Tim and Eric’s comedy empire: The lasting influence of Abso Lutely Productions
I was just a pimply teenage boy learning to cope with my abundant awkwardness when I first stumbled upon “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!.” It was a beam of godly sunshine, the entertainment I needed to feel like my freakish sense of humor was actually shared with others equally strange. Since then, Tim Heidecker (“Fantastic Four”) and Eric Wareheim (“Master of None”) have spread their unique brand of humor to create a comedy empire.
Abso Lutely, the duo’s production company formed in 2007, produces some of the funniest shows on TV today, all embodying the Tim and Eric spirit. Describing this spirit, however, is like enduring a painstakingly awkward interaction with a stranger; we can’t say why, but it leaves us feeling uneasy. With “The Eric Andre Show” and “Nathan for You,” two increasingly popular and acclaimed shows, Abso Lutely Productions has become one of the most influential production companies in comedy.
Tim and Eric, though, were anything but overnight stars. After meeting at Temple University, the two have worked together since, first creating the animated Adult Swim series “Tom Goes to the Mayor.” The show began as an internet web series before Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”) found it, immediately noticing their brilliance. Eclectic and absurd, “Tom Goes to the Mayor” laid the roots for what would eventually become “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!,” the duo’s creative highpoint.
“Awesome Show” takes over where Odenkirk and David Cross’s (“Arrested Development”) 90s sketch comedy series “Mr. Show” left off. Each episode begins with the duo, generally dressed in frumpy outfits, scheming or bickering and varies from playing a million-dollar tennis match to recovering a lost testicle from Eric’s stomach. But what makes this show unique is its sketches, often featuring an equally hilarious actor or comedian. It’s shocking to see the plethora of talent — Zach Galifianakis (“Lego Batman Movie”), Will Ferrell (“Daddy’s Home 2”) and Maria Bamford (“Lady Dynamite”) to name a few — always in vulnerable situations, perfectly matching Tim and Eric’s cringe-inducing style.
The show’s most well-known recurring character Dr. Steve Brule, effortlessly played by John C. Reilly (“Kong: Skull Island”), gives viewers important life advice and even earned a spin-off series, “Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule.” A valuable addition to the Abso Lutely catalog, “Check It Out” rivals its predecessor in hilarity and ventures into even darker territory. Throughout the series, Brule investigates no-frill locations and interviews various professionals. Dangerously addicting and relentlessly bizarre, “Check It Out” kept “Awesome Show”’s legacy alive in full form.
Later in 2012, Tim and Eric produced “The Eric Andre Show,” a spoof of late night talk-shows. Unlike “Awesome Show,” the show has reached a wider audience thanks to its long list of celebrity interviews, like Tyler the Creator (“Loiter Squad”), T.I. and Jack Black. It’s in the same vein as “Awesome Show,” with a greater emphasis on shock humor in its on-the-street skits, showing Eric Andre in ridiculous situations. The show’s mellow co-host Hannibal Buress (“Spiderman: Homecoming”) is responsible for an almost equal amount of laughs as Andre, acting as the ideal foil to the host’s energetic, rambunctious attitude and unpredictability. “The Eric Andre Show” is an extension of Tim and Eric’s comedic vision but at a higher-octane; the result is a frenetic, hysterical show, one I would consider to be the funniest of today.
“Nathan for You” is the least obnoxious, yet wittiest show produced by Abso Lutely. Nathan Fielder stars as a business consultant who gives advice to struggling small businesses on how to succeed. Abandoning the more explicitly in-your-face surreal tinge of the other shows, “Nathan for You” is the holy grail of awkward, cringe-worthy humor. It’s also the most easily accessible of the bunch, but this isn’t necessarily saying a whole lot.
Abso Lutely Productions practically transformed awkwardness into a form of art. With their signature transitions, nihilistic outlook and admiration for all things surreal, Tim and Eric created their own watermark of sorts, a clear style unparalleled by anyone else.