Garfunkel and Oates Aren’t Funny
February 18, 2011 63 Comments
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.