Tim Heidecker’s ties to Atlanta go back more than 15 years courtesy of the Adult Swim show “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” which was a bizarro sketch comedy show that turned the genre on its head.
“Adult Swim was this little corner of cable heaven created by this absolute genius Mike Lazzo,” Heidecker said in a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He was given free rein with this chunk of time late at night to go wild with it. He had a very specific sensibility and miraculously saw huge potential in what Eric [Wareheim] and I were doing.” (Lazzo left Adult Swim in early 2020.)
Lazzo, he said, was drawn to “two film school art weirdos making homemade cartoons on our own website using Quicktime files.” On the Adult Swim show, the pair created fake public-access style shows and commercials with low-grade editing, cheesy color schemes, bad lighting and deliberately bad acting.
It was inspired by the cringe humor a la “The Office” and the dark bizarre ethos of David Lynch films. The show’s cultish nature drew big-name guests, too, including Zach Galifianakis, John C. Reilly and Will Forte. (Episodes are now available on demand on HBO Max.)
Heidecker, now 46, has been able to parlay this work into some mainstream film roles, most notably “Bridesmaids,” while continuing to do off-kilter comedy with Wareheim and pursuing solo projects like his recently released music album “High School,” which is uncharacteristically sincere in its approach.
He is coming back to Atlanta as a solo artist at the Variety Playhouse in a show that will blend his comedy and music Aug. 1. Tickets are $49.50 before fees. (He has performed at Variety many times before with Wareheim.)
For the first half of the show, he said he will come on stage to do stand up as a greasy character that is impressively inept at his job. For Heidecker, the more awkward the moment, the merrier. “It comes naturally for me to write for this guy,” he said. “I can tell bad jokes and get laughs by the way I tell them.”
Then he’ll come out with his band to play cuts from “High School.”. “The band,” he said, “is worth the price of admission on its own. They’re that good. We play a cross section of my comedy and serious music. It’s like a good Broadway show. I even do a little dancing.”
Dancing? Like “Dancing With the Stars”? “No,” he said. “More like David Byrne, a convulsive reaction to the music kind of dancing. Not salsa or samba.”
He feels like his most dedicated fans see him as a true friend. “I think that happens a lot with television and comedy,” he said. “I’m very open on social media. You can DM me! I’m very kind. You can get to know me pretty quickly.”
The solo show doesn’t mean he and his long-time working partner Wareheim are splitting up.
“We have a very intense working relationship in a positive way,” he said. “It has been all consuming like a marriage for a time. We’ve since maintained a good friendship. We’re very conscious about what we want to do in our career and what we want to do next. How do we surprise ourselves and the audience? That sometimes takes time. But as you get older, the pace of that slows down.”
He said the audience, like that of Adult Swim, is heavily male but is broadening out over time. “People come to me and say they’ve been watching me since eighth grade and they’re now 25. That freaks me out,” he said.
He also has his own streaming service HEI Network which features self-generated videos like his jokey “critics” show “On Cinema at the Cinema.” He charges $5 a month.
“It’s a hard time to sell stuff not based on some existing huge property,” Heidecker said, in the streaming world. “But the fan-supported models are exciting and truly independent.”
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.