Though the notion may be blasphemous to some, Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! proves that Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are truly the rightful heirs to the sketch comedy throne that was vacated by the demise of Mr. Show all those many years ago. No, this is not a hyperbole, and yes, it’s that good.
Certainly, there are some differences: Heidecker and Wareheim don’t possess the same venomous political stance that Bob Odenkirk and David Cross did, nor do they possess the bravery that allowed Mr. Show to attack any subject regardless of social taboo. What Tim & Eric do, however, is give an astonishingly well-versed satire on ’80s video culture, ruthlessly ridiculing the commercials, instructional videos, PSAs, public access shows and low-budget video editing services that so consumed their youth, often hitting their targets with remarkable accuracy. Yet the duo isn’t mocking these institutions just because they can: they’re parodying them because of their undying fondness and adoration for these well-meaning icons of television’s past.
Even though Heidecker and Wareheim got their big break with the polarizing Adult Swim comedy Tom Goes to the Mayor, its obvious that Awesome Show is their true passion (and calling). Much like Mr. Show, at least one segment is brought up in an episode multiple times, primarily to give the program a vague sense of continuity: these things range from Tim receiving a “good luck” basket from his dad (that wishes Eric the best of luck) to a young filmmaker premiering his no-budget sci-fi movie “Crystal Shyps” on a bizarre public access film-critic program (hosted by a bewildered Bob Odenkirk, here reprising the character he first played with Dana Snyder on the Aqua Teen movie DVD) to rushing a tape of the episode we’re watching to the Adult Swim offices before it actually premieres and so on.
Though the through-line is important for consistency sake, the show often veers wildly between sketches and parodies with an absolute reckless abandon. One moment you’re watching Pierre’s instructional workout video for kids (“Move to the left! … Think about your dad! … Smells like meat! … Rotten meat!”), the next you’re watching Jan & Wayne Skylar: the only married news team in the world (a news team that never actually reports any news). Tim and Eric go on to satirize Girls Gone Wild-style sex programs with the Beaver Boys (who like only shrimp, white wine, and unprotected sex), offer Hollywood career advice videos that are largely inefficient (“Who here has ever tried to download the internet off of the internet?”), and Tim puts himself on the line by offering free portraits to ordinary people on a busy city street (all of which are terrible).
At times immensely amateur-looking, at times surprisingly professional, Tim & Eric never play out a scene too long, often running from joke to joke with masterful pacing. Even when a segment has absolutely no point (“Here She Comes” immediately comes to mind), it still somehow manages to work largely due to the creators’ willingness to tackle their subjects head on, no matter how outlandish the premise is. Casey & His Brother provide the worst song stylings ever on Uncle Muscles’ Hour (an outlandish talent program hosted by “Weird Al” Yankovic), but their sweat-faced earnestness (and terrible costumes) somehow endears them to our hearts. They even take a hint from Mr. Show‘s omnipresent Globochem Corporation by creating Cinco: a company that creates useless product (B’owl!) after useless project (punched-in-the-balls insurance). Ultimately, the reason why Awesome Show works is because Tim & Eric have truly created their own off-center comedy universe and they unrelentingly explore its limits in each and every episode.
Yet Awesome Show gets one additional kick of quality due to its never-ending stream of top-notch guest stars, giving this little DIY-show an air of industry respect and professionalism. Though Michael Cera’s cameo is greatly underused (launching a new dramedy show on Channel 5 about a boy who can transform into a cat), every other appearance is as noteworthy as it is hilarious: David Cross starring in an informative porn video, Fred Willard hosting a twisted cooking show, Paul Rubens playing the moon in an interoffice romance music video, Mr. Show‘s Tom Kenny hosting the brilliant 50th Anniversary Show for Tim & Eric (the humor being that there are only ten episodes on this disc), Zach Galifianakis hosting the “Gravy Robbers” training video, SNL‘s Will Forte as a deranged mattress salesman, Neil Hamburger as the worst cab driver in the world (“Hey … what do you get when you cross Elton John with a saber-tooth tiger? … I don’t know, but you better keep it away from my ass.”), and — of course — John C. Reilly as Dr. Steve Brule.
The Brule character (apparently created entirely by Reilly) is the Channel 5 resident dispenser of pointless medical advice (he at one point recommends that you use a hose to get leaves off of your driveway), and generates the program’s biggest laughs in reacting to the (fake) death of anchor Wayne Skylar. This list only scratches the surface of what the show is about, but these A-listers willingness to lend their talents to the show is a testament to the quality of Tim and Eric’s delightfully twisted vision.
Yet for such a concise, immaculately crafted multi-media comedy, it’s astonishing how dull this DVD’s special features are. Tim and Eric sound positively bored throughout most of it, providing half-hearted, unfunny anecdotes to the proceedings, even giving up on proper commentary in episode two by admitting that people would probably return this very DVD to the store, citing that “the commentary is filled with self-satisfied jerks”. The additional/deleted scenes are all wisely deleted for good reason, and the behind-the-scenes documentary is merely a mish-mash of pointless behind-the-scenes clips, strung together without narration or even a general sense of purpose. Ultimately, for such a sprawling, media-centric show, it’s disappointing how poor the bonus features are.
But not even a disappointing commentary or poorly-produced featurettes can diminish a truly great show; and though it can be written off as a meandering comedy for a stoner audience, the shows impact is far sharper and far more reaching than that. Oh, and it’s also unrelentingly hilarious. In the end, Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! is more than worthy of its daunting Mr. Show comparison, no questions asked.