“I used to watch Spagett as a kid, but it’s not funny like it used to be.”
It’s 2007, in the middle of the night, and you’re aimlessly flipping through the television channels. It’s all identical bland wash that causes your eyes to roll back and catatonia to set in. But then you stumble upon this surreal explosion of color and awkwardness. Are these two buffoons for real? Is it a gag? It doesn’t even matter because your perception of television and comedy is never going to be the same again. Welcome to the quixotic quicksand of Tim and Eric.
Many shows have tried to emulate Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s unconventional style and alternative brand, but they’re still the masters of this form. Through the years, Tim and Eric’s storytelling has evolved, whether it’s on the spin-off Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule, their nihilistic anthology series, Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories, or on their separate endeavors, but they’ve never felt that removed from their Awesome Show universe. The duo has kept busy with regular Tim and Eric tours through the years. This year, the team pulled off a 10-year anniversary tour to commemorate the occasion.
As a testament to the intense fandom that Tim and Eric have cultivated for over a decade, this special actually aired at their anniversary tour. In cooperation with the audience, it remained under wraps. But now it is finally time to rejoice, as this loving, disturbing tribute to Tim and Eric’s enduring friendship and comedy is ready to be unleashed on all the Chippys and pep-peps out there!
During its genesis, Tim and Eric self-described the series as “the nightmare version of television.” That feeling became increasingly more prevalent through the show’s five seasons. By the time the series reached their final, most sinister “Season Cinco,” it felt like the sketch show had fully crossed over into the Lynchian dark realm that it was so often flirting with. Now, in this honorary “sixth season,” the transformation is fully complete.
Yes, this is still deeply, awkwardly funny material, but it’s also the darkest the sketch show has ever been. Even the show’s jovial theme song can’t play without footage of strangers screaming in agony interrupting the broadcast and infecting the narrative.
With an “event” of this sort of significance behind it, Tim and Eric could have gone in a number of directions with this special. The whole thing could have been treated like a giant joke in itself. However, the duo goes down a remarkably safe direction, but it is incredibly gratifying to the audience. This is essentially just 22 minutes of fan service, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Even though Awesome Show finished its run back in 2011, none of the humor has missed a beat. It might be ten years since this absurd experiment has started, but it literally feels like this could have been filmed a week after “Season Cinco” was over.
I think most of Tim and Eric’s audience would have been perfectly fine if this special was simply a collection of chaos with no narrative holding it together. Instead there’s the most basic of conflicts in play.
Tim’s Tae Kwan Doo ceremony conflicts with Eric’s Tai Chish ceremony and so what are the two to do? The episode’s plot banks on the simple, dependable premise of Tim and Eric being in a friendly competition with each other that puts their bond to the test. It’s the bare bones storyline that Awesome Show’s greatest episodes have banked on (“Dads,” “Rascals,” “Origins,” “Tennis”), while also underlining the show’s strong theme of friendship. Tim and Eric pulling off some complicated bank heist or trying to save the world, while eventful, would feel disingenuous to the show. This isn’t about big spectacles, it’s about two friends being idiots together and that energy is clear from frame one.
“Awesome 10 Year Anniversary Version” plays like an Awesome Show’s greatest hits in a lot of ways. Classic staples from the series are back, like David Liebe Hart, more of Pierre and his dad-hungry antics, and thankfully another dose of the Uncle Muscle Hour with Casey (who seems to be holding up great post-resurrection) and his brother. There’s another installment of “Brule’s Rules” even though the events of Check It Out! say that good ol’ Stevie should be locked up in prison at the moment. Plus, many of the same recurring “extras” and supporting cast that have filled up their commercials and material in the past are back as well.
There are also plenty of other welcome faces, like the return of Will Forte’s deeply damaged Will Grello (although it’s the weakest of his appearances, in my opinion) or learning that B.M. Fhartz is still making flawed scatologically-based products. “Spagett’s 10th Annual Spooktacular” is probably one of the better takes on the show’s many returning characters. The world seems to have moved on in the years since the prank-centric character was last seen. The sketch takes a wonderfully aggressive turn and it contains some of the best material from the whole special. The people being pranked who are immune to Spagett’s “comedy” are the surrogates for every person who’s never laughed at Tim and Eric. Their portrayal here is a reminder that Tim and Eric are smarter than so much of their material and that part of the gag here is that they’re making fun of this infantile style of humor.
Another popular recurring sketch, the Mahanahan Child Clown Outlet, returns and it’s bigger and more upsetting than ever. The latest offering of Steve Mahanahan is allowed to reflect on the dark turns that have befallen the Mahanahan family through the years. There’s definitely a dark energy coursing through the erratic greenscreened insanity. The consistent air horn-infused broadcasting of “Behind Close Doors, Do What You Like” is straight-up unsettling, too. Following this up shortly after with the terrifying karaoke video, “Spaghetti Again” is also a bold move. The performances there are extremely real and unnerving and God bless them for that.
This special is even sure to include old recurring non-sequiturs like “Morning Meditation” and “Video Match: A Dating Service” as knowing nods to this faithful audience. A classic Awesome Show episode would include these segments, so of course they’re here, too. The special goes out of its way to capture that old Awesome Show feeling right down to the smallest detail. Additionally, the new ground that the episode explores is a lot of fun. “Barry’s Stems” with Barry Stem is certainly a strange inclusion for the show, but it’s a fun slice of weirdness. Frankly, it played better for me than the “Tiny ‘Ghini” musical interlude, even if that song is still burrowing deep into my brain.
“Awesome 10 Year Anniversary Version” might not have necessarily been needed, especially with these guys still turning out plenty of new content, but it’s something that I’m very glad that we have. Truly the only blind spots I can think of here is that there was no Tairy Greene, James Quall, or Ben Hur, but Grello and Brule are still worthy substitutes. The fact that the whole thing goes out on a fitting tribute to the late Richard Dunn is also especially sweet (another special set in Dunderland is needed ASAP). This is a gift from Tim and Eric to their fans. Enjoy it, and here’s to ten more years of Tim and Eric!