BY ARTHUR SHKOLNIK High-budget comedy acts are a dying breed of entertainment these days, and those that remain are few and far in between, but this November has been an exceptionally good month for Philly comedy, with the week-long Philly SketchFest having closed out on the 14th and now, the day before Thanksgiving, former Temple University Film students and Adult Swim all-stars, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim appeared at the Trocadero to celebrate an early Chrimbus as part of their fourth nationwide live tour “The Tim and Eric Awesome Tour Chrimbus Spectacular!” with 30 shows taking place in 30 cities in 30 days.
Chrimbus, a holiday invented by the dynamic comedy duo and celebrated on December fifth (with a one-hour Tim and Eric Awesome Show special on Adult Swim) is dedicated to the spirit of receiving. It’s that special time of year when Winter Man comes to inspect your Chrimbus bush to make sure it’s not messy and dry – if your bush is nice, trim, and wet, you just might receive a present.
The festivities began with the clumsy antics of stand-up comedian Neil Hamburger, who came out looking very antique in a bowtie tuxedo and thickly framed glasses. He frailly inched his way across the stage to the microphone, and following a series of guttural croaks and moans, finally blurted out “Any blacks in the audience? What about Jew’s? Any Jews? What about German’s? Watch out Jews, you’re outnumbered!”
Most of the jokes managed to be both offensive and humorous without even needing a punch line. The bad taste continued to ferment as he carried on in a quick-fire style:
“What does America call a poor soul that has been diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome and Down Syndrome? Robin Williams.”
“Why did Justin Bieber jerk off on a hot fudge sundae? Because he can’t jerk off on his fan’s ‘til he’s 18.”
“How do you stop Carlos Santana from molesting your children? You put a guitar in his hands.”
The uncouth performance proceeded to the sound of hysterical tear-drenched laughter as he posing questions like:
“What’s the same between Brett Michael’s and Terry Shiavo? Both are completely unlovable.”
“Why did god send Terry Schiavo to Hell? For the sin of sloth.”
“What do you call a group of sad, depressed, despondent, demoralized, broken-hearted, emotionally and financially bankrupt, black men, carrying a coffin down a long wispy road? The Jackson Five.”
A heckler who knew the act and tried to beat Hamburger to his own punch lines was, in classic Neil Hamburger fashion, absolutely torn apart with a barrage of seemingly tourette-induced insults: “Swine! Piglet! Cocksucker! Vermin! Speak your comments into a penis!”
Hamburger’s vulgar and controversial act single-handedly proved that something can be so wrong that it’s right, and so bad it’s good. As he bowed, spilling his drink all over himself, Hamburger blurted out his well-known saying, “That’s my life!” and continued with his routine, stating he found a new website which can easily find and identify all of the sexual rapists within one’s vicinity – “It’s called Match.com. Some of you in the audience are from the Match.com crowd. I can tell from the beady eyes.”
At this point a recording of David Liebe Hart appeared on a massive projector screen to the sound of bass-thumping techno as he quickly reviewed the show’s rules. “Rule number one: If you have to go to the bathroom, just go in your pants, and don’t miss a second of the show. Rule number two: If you left your coats at the coat check, you made a big mistake – you never get your coats back,” and among others, “no belching in a beautiful girl’s face.” Smoke poured from the stage as a movie announcer’s voice introduced the main event. “Do you feel that? That rumbling deep down in you gullet? Is it butterflies? Is it diarrhea? Is it the anticipation of seeing one of the greatest live show’s of all time?!” The crowd went ballistic as Tim and Eric appeared on stage looking like orange-faced oompa-loompas, wearing sparkling gold vests and teal pants up to their armpits [SEE above], waving and smiling as if delivering a greeting from another planet, acting oblivious to their own awkwardness.
In the spirit of Chrimbus, the twosome jumped into synchronized singing and dancing with the projection screen behind them featuring footage of back-up dancers with anxious facial expressions. The song and dance for, “What Am I Gonna Get? (for Chrimbus)” was undeniably and purposefully lame – a steadfast theme of their entire act, which could be viewed as either a kid’s show for adults or an adult show with unsettlingly childish segments.
“This is such a beautiful Philly crowd – let’s give them an early Chrimbus present right now!” said Tim, as the pair threw packets of fried shrimp into the crowd.
