[19 January 2009]
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
If you skipped last year’s Tim and Eric Awesome Tour because tickets sold out almost immediately at every tour date, good news: Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are back on tour and will be appearing in venues that seat many more of their TV show’s fans.
If, however, you skipped last year’s show because you were afraid of getting sprayed by fake vomit or pelted with hot dogs and pizza from the stage, well, you’d better sit in the back row.
The dynamic duo behind “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” are putting on a live all-ages show in 25 cities to promote the new season that begins Feb. 8. “Awesome Show” airs every Sunday, usually around midnight on Adult Swim, Cartoon Network’s nightly tribute to cognitive dissonance that kicks off at 10 p.m. EST with “King of the Hill.”
“It’s 100 percent new material, both live and the video clips,” said Eric in a phone interview. The live show integrates clips from previous seasons as well as the upcoming season. “And it’s longer, about an hour and a half.”
Tim and Eric - there’s no point calling these guys Heidecker and Wertheim - will be joined on their coast-to-coast tour by several of the show’s regulars, like David Liebe Hart, a brutally mediocre entertainer they discovered while watching the “The Junior Christian Science Bible Lesson Show” on Los Angeles public-access TV; and James Quall, a no-talent celebrity impersonator whose appearances are, let’s agree on this much, memorable.
“It’s a tour for the fans, because all the characters from the show - you’ll see them live,” Eric said.
While neither man would touch my question about continuing to use food as projectiles, attendees may want to prepare in the event of a gooey brownie attack.
It’s not easy to explain “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” to the uninitiated. So I asked the grand poobah of Cartoon Network’s late-night programming, Mike Lazzo.
“The question you pose is unanswerable,” declared Lazzo, who’s seen ‘em come and seen ‘em go in 15 years of shaping the channel’s alternative lifestyle.
“What it is, it’s the one show that, when there’s a new episode in, everyone in the office seems to know it, and comes down here to watch it,” he said.
And yet, in the next breath, Lazzo admitted the show was “ratings challenged,” because it’s “perceived as crazy.” Wait: a dissonant comedy with lots of interruptions - isn’t that “Family Guy” in a nutshell?
Apparently not. “There’s a normalcy to ‘Family Guy’ with the family and the cutaway parodies,” Lazzo explained. “But there’s something about ‘Tim and Eric’ that just makes you nervous, to some degree. If you read the message boards, it’s one of the most polarizing shows ... but all the great shows start out that way. I tend to think it’s a good sign.”
Each 11-minute “Awesome Show” is a tableau of several disparate but tightly interwoven sketches connected by ... something. In the last episode of last season, the common motif was gooey, fudgy brownies. It ended with a psychedelic video of floating baked delights that I’m pretty sure any viewers who were themselves baked probably enjoyed even more.
Tim and Eric met in film school as freshmen, but their sensibilities were shaped by bad TV. They often work out their love-hate relationship with the medium on their show, riffing on cable access, lampooning direct-response ads and network promos, mocking the idiocy of local news. They aren’t the first, but they are possibly the most original sendup artists of their generation.
And they do characters, none quite as appalling or fascinating as Casey Tatum, a generic, telethon-quality singer with unusually severe stage fright and hideous complexion. Tim smears some kind of greasy, shiny makeup all over his face to become this almost unrecognizable, mucusy inversion of Andy Kaufman’s notorious alter ego, Tony Clifton.
The real Weird Al usually introduces Casey. He is one of several celebrities who have asked to play bit parts in “Awesome Show” after discovering it on Adult Swim. So, will any special stars be putting on wigs and makeup this season?
“Alan Thicke,” said Tim.
“Frank Stallone,” said Eric.
“John C. Reilly,” said Tim - well, of course. Reilly plays perhaps the show’s most popular character, Dr. Steve Brule, an absurdly off-the-wall health and lifestyle correspondent in Channel 5 News sketches.
“And Whoopsy Goldberg,” said Eric. “Not Whoopi. Whoopsy.”
In a 2007 interview with The Onion, the duo hinted that the next batch of shows they produced would be their last. But they’ve decided they have at least 10 more ideas in the tank and have signed on for a fifth season of “Awesome Show.”
And then after that?
“We’re pitching our movie right now,” said Eric. “And we’re surprised that some producers are saying to us, ‘Push it, flip it inside out.’ When Tim and I first came out to LA, nobody wanted us to do that. It took a couple of years with ‘Tom Goes to the Mayor’ (their first effort for Adult Swim) and ‘Awesome Show’ to prove we have something different.”
“The worst part is when you have to explain your sensibility,” said Tim. “We’re lucky that we have this catalogue of shows where you can sit for 20 minutes and you either get it or you don’t. And we want to be in business with that people that get it.”