If you’ve ever found yourself groggy, grumpy, and unable to sleep, then promptly start channel surfing late into the night, chances are you’ve run across Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” programming block. In addition to re-runs of beloved animated series like “Family Guy,” “King of the Hill,” and “Home Movies,” they also do an occasional live-action show that has an overarching sense of humor that can politely be described as an “acquired taste.” Two of the dominant personalities on Adult Swim over the last decade have been the comedy duo of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, the minds behind wild creations like the half-animated “Tom Goes to the Mayor.” They made their biggest mark on the late night block with their sketch comedy creation “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!,” where they went out of their way to create their own shared universe of sorts.
Common threads include commercials for absolutely terrible consumer products by the “Cinco Corporation,” the white wine drinking, shrimp eating “bros” known as the “Beaver Boys,” and of course the “only married news team” from a low-rent public access channel, Jan & Wayne Skylar (played by Tim and Eric, of course).
The “Awesome Show” really hit it out of the park, though, with a quirky, eccentric, and possibly brain damaged self-help specialist with all sorts of advice “for your health,” the character known as Dr. Steve Brule. Played by John C. Reilly, Brule’s doctorate is never explained and may not exist, but that doesn’t stop the good doctor from seemingly always knowing what’s best, even more than his other guests who are genuine doctors in whichever field he’s talking about. Reilly was given his own stage to shine on Adult Swim with the premiere of “Check it Out! With Dr. Steve Brule,” an expansion of his “Awesome Show” gig and where some of the most hilarious — and horrifying — character development takes place.
Overall, Heidecker, Wareheim, and their brother-in-arms Reilly have quite a body of work to draw from in the creation of a live show. Apparently, it’s been a decade since the trio last went on tour across the country, but a lot of new material has emerged from the three men in that time. Much like the nature of their comedy, Tim and Eric use the live tour format to poke fun at some typical conventions of the live show itself, making for a show that is unexpected, creative, and surprising. It’s definitely not for everyone, though.
Fortunately, it’s just right for me.
Part 1: Tim and Eric
The first half of the show featured Heidecker and Wareheim, and started off in the classic Tim and Eric style. We watched a video vignette about how the duo wanted to “change the face of comedy” with their new 2014 tour, and how they were going to do that by going to an entirely improvisational format. The clever thing about starting the show like this, especially if you’re familiar with their comedy, is that it did a great job in deflating expectations before diving headfirst into much of the impeccably planned live sketches. It doesn’t take long before the improv act goes completely south, and after piecing together a haphazard, low-rent apology, the duo leaves the stage as the screen thanks everyone for coming, and the house lights come up.
The sold out Chicago crowd was pretty wise to the antics of the two comedians, though, and it was met entirely with some pretty thunderous laughter before the show began again in earnest, with the comedians laughing at their own “cleverness” in tricking us all. Oh, guys.
The rest of the first half was a mix of bringing back old “Awesome Show” favorites like the Cinco Corporation, peddling their awful new “energy soda for children,” along with a cult-like church service encouraging the audience to confess their sins to their seatmates and kiss them. We also got a sneak peek at the latest episode of the duo’s latest creation, “Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories,” which is a bit more disturbing than their usual fare. The clips we saw were from the episode airing this Sunday (9/28) featuring regular comedy partner Bob Odenkirk, who plays a doctor that specializes in removing…well, you should watch it for yourself.
All in all, the first half of the show was a tour-de-force for Tim and Eric, and if you’ve been properly introduced to their comedy and can appreciate it, then chances are you’ll love the vast majority of what they get up to. After a short and awkward pause, the empty stage and silence was broken by an unseen, confused sounding man breathing heavily into the microphone and asking, “Hello?! Am I in Chicango?”
The Doctor was in.
Part 2: Dr. Steve Brule
John C. Reilly bounded into the theater as Dr. Steve Brule to the infinite delight of the sold out crowd, with his characteristic mispronunciations and simplistic attitude. I’m really of the belief that an actor the caliber of Reilly, nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars for his role in Chicago, is the only kind of performer that can properly embody a character like Brule. Reilly absolutely disappears behind the part, with every single idiosyncrasy masked with those of the doctor. In addition to obvious changes like his costume and hairstyle, as Brule he changes his walk, every single facial expression, his speaking tempo and diction, and even his fundamental vocabulary in every new scenario. Reilly is the kind of actor with the extreme attention to detail that makes a character like Brule possible, and he was with an audience that fully appreciated the impeccable construction of the utter mess of a human being that the doctor is supposed to be.
While we got to see a sneak peek at a Brule-centric pilot episode called “Bag Boy,” where he works as a…ahem…bag boy at “Check it Out!” sponsor “Myer’s Super Foods,” much of the Brule half of the show was geared around audience interaction. He brought several members of the crowd up on stage to play “health games,” to have a walking parade, and to give a health examination (which featured the most hilarious breast exam in the world — with the young lady’s written consent, of course).
The final element of the Brule half included Tim and Eric’s “Awesome Show” and “Check it Out!” characters of Jan and Wayne Skylar, who have been in a sort-of morbid love triangle with Dr. Brule for the entirety of the characters’ existence. All of those elements from the previous TV shows kind of came to a head on stage, which was a fun treat for fans of the trio, as well as potentially prophetic for future episodes featuring them. Reilly’s natural charisma helped to anchor the entire second half of the show single-handedly, though, with his classic “Brule-isms” in language and behavior, sometimes lashing out into a lovable rudeness and evoking a strange kind of pitiful empathy in addition to the uproarious laughter.
The live show featuring the trio of Tim, Eric, and Dr. Brule was an absolute blast. If you don’t find yourself enjoying their humor on television, then chances are you won’t find much to like if you see their show live. If you already find yourself chuckling, laughing, crying, or puking at their TV efforts anyways, then you’ll likely find a lot to enjoy about their live antics, especially in the moments when they directly interacted with the audience.
Tim and Eric fans are pretty hardcore, but they’re also a pretty welcoming crowd. The Tim and Eric & Dr. Steve Brule tour is going through mid-October, and you can find city and ticket information here.
If you’re into the surreal and sometimes avant-garde humor of the trio, then go see the show. Chances are you’ll have a blast.
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