But Ms. Micucci felt the network was stifling her and Ms. Lindhome. IFC executives scrapped the duo’s original pilot and discarded some of the elements the pair was most attached to, later instructing them to open the show’s “aperture.” The experience yielded a single, eight-episode season. “It was really hard, and it was unlike the norm for most shows,” said Ms. Micucci, who nonetheless remains proud of the final product.
That comics have chafed at meddling executives for as long as comedy has been on television makes it hard to assign blame — all the more so given that Ms. Micucci and Ms. Lindhome had little experience writing a scripted series.
But the numbers argue that in the era of Peak TV, women comics still face serious obstacles. For all the success of a set of critical darlings — like “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Insecure” and “Russian Doll,” to name a few — there is just one late-night-style show featuring a well-known female comic: “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” on TBS. Netflix canceled Michelle Wolf’s offering after a single season, and Hulu canceled Sarah Silverman’s after two. (The comedian Lilly Singh will take over a show on NBC this year.)
“When I first started comedy, my male comic friends would say, ‘You have to focus on making the men laugh,’” Ms. Silverman told GQ last year, before the ax fell. “‘The women only laugh if their date laughs.’”
Dan Pasternack, the IFC executive who oversaw the Garfunkel and Oates show, said the pressure from the network partly reflected a change in leadership during production, which made IFC more risk averse. (An IFC representative declined to comment.) But he added, “There’s always that struggle you have with corporate people about, ‘Oh, so this is a show with two women at the center of it.’” He said he found such concerns misguided.
‘You always hope for that magical phone call’
One challenge of hanging out with actors from a sitcom inspired by their comedy duo: You’re never entirely sure if you’re observing their actual friendship, or them “doing” their friendship. Or, for that matter, an impression of an impression of their friendship.
After a recording session in Hollywood, Ms. Micucci and Ms. Lindhome grabbed dinner and then retreated to Ms. Lindhome’s place, a cavernous loft with a swing dangling from the ceiling. They needed to rehearse for a live performance that evening, but first wanted to toy with writing a parody of a tragic song, like “Desperado.” “What would be the funniest topic?” Ms. Lindhome asked, playing the languid melody.