Bellwethers of the 21st century’s “alt-comedy” movement, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim took innumerable cues from HBO’s short-lived comedy trip Mr. Show, the cult sketch show of Bob Odenkirk and David Cross that ran from ‘95 to ‘98. Their beloved Adult Swim series Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! plunged right into the chasm of deranged, absurd comedy that Bob & David had stumbled upon, but whose edge they only started to peep over.
Aside from sheer comedy technique, one of the major Mr. Show-ian cues Tim & Eric inherited was a knack for musical references. Manifestations of this knack include the virile, deep-fried hard rock of Pusswhip Banggang, the uncomfortable, nursery rhyme-ish tunes of Casey Tatum and the blood-stained, butt-crusted raps (“Bloody Nips” and “Wipe My Butt,” among others) from the show’s “Kid Break” segment. These and many others are compiled on the album Awesome Record, Great Songs!.
Before Awesome Show, and before their pre-Awesome Show animated series Tom Goes To The Mayor, Heidecker was tinkering with comedy and rock in his Masterpiece trio, while Wareheim was involved with more serious fare, playing bass and guitar in numerous bands within the ilk of underground Philly screamo, such as Ink & Dagger, I Am Heaven and The Science Of. Over the past few years, Wareheim has amounted a daunting resume as a music video director (his credits include Beach House, Flying Lotus, Major Lazer and other massive names); back in May, Heidecker released his solo album In Glendale, an homage to soft rock troubadours like Jackson Browne and Paul McCartney.
For over the past 15 years, the songs of Tim & Eric have been an ongoing exhibit of trenchant hilarity. Here are ten of their best:
Like a Huey Lewis wet dream, Masterpiece’s debut album is titled Working Vacation—because rock n’ roll’s their business, baby! While on this vacation, Heidecker and his mates were sipping on a sweet, sweet “Bottle Of Wine,” the album’s centerpiece. In the music video, Heidecker caresses his girlfriend by the piers and in the garden, between shots of the guys rocking out a basement show, where they don headbands and have the stage decorated with American flags everywhere. This band—unabashedly patriotic and manly—inspired future Tim & Eric permutations, namely Pusswhip Banggang and Dekkar.
In one episode from the duo’s first Adult Swim show Tom Goes To The Mayor, the fictional town of Jefferton is set to host the annual, much-coveted Bass Fest. There’s going to be a bass circle, tons of techs and pros, and an appearance from popular rock artist Wizzard (played by Bob Odenkirk), who’s attempting to hit a low G note. “Three octaves lower than any man has ever played,” he claims. Earlier on in the episode, before all the low-end from the festival destroys a dam and causes the whole town to flood, Wizzard performs his track “Totally Wizzed Out!” It’s a Chili Peppers pastiche: Odenkirk mocks Anthony Kiedis’ hubba-dubba-bubba rap style and Flea’s bombastic slap-bass.
The opening track on Awesome Record, Great Songs! is a synthpop onslaught, in which the two, looking like A Flock of Seagulls rejects, duel each other on blazing keytars, followed by an ostentatious drum solo that plays for way longer than needed (the excessivity of it is hilarious). In the video they have a montage that shows some of everyone’s favorite sports, like Flight Wheel and Sand Sphere. Who doesn’t love to play Flight Wheel in the park with a friend or Sand Sphere on a nice day at the beach?
All Casey wants to have is a barbecue! Played by Heidecker, he’s got snot and saliva all around his mouth, cascading in globs onto the hotdog he’s trying to shove down his throat. Throughout the song, as a bubbly keyboard and stale drum-loop go on in the background, Casey scrunches his face, moaning and yelping; his brother, Wareheim, dances around in a hamburger suit going, “I like parties, I like fun, I want to live in a hamburger bun.”
While their sole song plays for only a few seconds and is without a title, Zwei Dunkel Jungen (German for “Two Dark Boys”) is one of Tim & Eric’s most obscure satires. Instead of mainstream rock bygones, here they’re making fun of pretentious experimental/industrial in the vein of Throbbing Gristle. The two are garbed in face-paint and tight leather; the song is the culmination of them just testing out their synthesizers onstage.
On Tim & Eric’s fictitious Channel 5 News, they have a series of PSA’s called Kid Break; with the two dressed in denim and leather jackets, loitering outside a mini-mart, it’s meant to appeal to the “cool teen” demographic. During this track, Heidecker raps about the resourcefulness of not taking care of his skid marks. “I don’t wipe my butt ‘cause it’s a waste of toilet tissue,” he goes. “My brown, crusty stains are an environmental issue.” Revelatory and delicious. (Also, The Shins happen to have a sweet, folksy cover of “Wipe My Butt.”)
For the JASH Network, Tim & Eric came up with a power ballad about the insurmountable beauty of goatees. Heidecker is on grand piano and main vocals, while Wareheim does percussion, randomly interjecting a messy drum-fill or cowbell hit over Heidecker’s lyrics. There’s synthetic trumpet and saxophone tones aplenty, reinforcing the 80’s schlock that the two succeed in encapsulating.
Pusswhip first appeared on Awesome Show during a faux-advertisement for the band’s greatest hits cassette, and in 2009 they managed to get a slot at the popular Los Angeles happening FYF Fest. But in 2014, four years after Awesome Show’s final episode, Tim & Eric revived the band to formally release one of their staple tracks—“Jambalaya,” which just sounds like Foghat if they were doing an homage to New Orleans cuisine. In the AOR spirit of “Jambalaya,” they even have a special nine-minute version as part of Drag City Records’ release of the track.
It has been argued that Heidecker’s In Glendale is his most serious musical work. What that really means, though, is his humor isn’t as glaring as usual. The gist of “Work From Home” is worth chuckling over for a second: Heidecker’s hungover, so he plans to take the day off and stay in bed—but upon listening further, you can’t ignore that the song is surprisingly quaint and heartfelt. Heidecker’s croon is sleek, as are the guitars, and the choruses are splendid. But his humor starts to become apparent again whenever he drops a cliché worth rolling your eyes at, like the opening line, “I’m low—low to the ground.”
In his latest Adult Swim series Decker, Heidecker plays the eponymous special agent, who’s seemingly in a constant state of inebriation while going about his missions. Simultaneously, he’s pondering the most vicious ways to castigate his boss—the fictitious President Jason Davidson (Joe Estevez)—for, in his opinion, not acting like a “true American.” Jack Decker loves Trump and hates immigrants, but he especially loathes PC culture. It’s why. in his spinoff band Dekkar, who appear on the episode “Band Together,” he’s got a song called “Trigger Everything.”
“You trigger my anger, you trigger my pain / you trigger my loss and you trigger my brain,” Decker belts during the chorus. By dumbing down PC-ness with a much too stereotypical “ignant” conservative attitude, alongside such trite lyrics, Heidecker renders both the song and his character as ingeniously funny.