduce songs.

    • Outstanding recommendation…I just went down a rabbit hole watching their stuff. Kransky Sisters forever.

  14. Adam says:

    Yeah I noticed these two have a comedy central special coming up and they are just not funny. The one chick, the brunette was on Scrubs for a while there (yet another ensemble that is not funny). These two just seem like another group that use their female quirkiness to seem cute and relevant. Not to mention their references are half baked at best. I watched the handjob video and one thing came to mind. MC Paul Barman when he said “A handjob’s a mans job, yo’ job’s a blowjob.”

  15. Mike says:

    This article was a breath of fresh air. G&O just won’t seem to go away, despite the fact that their most defining trait is persistent mediocrity. I often get the feeling that most critics just don’t have the guts to pan them.

    They aren’t particularly attractive, either; they are plain girls with stylists who are good enough to sort of salvage them.

  16. Jack says:

    Just because YOU don’t like Garfunkel and Oates doesn’t mean they suck. I don’t care if you don’t like their lyrics; I love them. I don’t care if you don’t like their musical arrangements; I do. Everyone can like different things, and it’s okay.
    “Musical snobbery is the worst kind of snobbery. Oh, you like THOSE noises? Those sounds in your ear? You like them? They’re the wrong sounds! You should like THESE sounds in your ears.”
    Look, I don’t mind you not liking G&O. But writing a whole article about it? Come on. Personally, I hate Flight Of The Concords and REALLY HATE Lonely Island. So what? I’m not going to write an article about it. It doesn’t mean they’re bad or they suck. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid for liking them. It means that I don’t like them.

    I’m not bashing you for not liking Kate and Riki. I’m bashing you for being a huge dick about it. Get a hobby.

    • Saw your blog post complaining that I didn’t let your comment through. As the comments policy makes clear, comments from first-time posters are held for moderation. You can now comment without waiting for approval as long as you use the same login.

    • Jack's Gina says:

      Listen Jack, I didn’t know a blandjob till I met you

  17. AF_Whigs says:

    I’m kind of late to this party, but I agree. It’s funny how many people posting here have said “I thought I was the only one”. When you see someone or something gaining pop culture momentum, sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t.

    But I don’t think this is a simple matter of “taste”, in the sense of “everything is not for everyone”. People certainly have different tastes, but G&O are objectively terrible. I’m sorry to state it in such a way, but it’s true.

    Look, while different things make different people laugh…Two and a Half Men has been a wildly popular sitcom for years. According to Jim (with the king of “not funny” Jim Belushi) was a top-rated show. I once met a couple who found The Capital Steps so funny that they said they had to shut off a radio broadcast because the wife was going to pee herself from laughing. Reread that last sentence. If you’re unfamiliar with The Capital Steps, they’re the NPR political “humor” equivalent of G&O.

    So where I’m going with this is simply to acknowledge that many folks find G&O funny. And those people simply have a terrible sense of humor. G&O are the Larry the Cable Guy of the alternative comedy scene. And yes, they keep getting media play because they keep showing up and it would be “mean” to find them unfunny, formulaic and more than a little cynically calculated.

  18. Tami says:

    What makes G&O funny and fresh is their choice of topics. They point out hilarious situations that are true but rarely discussed. The jokes and music are just a bonus.

  19. Fakeer says:

    to contrast, what would you say about Sandler’s Canukah song?

  20. me says:

    Make them stop! They suck and are so not funny!

  21. D. Monroe says:

    Sooooo unfunny. I am embarrassed for them. And they’re not even cute. The brunette looks like she has progeria. Poor thing. Thanks for calling out the naked emperor.

  22. Ashmarie says:

    Spotify apparently thinks I’m super interesting in G&O. I’ve never liked one of their songs and have started giving them a thumbs down on every play, yet Spotify insists on playing them every day. They’re not adorkable. They’re annoying. To each her own, but I’ll take a pass on this one.

  23. JL says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article! I too have been wondering why people enjoy their pallid comedy songs. Finally someone makes their opinion public!

  24. Katey says:

    This article sounds very biased… It sounds like you listened to a song or two that cut you the wrong way, or that hit home – or perhaps one that wasn’t funny, then made up your mind to hate every song they do. I feel this way because I’ve caught myself do the same thing about people. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to the trouble of writing an article about it though.

  25. Andy says:

    For a few years now a friend and I have been laughing about how terrible and unfunny G&O are, but they keep showing up on podcasts we listen to like Comedy Bang Bang, so we can’t avoid them entirely. I skip those episodes entirely now because I just can’t stand it – they’re just not funny – TO ME.

    More power to ya if you find them funny. Good for you. But their fans can be obnoxious. I’ve been labeled a “misogynist” by one person for simply stating that I don’t find them funny. I’m just expressing an opinion, and I’ve never said anything personal about them or about them being women – I just think they’re terrible and unfunny and their schtick wears thing VERY VERY fast. As others have said, all their songs sound the same, their “jokes” are unfunny, their lyrics aren’t clever, etc.

    And I’m very glad that this article was written if only so that people can know they’re not alone, but also as a counterpoint to all the rabid fan service G&O seem to get.

    I’ve given them a legitimate shot, and I detest them.

  26. Marley says:

    I don’t understand their appeal either. Yes, I’ve listened to a lot of their songs because my friends urged me to listen. I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt, but all they’ve done is annoy me to no end. I have no problem with songs that have comedy in them, but Garfunkel and Oates fails to bring anything to the table in my opinion.

  27. "Cactus" Jim says:

    The only reason I watched any of those vids is because I think Kate is smokin’ hot. I’d rather just cut the sound off and just watch her in silence. Sorry Kate. I don’t mean to hurt your feelings feelings artistically speaking, but I’m just a dirty old man that is attracted to the “Unshucked Ear of Corn”! Yep, I saw THAT show.

  28. Emma says:

    I find most of the videos unfunny, I only stumbled upon them because I love Art Garfunkel, so I don’t appreciate their name. its just all dirty humour, its definitely far substandard by comparison to most British comedies, especially ones such as Monty Python.

    Actually if you want funny songs, the horrible histories programme is much more entertaining

  29. Janice says:

    I cannot stand the commercials that come on the IFC station for this show. It irritates the heck out of me, especially the one where they are trying to pee outside and start singing some stupid song and squeal about her falling in the urine. Hipster comes to mind and I dislike hipster culture. This crap is not funny. I’ve had a lot funnier times taking a piss on my front porch while intoxicated, maybe I should have my own comedy show :/

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