Dallas — There are comedy acts that, in the fan’s mind, become so cherished and revered that they generate laughs from bits that would seem trite or juvenile coming from others, and they get away with hitting their same tropes over and over again to infinity and it never becomes tiresome.
The act that inspired this observation is Tim and Eric (that’s Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim), who performed Thursday night at the Majestic Theatre in Downtown Dallas for their Mandatory Attendance Tour (didn’t go? Expect to be fined $750, payable to Tim and Eric), and I am a card-carrying devotee.
That makes this a difficult review to write, and to try to understand how the show would look from a non-superfan perspective, as I am so deep in the Tim and Eric rabbit hole that I don’t remember a pre-T&E time.
Tim and Eric’s national following actually dates back not to the beginning of time but to 2004, with the premiere of their Adult Swim show, Tom Goes to the Mayor. Since then, they’ve done more Adult Swim shows and web series: Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!; Tim and Eric Bedtime Stories; Tim and Eric’s Go Pro Show; Tim’s Kitchen Tips; Dr. Wareheim; On Cinema at the Cinema; Decker…the list goes on and on. Their output is so prolific that Adult Swim runs a 24/7 stream of just their work on their website.
Still, perhaps you are not familiar with their oeuvre. It actually isn’t terribly inaccessible. Their shtick is surrealism, purposely bad production quality reminiscent of 1980s local access shows, experimentalism, gentle trolling of their audience, musical comedy and a commitment to the bit — more often than not, Tim Heidecker tweets not as himself but as his On Cinema character.
The show on Thursday started out with a video announcement from the duo that it would be a different sort of show — one that was heavily focus grouped, and sponsored by companies from Aetna to Boot Barn. “I’d rather make a thousand people smile than ten people laugh,” Tim said in the video, but longtime fans immediately knew that would not be so.
Such a gag does make it sound like they are celebrating their insularity, but again, I think someone fresh off the street would neither be lost nor not enjoy themselves if they share T&E’s notions of what’s funny.
Who finds it funny? I’d say the audience of 1,200 skewed pretty young. The Venn Diagram of people who love Tim and Eric and love Old Jews Telling Jokes, the last show I covered for TheaterJones, is two circles that don’t touch.
Anyway. Tim also asserted on video that due to hearing sensitivities he developed, he would need the audience to clap by banging their wrists rather than hands together, and moan rather than cheer (gentle trolling of audience, exhibit A).
Eventually, this dictum of a show built on mass appeal and idiosyncratic audience directions are dramatically dispensed of, and a more conventional Tim and Eric show convened: bizarre songs, gross sketches (the gross-out humor and Tim’s bare ass being exposed is the sort of thing I meant in the first paragraph), fake production and direction problems, fake temper tantrums, and general weirdness.
It was magical and heady, and the crowd ate up every last bit of it. It isn’t for everyone. It is for me.