“How about I give you your Chrimbus present on stage right now?” said Eric as he brought out a massive seven foot tall wrapped box, which Tim opened suspensefully. Out popped Eric, in a skin tight, flesh toned suit with an obscenely massive dong hanging between his legs. “I give you the gift of my naked body. Happy Chrimbus!”
It was at this point both Tim and Eric began closing out the show – keep in mind they’ve been on stage for approximately 15 minutes. “Thanks for coming guys, make sure you hit the merch booth on your way out.” The stage lights dimmed and the crew started cleaning up. Some people patiently laughed to themselves while others were visibly pensive and confused. Tim and Eric finally reappeared on stage outfitted in their hip hop personas, Jim and Derrick, who proceeded to pull two guys from the audience to take part in a wet t-shirt contest. The volunteers ended up getting a sharp, concentrated, unpredictable blast of foam directly to the face while Tim and Eric sang “drain dem nuts.” Needless to say the foam-faced volunteers were completely humiliated – a theme which repeated itself throughout the show.
Among the skits was a commercial for the Pasta Bear, a plush Teddy Bear gift for Chrimbus “filled to the brim with fresh Italian-style pasta” that needs to be boiled and put in the microwave to “kill any remaining bacteria,” then “gutted with a hunting knife” to remove the pasta. The skit ends with a woman making sloppy, realer than real chewing and slurping sounds that had my stomach churning in revulsion.
Another running gag was that Worf, the Star Trek character played by Michael Dorn, was contracted to make an appearance as part of the show, but pulled out at the last minute, leaving Tim and Eric with a massive black hole in their budget filled with now useless Star Trek crap. To make matters worse, his appearance fee was non-recoverable and he was paid a full advance.
Instead of getting mad, Tim and Eric got even with a series of Worf jokes throughout the show, my personal favorite being Zach Galifianakis’s “Worf Memory,” a segment in which he reminisces about the time he brought his son Tucker to Worf’s house and the the 17 year old boy drowned in Worf’s pool. “He said he just turned his back, but I know the truth – Worf killed my son. We buried him in Worf’s yard that afternoon. I can’t stay mad at him, though,” Galifianakis said “after all, he got me my first acting job as Quark on Deep Space Nine. The moral lesson here is: If your children get into a horrible accident, and die, you can turn it into employment.”
In a fashion reminiscent of Conan O’ Brien’s “Clutch Cargo” routine, where an image of a celebrity has a moving mouth superimposed on top of it, another segment featured Worf’s disembodied head on the screen,. “I gotta wear this stupid mask to get any recognition. I go shopping and no one says ‘hi’ to me. It’s bullshit.”
The audience went crazy for a skit called “Celery Man” featuring Paul Rudd running a computer program which featured multiple Rudd identities performing various dance moves as he keyed in different sequences. This was funny, but I have no idea why.
I would say the most cringe-worthy skit was the “Cinco Food Tube” which featured two men eating at a restaurant; one explains to the other how simple it is to use the food tube. First, you have all of your teeth pulled out. Then, the tube is shoved down the throat and into the esophagus. A hole is then drilled into the table to brace the food processor. Dinner is then poured into a liquefier, along with a thick pink softening paste; the tube, connected to his mouth, fills with the green ooze that was once his dinner, as the friend watches, licking his lips. This was really, really disturbing – mission accomplished.
Tim and Eric then came out dressed like the Blues Brothers with jars of Terminix holstered at their sides, calling them “family safe bug pumps.” “Who wants to see me get rid of all the bugs in Eric’s mouth and not kill my friend?” After spraying Eric’s mouth, they both then began to “spray the audience for bugs,” even spritzing people sitting up in the second floor balcony. Following this, Eric briefly dropped his stage persona, saying “I gotta do this every night. It’s fucked up.”
They then sang through a medley of songs including Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine,” Joan Osbourne’s “What If God Was One of Us,” Smash Mouth’s “All-Star,” and “Dude Looks Like a Lady,” set to images of butch women, and ending with a photo of Aerosmith in full pout.They then began singing another song – a corporate medley – whoring out to everyone imaginable, from Terminix and Walgreens to Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
The show, up to this point, has been without question all over the place, never giving the audience anything even close to what might be expected – and then out came Pusswhip Gangbang, Tim and Eric’s acid rock parody band, with high energy and hype for the high-spirited crowd. “Everybody say puss! Everybody say whip! Everybody say pusswhip!” The audience, hanging on every word, interjected on command. “That was pretty shitty guys,” Eric said, once again making every participant feel like an idiot.
