Comedy folk duo Garfunkel and Oates recently followed in the footsteps of past comedy folk music duos like Flight of the Conchords and the Smothers Brothers by bringing their act to the small screen. Last week, IFC aired the first episode of Garfunkel and Oates, which follows the ups and downs of a lightly fictionalized version of the pair as they play uncomfortable corporate gigs, try to land TV appearances, deal with comedian boyfriends who use their sex lives as joke fodder, and face other challenges comedy folk music acts apparently encounter.
The pair have assembled an impressive lineup of guest stars for their first season, including Chris Parnell, Natasha Leggero, Anthony Jeselnik, Tig Notaro, Steve Agee, Chris Hardwick, and, most improbably, Sir Ben Kingsley. But in terms of metatextual humor, it’s hard to beat a cameo from the group’s partial namesake John Oates. He appears in an episode entitled “Rule 34” (airing this Thursday, Aug. 14), in which Garfunkel and Oates encounter a porn version of themselves played by Abby Elliott and Sugar Lyn Beard.
We have an exclusive sneak peek at Oates’s scene, plus a Q&A with the soul-pop star about his acting debut.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your cameo in “Rule 34” is hilarious. How did this happen?
JOHN OATES: A few years ago I had gotten word through somebody—somebody had emailed me and said “Hey, there’s these two girls and they’re calling themselves Garfunkel and Oates, blah blah blah.) And this was when they were first starting out. I went on their website, and they a had video or two up of their songs. I thought they were really clever and funny. So as a goof, I contacted them through their Facebook page and said, “This is the real John Oates and I’m going to sue you.” So they emailed me back and we became friends.
Then I had a show in California. So I contacted them, I said, “Hey, do you want to open this show for me?” So they came out and opened the show, and then we did “Maneater” together, and Riki did a mock striptease. Kate played the solo for “Maneater” on the trombone. It was probably one of the craziest things I’ve ever done. I was sitting with them one day after they’d made their CD and I said, “You know, you guys, your CD’s great but you guys need a TV show.” And lo and behold they got one. When they called me up and said, “Would you do a cameo?” I said of course. I went out there and they gave me the role of Dirty D, the porn shop owner.
Had you done any screen acting before?
I’d never acted in my life. That is my debut. I think they left some of my best moments on the cutting room floor but, hey, I guess that’s how Hollywood is.
Do you feel like you got bit by the acting bug?
No, not at all. I’m a terrible actor. In fact, even when we were doing the videos back in the early days of MTV, you know, I said “Man, I’m glad I’m a musician and not an actor.” I couldn’t handle it. I’m not used to being someone else other than me. I play a pretty good John Oates, but other than, that I think I suck.
The episode that you’re in is themed around something called Rule 34. Had you heard of that before the episode?
My son told me about it. I had no idea what it was, but my son said, “Come on, Dad, get with it.” I think it’s a really funny premise for the whole show. The girls who play Garfinger and Butts, the two porn girls, are amazing.
So what’s it like for you to be iconic enough to have someone…
To be made fun of?
[Laughs] Well you know, it’s been going on for quite a while. Various players on Saturday Night Live have done Daryl and I. You know, Fred Armisen and even people before him. My take on it is, they don’t mock you or do a send-up on you unless you’re popular enough that it connects. In this day and age, any kind of press is good press. Regardless of how disgusting it might be.