Kate Micucci says it wasn't until she started getting dirty that her clever songs became hits.
And she probably wouldn't have gotten dirty, she says, if it wasn't for Riki Lindhome, her musical comedy partner, and one-half of her duo "Garfunkel and Oates."
Now the clever duo has their own TV show, an eight-episode IFC series premiering at 10 p.m. Thursday. The show, named after the duo, will follow Micucci and Lindhome as hardworking comedy underdogs who struggle to make their mark in the comedy world while muddling through messy dating scenarios.
It's a daydream come true for Micucci, a 1998 graduate of Nazareth Area High School who lives in Los Angeles.
"We are so fortunate to be able to do this," she says. "It's so surreal."
She says the scripted series is based on the pair's lives, although some elements, such as Micucci having an audition with Ben Kingsley and the pair meeting their porn alter-egos, are fiction.
"It's an exaggerated version of who we are," she says. "We are both in our 30s and we spend our days touring the country. It's a weird life to have so we have fun with it. It's all about the balance of having a career and dating. A lot of the core elements are truthful."
Micucci says when she first started doing comedy in Pennsylvania, there was nothing racy about it. She says she performed "sweet songs about my dog."
She and Lindhome met when both performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles in 2007. They joined forces for "Imaginary Larry," a short musical film by Lindhome about a girl with an imaginary friend. They formed Garfunkel and Oates, named after the "two famous rock 'n' roll second bananas," Art Garfunkel of Simon and Garfunkel and John Oates of Hall & Oates.
"I'm Oates, because I'm shorter and if I'm not careful I will have a moustache," says Micucci, who plays ukelele in the duo.
Garfunkel and Oates, which sings about R-rated topics, including accidental masturbation and hand jobs, quickly gained a following.
"When I met Riki, I started singing dirtier material and it's amazing how the audience responded," Micucci says. "It was like a rocket ship."
Micucci grew up in Nazareth, where she was recognized early on for her artistic talents and played classical piano. She first picked up the ukulele while living in Hawaii after college to work at a pineapple plant.
"I was missing my piano and my grandpa bought me a ukulele," she says. "When I started touring it was easier to take the ukulele than the piano."
Micucci is also an actress and got her breakthrough acting role in 2009 on TV's "Scrubs" as the ukulele-strumming Stephanie Gooch. She followed that with a role opposite Kristen Bell in the romantic comedy film "When in Rome." Then she had a recurring role on the series "Til Death" in 2010 and also snagged the recurring role of Shelly in Fox's "Raising Hope."
In 2012 Micucci appeared in her highest profile role to date, as Lucy, the recurring love interest for astrophysicist Rajesh Koothrappali, played by Kunal Nayyar on the CBS hit "The Big Bang Theory." She and Lindhome wrote the love song "If I Didn't Have You," which was sung by "Big Bang's" Howard for Bernadette for their anniversary on the show last season.
When not acting, Micucci and Lindhome were sitting on Lindhome's couch and recording videos of their racy songs and posting them online. The duo also played off their mismatched appearances: Lindhome is tall and blonde and Micucci short and dark.
"A lot of people watched the videos," Micucci says. "It is really interesting how people respond when you sing honest songs that are R-rated. There is definitely an audience for them."
Soon the pair were making the rounds of late-night television performing their music. They released two full-length albums — "Slippery When Moist" and "All Over Your Face."
In 2011, Micucci says they signed with HBO to make a series, but then the pay channel pulled out.
Undaunted they continued to performed all over the country and were featured in an episode of Comedy Central's "The Half Hour" in 2012. That same year they performed at Musikfest Cafe in the ArtsQuest Center in Bethlehem.
Micucci, who has a distinctive high voice, also discovered a talent for voice work. She has voiced animated characters on shows that include "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "Adventure Time," "Ben10: Omniverse" and "Teen Titans Go!,"
Last year she was cast to voice the character of Sadie in Cartoon Network's animated show "Steven Universe," and voiced Tony in "Rio 2," the sequel to the hit animated film.
She also voiced main characters in both Disney's "Motorcity" and IFC's "Out There," both of which were not renewed, but then IFC said it was interested in the series that Micucci and Lindhome failed to get on HBO.
Micucci says they had just 3 1/2 days to shoot each episode of the IFC series.
In the first episode, Micucci struggles to audition as a sexy bimbo opposite Ben Kingsley and Garfunkel and Oates sing about gag reflexes. In the second episode they meet their porn rip-offs Garfinger and Butts, and sing a song celebrating same-sex puppet union. She says videos of the songs from the show will be posted after each episode airs
Micucci says she has always loved puppets and is able to indulge her joy of puppetry on the show. In the first episode, Micucci imagines her agent as a puppet and in the second the duo appear as puppets themselves, on an imaginary kids show.
"We're having a great time doing it," Micucci says. "It's nice because IFC allows us to do more R-rated stuff."
In addition to Kingsley, the due also worked with John Oates, who will appear in an episode. Micucci says she first met Oates in 2008 when he heard about them and contacted them through social media. Garfunkel and Oates opened for one of his concerts in Los Angeles in 2009. She says they haven't heard from Art Garfunkel but would be thrilled to include him as well.
Micucci says she now gets recognized on the street, which she thinks is "pretty trippy."
The duo is now working on a new album and will head out on 14 dates with the Monster Energy Outbreak Tour that kicks off Aug. 22 in Dallas. The tour, which is featuring comedy for the first time, has featured breakthrough artists such as Iggy Azalea, Macklemore, Kendrick Lamar and Of Mice and Men. The closest it will come to the Lehigh Valley is New York City's Irving Plaza Aug. 30.
Meanwhile Micucci tries to get home as often as she can. She has served as grand marshal for Nazareth's kazoo parade and plans to be in town Saturday for Nazareth's Martin on Main festival celebrating Martin guitar. Then it's back to work.
"It's all super exciting," Micucci says. "I'm never bored."
'GARFUNKEL AND OATES'
•What: Nazareth native Kate Micucci and co-host Riki Lindhome star in the series based on their comedy act "Garfunkel and Oates" in which they travel the country singing satirical and often dirty songs.
•When: 10 p.m. Thursday Aug. 7 on IFC, runs eight weeks
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