When Tom Goes to the Mayor premiered in 2004, it's doubtful that many would have expected creators Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim to become the cult sensations that they are today. The show, which centered around the antics of idea man Tom Peters and The Mayor of small town Jefferton, was a bizarre mixture of animation that appeared to be photocopied and live action segments. While Tom Goes to the Mayor only lasted thirty episodes, it lead to the launch of Tim & Eric, Awesome Show, Great Job!, which features Tom's supporting live action characters Jan and Wayne Skylar (“Channel 5's Only Married News Team”).
Over the course of four seasons, Awesome Show has become the Adult Swim show that either captivates or aggravates viewers. The faux public access style of many of its sketches ride a very thin line between hilarity and awkwardness. The commercials for imaginary products and musical parodies play like a strange dream when viewed well after midnight. But with a fifth season and a new spin-off, Check It Out with Steve Brule, forthcoming, Heidecker and Wareheim have become the new late night superstars.
This Sunday, the duo behind Awesome Show will perform at FYF Fest. When LA Weekly caught up with Heidecker and Wareheim by phone, they were insistent that this performance will signify their transition into political comedy and impression work, despite the fact that it's being promoted as a “special musical performance.” We think they're pulling our leg, but you can keep reading and decide for yourself.
How did you get involved with FYF Fest?
Eric Wareheim: They heard that Tim and I are kind of changing our live show to more of a politically-based thing. They just wanted to get on that. I think that they're kind of known for new and alternative acts. We do a lot of impressions of old presidents.
We do a great Obama thing, like I do Obama and Tim does Bush and we do a mini-debate and Sean [Carlson] the promoter heard that we were developing a new live show and they wanted to hop on that.
Why take a show into a political direction?
Tim Heidecker: We've become a little more aware that the country right now is at a crossroads and we thought that it was time to stop being on the sidelines doing absurdist stuff. This is a great opportunity to test out the waters. Eric and I have very different political views, although we are great friends. But we felt, what if we were able to manifest on stage that dynamic that seems to be pulling our country apart in a humorous way, satirizing how the right and left are always at each other's throats.
EW: We also feel that Tim and I are known for doing outlandish things. Like, you saw our last show, we come out with huge testicles. We felt like, “Let's clean up our act.” We did that for the numbers and the money and the fans. Let's do some stuff that we're very interested in, which is an Obama/Bush debate where obviously that's two different characters and it's a different kind of humor we want to get. it's the responsible thing to do.
TH: Not to give too much away. We have a puppeteer that we hired that makes these giant heads. It almost looks like a bobblehead, I guess that's the closest example. I come out with a giant Bush bobblehead and Eric comes out with a giant Obama bobblehead and then we do the impressions and take the puppet heads off. We still actually look like the impressions that we're doing.
EW: I think that it's going to be quite shocking for our fanbase to see this direction.
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But, on the other hand, there's been some indication of a political interest before.
EW: Yeah, we've dabbled in that and we do want to get back to our roots. Something we've always loved is our impression work. Before we got into TV, I was known for my Marlon Brando.
EW: It's just something that we're passionate about. We've trained hard for it. Tim and I have been working hard on getting this Obama/Bush thing down. Will Ferrell did the Bush thing, but what we're doing is Obama/Bush.
TH: It's amazing, the process that we're going through. We were able to access, via Internet, thousands of their speeches, press appearances and interviews. From that, we were able to cull together the bulk of our material. It's interesting, a lot of the dialog that we use is stuff these guys actually said. It's like, “Did they really say that?” Yup, it's a quote. It's literally a quote, but when you put it in the context that we're putting it into, suddenly it becomes comedic. We hope.
In Awesome Show, Great Job your characters, as absurd as they seem, are always handled with a kind of reverence. Is that what you're going to be doing with political satire?
TH: Absolutely, because of our political differences, I was a big Bush supporter, I'm a Republican, consider myself right wing and Eric considers himself very left wing and into gay rights issues and stuff like that. I think comedy has to come from a real place. It has to come from an honest place. I'm not going up there dressed as Bush to goof on him. In a way there is a little bit of satire. We love these guys. I love my character. Eric loves his character.
EW: We think it's the time to get real, drop the wigs and the clown costumes for a second and try a different show.