While 30 Rock and Two and a Half Men represent the drab bookends of mainstream humor, Tim and Eric's Awesome Show, Great Job! has been knee-deep in the sort of Dada spectacle that is at once thrilling, discomforting, and hilarious. The quarter-hour program is frequently referred to as “the best thing on TV” at fancy Impose cocktail parties for its brilliant mix of sketch comedy, commercial parodies, creepy actors, and just plain weird shit that is as titillating as it is unwatchable.
Half of the comedy duo, Tim Heidecker, along with Awesome Show songwriter Davin Wood have released Starting From Nowhere (as Heidecker and Wood, of course), an album of 70's-sounding hits that could easily pass as B-roll cuts from Steely Dan or Seals and Crofts. It's the type of music your parents listened to at the beach to unwind, or when they nervously had sex while you were at soccer practice. Heidecker's voice is smooth and sure (unlike Casey Tatum's) and when paired with Wood's platitudinal melodies, the effect is irresistibly catchy and absurd. We spoke excitedly/nervously with Heidecker about why Christmas songs are lucrative, his favorite Cinco product, and what you should drink when listening to Starting From Nowhere.
So you're driving from Palm Springs to LA–are you using a Bluetooth?
[Laughs] Um, well I have it connected through the car speakers so yeah, kinda.
Did you grow up on 70's soft rock or is it just what you're most comfortable writing?
I grew up on classic rock, folk rock, that kind of music, my parents' music. I went through a brief heavy metal stage before I discovered The Beatles and then everything else just came after that.
What about it do you find so compelling?
It's just fun music to write, fun to sing, and the subject matter is usually interesting and funny.
You and Davin made this album piecemeal, but how is the writing process different from what you guys do with Awesome Show? Besides the Rollos jingle, I can't think of too many Awesome Show songs in this genre.
It just started as being a recreation thing to me. Just with a piano and keyboard, and then it gets kind of logged as a demo and what style we want to shoot for. There's not a lot of structure to it. Most likely the song comes from a humorous perspective, a hook or something, a melody. I don't have anything in particular I wanna say. I was writing a song the other day about a parachute wedding, you know, the bride and groom–
They're like, holding onto each other in midair with a flying preacher in between them–
Yeah I mean, that didn't come from anything in particular. It just happens and it's funny.
So what comes first, the humorous concept or the song itself? Do you hear a melody in your head and think “oh man, it'd be funny if I sung about The Grand Canyon to this?”
Well, I might be wrong, and I probably am, as I'm talking to you now, in my car when I'm on the road right now, but the concept is usually secondary to the song. I could be wrong.
People have called the humor on this album more “subtle”–I kind of think that anything is going to look more “subtle” next to Awesome Show–but does part of that subtly arise because of the style of music? Soft-rock often veers dangerously close to self-parody as it is…
Yeah we didn't want to make a record that was just purely comedy, we didn't want to be overtly ridiculous and just hit you over the head with it. That also allows for more of a focus on the songwriting itself.
More than a few of the songs on the album reference “children,” and A Song For My Father is written from a child's perspective–why don't more people write songs about the children? Why are people so afraid to write about the children?
[Long pause, then sounding earnest] You know, I really don't know. I don't know. That's a great question, I just don't have the answer.
Similarly, with the Chrimbus special back in December chock full of songs, and now the final track on the album being a Christmas suite, what makes the holiday so alluring to write about?
Oh it's totally a commercial decision. That's the direction we took it. A lot of bands are talked into doing a Christmas song, and we wanted to do something that was just a real bummer.
I think the only thing “Christmasy” about it are the bells.
Yeah the bells are really cynical. I think the character in that song is just a judgmental prick, who is pointing his fingers–“if only you'd give a dime.” Like, why are you yelling at me? Imagine a Don Henley-type just screaming and being a jerk for no reason.
I got stuck on a particular tasty lyric in “Right to the Minute” where the character talks about his wife “putting on jewels.” It's sort of breaking the rules of comedy to ask this, but it's hilarious. Why is “putting on jewels” funny?
Um, well [pauses] I don't know, I don't think that lyric is actually very funny. I guess it just reinforces how terrible the character is. He spends an entire song on how it pisses him off that his wife takes a long time to get ready.
I guess I just like the word choice. After seeing the Chrimbus special I probably repeated the phrase “With my wick” like, 5,000 times.
Ohhhh boy, okay. Well, you're welcome!
If this album had an accompanying cocktail, what would it be?
A white wine spritzer. Or hot apple cider
What's in your car stereo right now?
I'm actually listening to Elton John's Madman Across the Water right now, and I have an XM so I listen to Deep Tracks a lot too.
Do you have a favorite Cinco product?
Oh, man, that's pretty tough, they're all just so great–[Long pause] I'm gonna go with an obscure one. I'm gonna go with E-Trial.
E-Trial? That's not the one that catalogues your MIDIs–
No that's MIDI Organizer. Yeah, E-Trial. It's the software that you get to in lieu of going to court, you can use this software. It was in our Cinco Brothers episode.
Any plans for a second album? Would you go for the same sound?
Yeah we've got a plan for another album, it's just been so much work getting this one out. The idea of climbing that mountain right now–we've got something like 50 songs that are in various stages of completion, and it's a long grueling process of you know, getting Davin to sit down and sift through everything–it's hard work.
Well I guess now's it's Eric's move. You think he's gonna do some Plastic Ono Band shit or something to one-up you?
[Laughs] No, I don't think so but that would be very funny and I'd be happy to assist in that effort.
What's next for Tim & Eric? Are you planning on doing any more long-form specials, or what's up with the movie?
I actually have zero plans. My future is pretty cloudy right now–we haven't taken on any projects since the film is done. It's all wide open, so we'll see.