The musical comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates, comprised of Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci, have perfected the art of sweet-and-sour — of delivering biting, funny and frequently profane truths via cute and heartwarming melodies such as “Sex with Ducks” and “Pregnant Women Are Smug.” Shortly before their gig in Chicago on Saturday, Sept. 6 at the House of Blues, the increasingly popular performers and stars of their own series on IFC talked shop.
Question: One of your newest videos from the TV show, for the song Rainbow Connection [a puppet production about a devoted gay couple], is very sweet. People are so used to you delivering sour material with a helping of sweet.
Riki Lindhome: We always have at least one or two purely sweet songs at the end [of our albums], because it’s part of what we do, but we never play them live because they kind of bring down the energy… So we were like, ‘Well, let’s put some of our sweet songs [on the show].’”
Q: Do you guys enjoy doing the sweet as much as you do the sweet-and-sour, which is your trademark?
RL: I think we enjoy doing the funnier stuff live, but we like to do both things on our albums.
Kate Micucci: We’ve had some really fun moments with our more serious songs. We had someone propose to their girlfriend while we sang one of our songs onstage. We sing them live very rarely, if at all, but once in a while we’ve had some pretty great, memorable experiences doing our serious songs.
RL: There’s this one serious song one our first little EP, and we’ve had several people say that that was their wedding song. And we’re like, ‘That is so crazy.’
Q: What is the trick to walking that tightrope you walk between the adorable and the profane?
RL: I think the trick to walking that tightrope is to be in complete denial about the tightrope. We never have thought about it… We don’t even let it come into the discussion. We’re like, ‘Today we like puppets, tomorrow we like songs about blow—-.
KM: We always just try to make stuff that we are excited about. And as long as we’re excited about the subject matter, even if it isn’t funny, we’re happy to make it and we hope that other people respond to it, too. We’ve definitely written songs where we don’t get the response that we want, but we just keep going.
Q: Are you both as satisfied with making people uncomfortable as you are with making them laugh?
RL: No. We like making people laugh.
KM: There’s definitely moments where we’ve made people uncomfortable. You’ll hear a groan, but it’s kind of a collective groan, which you still know is OK and everyone’s all right.
RL: I think making people uncomfortable is just a bonus.
Q: Will you get Art Garfunkel to so a spot on your show like you did John Oates?
RL: I hope so. He’s never contacted us, but we’d be thrilled. I don’t know how to reach out to him. He’s pretty famous.
Q: Who’s the better musician of you two?
RL: I would say Kate.
KM: It’s hard to say. I feel like we both are kind of mediocre at our own instruments [laughs]. But thank you for saying that, Rikki.
RL: She’s more musically connected and musically inclined than me. I understand what she’s doing and stuff, but a lot of times she’ll have to translate what I’m thinking. We have an equal number of ideas, but execution musically is Kate.
Q: How crucial is music to the comedy you do? In a sense, it can’t be too bad but it also can’t be too good.
RL: It has to support [the joke] or enhance it, but it can’t step on it. Most melodies, we have to pull back a little. Most melodies, when they start out, are a little too pretty, a little too elaborate. And we’re like, “How do we flatten this out?”
KM: It’s a fine line, because if it’s too pretty, it’s not funny.
RL: We want [people’s] focus to be on the joke. We want the tune to maybe be something they get stuck in their heads for later but not what they focus on.
Q: Do your parents come to your shows? Some people kind of cringe when they have to perform in front of their parents or family members, and you guys do a lot of deeply blue material.
RL: Again, it’s that willful ignorance. If we thought about it, we’d be paralyzed.
KM: [laughs] That is so true. If we thought about every word we were singing in front of our parents — oh, my god.
RL: It’s not for them. It’s for the people who paid. Our parents didn’t buy tickets. It’s not their show.
KM: I think they know what they’re getting into at this point and they just kind of go along for the ride.
Garfunkel and Oates
Saturday, Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6)
House of Blues Chicago, 329 N. Dearborn
Tickets $29.50 (plus fees)