From the YouTube description on Tim Heidecker’s first solo comedy special: “Filmed in Los Angeles in pre-COVID times and produced by Abso Lutely, it features Tim’s unique, no-holds-barred takes on modern inconveniences, PC culture, politics and marriage. You can call it a send-up, a parody, a character, a performance piece, or whatever you’d like, but at the end of the day, it’s jokes! Please clap.”
The Gist: Whether or not you know Tim Heidecker will go a long way toward determining whether or not you get what Heidecker is trying to pull off here.
More of you will see him soon, as he’s one of the writers and creators of the new Showtime comedy, Moonbase 8, in which he’ll co-star alongside Fred Armisen and John C. Reilly. Heidecker already has proven himself a worthy foil on the big-screen in Us, as well as previous supporting roles on HBO’s Eastbound and Down and IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang! But the bulk of his onscreen catalogue has come courtesy of Adult Swim, and Heidecker’s working relationships with Eric Wareheim, Gregg Turkington (aka Neil Hamburger) and Doug Lussenhop (aka DJ Douggpound). His list of credits includes Tom Goes to the Mayor; Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!; Funny or Die Presents…; On Cinema; Decker; Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories; Mister America; and earlier this year, Beef House.
Many of these projects employed over-the-top and/or surreal visual and sound effects, bad acting, and inexplicable editing to convey the satire.
None of which gets used during An Evening with Tim Heidecker. Rather, Heidecker adopts an alter-ego of himself, with a leather jacket, slicked-back and sprayed-put hair, and a bad attitude and an act he has refined for more than a decade that makes fun of comedians who proclaim they’re truth-tellers, only they don’t really have much to say at all.
What Comedy Specials Will It Remind You Of?: He told VICE: “The genesis of that is that it’s a shitty joke, and it’s bad. There’s a long tradition of that, early Steve Martin, that was kind of his shtick. Obviously, Andy Kaufman and Albert Brooks used to play around in that same territory. Of course Neil Hamburger. I feel like I’m playing in that arena. Arena’s a terrible word.”
Heidecker’s opening bit onstage owes much to Josh Fadem, whom you’re more likely to know as the trusty filmmaker of Saul Goodman’s TV ads in Better Call Saul, but a decade ago, was a younger stand-up himself fumbling around with the microphone for laughs. I hope Fadem Abso Lutely got something for letting “Heidecker” cop his bit.
Memorable Jokes: The entire premise of “Tim Heidecker” imagines a straight white male comic of a certain age “who has always pushed the envelope” with “this time-tested, great material that’s been so successful for me,” and who, in the age of so-called political correctness, is pushing the envelope further by performing this brave new thing he calls “comedy without a net.”
So he delves into crowd work, obviously, with superficial results, until he forces the matter into a marriage proposal (planned or unplanned, it doesn’t matter, as long as said matter is forced). But that only forces “Heidecker” to confront his own relationship issues and other personal traumas that threaten to sabotage his onstage act.
Not that the act is that great to begin with, offering surface-level dad jokes about a “007 Bank,” alternative names for music superstars, or comparing Trump’s Russia scandal to The Brady Bunch. Did I almost forget his revolutionary Coke vs. Pepsi bit? You bet your sweet bippy I tried to.
He finishes with a gambit about attempting to redo his closing bit and asking Ben (director Ben Berman) to make the necessary edits in post-production, but his do-overs spiral into overthinking madness.
But that’s not all. Heidecker has a very different musical encore in store.
Our Take: About 7,000 tuned in for the live premiere on YouTube, and more than 170,000 views clocked over the weekend. In the live YouTube chat, Heidecker typed that he thought the funniest people in the chat were the people claiming he wasn’t funny.
They just get it, you see.
“Tim Heidecker” is like the bastard son of Neil Hamburger, when in reality, Heidecker is best buds with the guy who plays Hamburger. Besides, Hamburger names names when he makes his awful jokes about show business. Heidecker does not, because his alter-ego acts as a composite character for all the comedians he’s mocking, much like Stephen Colbert’s Comedy Central persona wasn’t meant to be Colbert, but rather “Stephen Colbert” the conservative blowhard.
All of which makes his musical encore tonally off-putting to a different degree. The comedian “Heidecker” tells insincere jokes. The musician Heidecker writes and sings a very sincere folk song protesting Trump.
He could’ve adapted his so-called Yellow River Boys songs into his comedic persona as part of his schtick but chose not to.
He filmed this all back in 2017, too, so even though Netflix paid top dollar (and other platforms less so) for plenty of mediocre comedy specials in the past few years, nobody wanted to buy in on this. I wouldn’t blame them. Insincere comedy that mocks comedy like this is a bit of a cop out. As one comment on one of the many threads about the Tim & Eric universe put it: “Intentionally bad stand-up is no better than unintentionally bad stand-up.”
Our Call: SKIP IT. You have to already be fully in on the Tim & Eric experience to even begin to enjoy this, as Heidecker’s schtick here will not win over any new followers. It’s an inside non-joke.
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.
Watch An Evening with Tim Heidecker on YouTube