Adult Swim Presents Tim and Eric Live
Revolution, Ft. Lauderdale
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Better Than: Grammys, Shmammys
It takes an, um, special sensibility to really get into the Cartoon Network's Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job, which airs on the network's Adult Swim block of late-night programming. Pretty much the channel's only live-action series, each episode clocks in at a mere 15 minutes. But in that short time, the show manages to chew, swallow, and regurgitate pop culture's lowest frequencies at a head-spinning pace.
Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, the show's creators and stars, lampoon everything from "very special" public service announcements, to local news, to public access excess. And that lampooning is accurate, down to awkward pauses, bad camera cuts, cheesy catchphrases, and cringe-worthy synthesized theme music. But each mini segment on the show is just a few minutes long, often ending on nonsensical punchlines, and featuring a cast of recurring guest stars both famous, and, well, not. So how would this all translate into a live performance?
Well, Wareheim told me before the gig that it was a "rock and roll show" (scroll to the end of this entry for the full Q&A). He may have meant that sarcastically, in deadpan -- it's hard to tell. But either way, he was kind of right. The show was a Red-Bull-style rush of costume changes, dances, and painful(ly funny) song.
But serious, head-nodding stuff this music was not. The hilarious opening act was DJ Dougg Pound, who doubles as the duo's onstage sound man. As a DJ, though, he, like the night's main performers, collects the worst of his chosen medium. In his case this meant overused warp and fade sound effects, crappy party-jam sound bites, mash-ups that don't need to exist, and dumb stuff yelled into the mike. DJ Dougg Pound overuses these all, pushing them to the level of absurdity.
Thus we got an electro remix of Gordon Lightfoot, constant reminders that Dougg Pound was "IN THE MIX!!!," and one-liners like, "My New Year's resolution is 300 dpi!" Zing! It sounds stupid, but in South Florida, this caricature of a character comes dangerously close to reality, which made it especially funny.
As for Tim and Eric themselves, well, they entered in yellow, skin-tight one-pieces and sang a several-minute song whose only lyric was "Diarrhea!" So, sure, that was a segment of potty humor, but the laughs got more creative after that, and for about an intermission-less hour-and-a-half.
At some points, this meant basically live reenactments of some of the TV show's greatest hits, as in a silly choreographed medley of the recurring "Kid Break" instructional songs. Other times, it meant new material for old characters. An especially well-received interlude featured the loveable clubby douchebags the Beaver Boys, who crooned a falsetto duet that involved pining for sex with a real woman.
But the unexpected treat was the flesh-and-blood appearance by some of the show's guest stars. There was the curly-maned Sire, singing his creepy ditty "Sexual Romance." There was the adorable James Quall, singing his confusingly structured smash hit "Beach Blast." And the most unexpected, show-stealing segment came courtesy of David Liebe Hart, a singing Christian ventriloquist who Tim and Eric discovered performing outside L.A.'s Hollywood Bowl.
All of them reappeared in the rousing closing number, whose premise began with a sales pitch on desert hot tubs but climaxed with Tim and Eric dancing in neon-green, glowstick-covered Spandex. And, as last night marked both the last show of the tour, and the premier of the show's fourth season, there was an afterparty. Tim and Eric, from onstage, invited the audience to continue the evening at nearby Crazy 8's on las Olas -- because, as they said, they "wanted to pick the one bar in this town shittier than this venue." That was a joke -- I think.
Personal Bias: I recently watched the Tim and Eric season one DVD in its psychedelic entirety. It's an excellent way to legally displace one's lodging in the space-time continuum.
Random Detail: It could seem, in large swaths of the audience, as though either a flannel shirt, leg tattoo, or both were required for entry.
By the Way: The fourth season of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job premiered on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim last night. The new DVD of Season two comes out tomorrow!
The Interview: New Times caught up with Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim before the show to discuss the tour, the duo's upcoming projects, and why they will never return to Tallahassee.
New Times: Why did you decide to play some rock clubs on this tour instead of theaters, like other comics?
Eric: It's a rock and roll show. There's a lot of singing, dancing, lights. And I personally hate the air of stand-up. And we don't really do stand-up, we do more performance kind of stuff.
Tim: We actually have been playing theaters on this tour. We used to do rock clubs, like really shitty little rock clubs. But we wanted to have a little more of a professional vibe this time around. And plus the demand for the show is higher, so some of these small, small clubs weren't addressing the needs of people who want to come see the show.
Eric: But a place like Revolution Live, we are just so happy to be here, and this kind of vibe is what we're talking about.
So what are some of the other big venues you've played on this tour -- in New York, for instance?
Tim: The Nokia Theatre in New York. We're lucky to have them as a sponsor, Nokia. They hook us up with -- not phones, of course, but, like, tracking devices and stuff.
Eric: And we get every kind of accessory Nokia sells, like Bluetooth.
That's funny, because Tim, I just saw you using an iPhone.
Eric: Listen, we're trying to make it sound cool that we have this sponsorship deal, but it's actually a bullshit deal.
Tim: My wife uses it and my grandparents and stuff get the free phones. It's also like a ton of money they give us, like $60,000.
For the tour? Do you shout out Nokia in the middle?