The duo changed wardrobe for the seventh time, putting on cowboy hats, as Eric switched out his cowbell for a pair of bongos. “How many of you go to Temple University?” they asked the cheering crowd. “How many of you live in South Philly? I love the South! New Orleans is great! Who here has been to New Orleans for a business convention?!” Pusswhip Gangbang got the crowd moving with an energetic song called “Jambalaya,” which was basically a recipe set to song, with Eric soulfully interjecting with “don’t forget about the shrimp!” For something so weird, and considering the purposefully poor quality of some of the other songs they performed, the musicianship was surprisingly solid and precise. It was at this point an emotionally crazed female fan standing next to me began screaming at the top of her lungs, “I love you Eric! I want to make love to you, Eric!” forcing me to take a few steps back and watch from a safer distance.
Tim and Eric very insistently demanded everyone turn around so they were facing away from the stage while the band made a slight sound adjustment; surprisingly, a solid 70 percent of the room actually complied to the extremely unnatural request. Once set up, Eric pulled a guy and girl from the audience onto the stage and positioned them facing and holding one another for a slow dance. “This will be just like your Senior Prom. Remember Senior Prom, where you lost your virginity?” he asked the girl. “You, not so much,” he said to the guy. They then pulled another girl onto the stage and had her kneel and face the crowd. “You’re the replacement in case one of them doesn’t work out, but don’t you dare move until you’re called upon to perform or I’m gonna smash you in the head with this guitar,” Tim warned threateningly. Watching the girl and guy stiffly swaying back and forth to the music was uncomfortably funny. After the song ended Eric exclaimed they were “a disgrace” and “the worst dancers they’ve had all year.”
Tim began picking out a soulful guitar solo full of long wailing bends, treating the guitar as an extension of his crotch while Eric crawled towards him and started to lick and suck the head of his instrument.
Tim and Eric kept their audience in perpetual stitches by making nonsensical jokes and acting as if they were completely serious, or insulting the undoubtedly masochistic fans; just like the show, the comedy was hit or miss, with about a 70% ratio of miss. That awkwardness (somehow) works to their advantage as a very powerful tool in their comedic arsenal, leaving me saying to myself “wow, that was really funny… but why?”
A massive, transparent, cylindrical prop was pulled out onto the stage – halfway through saying to myself “I wonder what that is,” I realized they had just pulled a giant bong out onto the stage. Eric leaned down and shoved his head into the opening, inhaling deeply and filling the cylinder and eventually the entire room with thick, pungent smoke, after which the pair ripped into Deep Purple-esque guitar licks.
After the song ended they reappeared on the stage with multiple black and white beach balls, which within seconds were flying around the room. A deeply focused Tim and Eric divided their attention between playing through another song and kicking stray beach balls back into the crowd for the rest of the set.
As the show closed out, the duo dropped their act and endearingly thanked the audience. “We used to come here all the time when we lived in Philly. We want to thank this sold-out Troc crowd for coming out to see the show. I went to my first concert ever here; and the person that drove me there when I was 14 was my dad, and my dad is here right here right now – everybody say ‘what’s up Mr. Wareheim,’” said Eric, as the crowd echoed his words.
Anyone who has seen the end of an episode of Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show was in for a very special private treat – Tim’s father, Richard Heidecker, Mr. Absolutely himself, was also in the crowd, and gave show goers an emphatic “ab-so-lutely!” In a close-knit communal spirit, Tim led the entire audience in singing “rip-diddle-ip-dip-dip-dip it’s your birthday” to Mr. Neil Hamburger, who turned 43 at midnight.
Before closing the show, Tim and Eric took a picture of the Philly audience. “Okay, on three, everybody freak out!” Even people in the very back of the room began screaming and waving their hands like maniacs. “Okay, one more. It’s a slow shutter, so freak out, but don’t move.” You could hear a pin drop as everybody froze their bodies while still exuding that same energy and excitement. The show closed out to the sounds of whistling and the churning of bong water blaring on the speakers. Coming out of this show, I found describing what I saw to be a near-impossible feat, but eventually realized that’s probably how I was supposed to feel. One thing is for certain – the level of unity among all of the fans was truly amazing, as was the fact that something so off-color and strange brought everyone so close together, even if it was just for one night.
After all, when it comes right down to it isn’t that what Chrimbus is really all about?