Eric: We have to play Nokia theaters, and they say we have to use Nokias, but we have some kind of work-around-it thing with that.
Do you have any other corporate sponsorships this time? Because on your last tour, you had the whole riff on previous tours on saying you were sponsored by Papa John's, which wasn't even true.
Eric: Hyundai, the car company, has a tie-in with Adult Swim where they do a lot of advertising. So they gave us a sponsorship deal. We thought we were getting cars --
Tim: -- Yeah right.
So what did you get?
Eric: Shirts, like sweatshirts, T-shirts. And we did so many commercials for Hyundai.
When are they airing?
Eric: Well, our new season starts today, so you'll probably see one right after the show, which is kind of embarrassing for us.
Tim: We got so hoodwinked!
Eric: It's silly. Tim and I, you know, it's like, marketing to more urban youth, and we kind of went for it, thinking, "Alright, our agents are gonna get us a Hyundai!" And we didn't!
So, um, how did you make the commercial more "urban?"
Tim: It's just, very, fast cuts, and black people are in the commercial. Not as featured players. But you can tell Eric and I are in an "urban environment."
Eric, you're wearing a Mad Decent shirt, so I have to ask, how do you know Diplo?
Eric: He was a fan of our stuff, and we were e-mailing so we went to see him in L.A. I'm a big fan of his music.
So the Papa John's thing was totally made-up, right?
Tim: Yeah, that was made up.
Did anyone from Papa John's ever contact you?
Tim: No, but a lot of employees show up to our shows. We got sent a pizza in Columbus from a Papa John's.
Why did you pick them specifically?
Eric: They were just kind of on top of the dumb pizza world, you know? They advertise heavily everywhere.
Tim: We could have gone Domino's too, you know? It was just kind of random.
Eric: But Domino's has so mutch kitsch already. They already do funny ads. Papa John's is more of like heartland pizza.
For this tour, how have you translated your sketches to live performance? On the show, the sketches are so short.
Tim: It's like a musical revue for the most part. It keeps breaking down and getting fucked up. We usually go with the more popular characters from the show. This time, Beaver Boys is great.
Eric: Beaver Boys plays huge in a sort of South and Central Florida market.
Because we have our own Beaver Boys here.
Eric: You do.
Tim: But it died in North Florida. We did the very tip of north Florida, Tallahassee. Boooo. They were like, whaaaat?
They didn't get it?
Eric: No. But we know there are a lot of Beaver Boys down here.
Tim: I tell ya, it's the last time we play 'hassee, though.
Really? But it's all college kids there.
Tim: They did not take kindly to us there.
Eric: They were not receptive of anything we did. Although tonight, I've already seen one man who works here wearing sunglasses, and another woman behind the bar who has been screaming jokes for about an hour. Those kinds of people will love the Beaver Boys.
Tim: It won't be a 'hassee kind of night.
I've always wondered, the guests on your show, where they came from. Especially David Liebe Hart -- you just found him on Hollywood Boulevard?
Eric: Pretty close. The Hollywood Bowl.
How did you get him to be on the show?
Eric: We paid him some money, and he freaked out.
Eric: This is our casting director, right here, Jon. He finds these people. Most of them are low-level actors. Ron Austur has never done anything in his life; he's a cab driver.
How did you find him?
Jon: Really any means necessary on the Internet.
Tim: I think people in Hollywood tend to put up their head shot onto these casting sites, and it might be a decision they made five years ago, two years ago, and obviously nothing came of it. Then we prowl onto that site, and find these men.
Jon: I actually booked Austsr and Dunn because they had black-and-white head shots. As a rule of thumb, we cast anyone who uses a black-and-white head shot.
Why, because that's so old school?
Jon: Because the mental choices it takes to get to that level apparently syncs up with our show.
But what's so bad about a black-and-white head shot, for those of us not in Hollywood?
Jon: It's not so bad, necessarily, it's just, different, you know?
Tim: So you're saying you only cast people with black and white head shots.
Jon: No, I'm saying if they have a black-and-white head shot, we'll definitely cast them.
And when you do sketches with these people, how much do they write themselves?
Eric: Ron Austur doesn't write anything, but he pretends that he did write it.
Tim: He's a puppet, really, that we use.
Eric: These songs go to their heads, and they think that they're superstars.
How much contact do you have with them when you're not working?
Eric: Ron Austur came into the office to plead to go into this tour.
And you told him no?
Eric: We said, absolutely not, for personal reasons. Backstage reasons.
How much public access TV do you all still watch?
Tim: Not very much at all. In fact, my friend David some horrible news, that Time Warner is discontinuing cable access. So we're stuck with nothing.
So where are you going to get your inspiration from now?
Tim: Oh, you know, the web.
For the fourth season, what sketches are you bringing back?
Eric: There's a lot of new stuff, to be honest with you. "Kids Break" comes back. Liebe Hart has a new song.
What about plans for a fifth season?
Tim: We're starting to write it after tour.
When do you expect that to air?
Tim: No idea. Who knows.
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Eric: But it's definitely happening.
Are you guys working on any other projects right now?
Tim: Just remodeling, you know? Trying to figure out a different way to lay my living room out, so it's not just this one big room, you know?
Eric: Feng Shui-ing it out.