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June 16, 2016 8:17 AM   Subscribe

A recent profile in, of all places, Bloomberg Businessweek heaped praise on the innovative business model of Tim & Eric’s blooming comedy production company, Abso Lutely Productions — but only dipped a hesitant toe into the actual comedy itself. The profile appraised the comedians’ zeitgeist-establishing sketch show, Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, with what certainly sounds like a dismissal: “The editing was shaky, the acting was worse, the story lines were threadbare, the lighting and music were epileptic.” ...These surprisingly unflattering moments within supposedly flattering reviews confuse me because, as a pretty dedicated fan... I don’t see anything reflected in the reviews that I actually enjoy about the original work. I see additional, thoughtful, layers in the work of Tim & Eric, but I’ve never seen anybody try to articulate that thoughtfulness. posted by Potomac Avenue (7 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
This is good stuff and has made me appreciate them in a way I didn't before. This thing, though:

Still, I think it’s fair to say that the Substitute Teacher sketch has a relatively narrow/pinpointed target. Does it mock or point beyond anything other than the substitute teacher? Not that I see.

There's a pretty obvious white culture "black names are dumb/funny and don't make sense" prejudice being skewered here as a specific example of a broader racist condescension going on. Given how good his analysis of T&E is, I'm kind of surprised he missed that.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:42 AM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Tim and Eric are comedy auteurs. I'm too a-skeered to re-watch some of their grosser sketches, but it's impossible for me NOT to enjoy their love for the absurd and the blackest, darkest corners of comedy.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:01 AM on June 16, 2016

I always felt T&E built on the foundation of Mr. Show of satirizing narrative setups and applied it to production formats. To me they're saying "there are all these tried and tested ways to do these shows/commercials/sitcoms/music videos. We're not touching the formats. But what if some individuals with more ambition than talent found their way in front and behind the camera? What would that be like? What if a commercial is 100% form correct but the actual product is an abomination?" The VHS corporate video look they love so much is a great example of that aesthetic: a very unique mix of charm and cringe that comes from witnessing how hard these people tried to pull it off while being totally in over their heads. Regular office folk trying to act, the editor going overboard with the effects while neglecting to actually cut out stuff that shouldn't be there, etc.

The only exception that comes to mind is the Jim and Derrick show episode, because that just almost falls short at satire. Some 90s shows were THAT bad, even worse. Can't think of a better example of Poe's Law.
posted by infinitelives at 11:55 AM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

I didn't realize how large their stable of shows is, looks like I have some comedy to catch up on. I loved the vastly under-appreciated Tom Goes To the Mayor. Tim & Eric show was a little hit or miss for me, but when it hit it hit hard. Nathan For You makes me cry actual tears of laughter, does anyone know if a new season is in the works?
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 1:43 PM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

What if a commercial is 100% form correct but the actual product is an abomination?

Exactly. That's what I adore about Tim and Eric. They understand better than just about any other sketch program that real commercials are always completely earnest in their intention to make a sale. So no matter how outwardly ironic, T&E parodies are always earnestly trying to spin terrible products. The execution might play on the clumsiness and ineptitude of low-budget advertising, but like real ads do, their parody commercials always stay true to the one golden law of marketing: this product is the answer.

An ineffective sketch parody will go for quick laughs by having cutaways of the product not working, or people reacting negatively to the product. They forget that immutable law. For instance: as brilliant as Tina Fey is, to me the "Annuale" birth control sketch fails as a parody, because it doesn't try to spin the horrible side effects into positives, like an ad always would, or at least downplay them as "not a big deal."

In a Tim and Eric parody the product always works - it's just absolute shit. It's difficult to use and it satisfies a need that doesn't exist. But the ad always believes in itself. (For what it's worth, my favorite example: The Sleepwatching Chair, "a practical way to watch your friend sleep.")
posted by joechip at 1:55 PM on June 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think Awesome Show would've totally freaked me out if I had watched it as a kid (even though obviously it isn't intended for minors) not because of the awfulness but because of that earnestness. There's no "/s" at the end, no wink to put you at ease. My mind would be crying "No, no, this is horrible, why are they selling this, isn't anyone else seeing how dangerous this is?" Which is amazing because... again, it's a familiar format, a familiar presentation, played straight. And there's this twinge of feeling trapped in the Twilight Zone, where you're the only one who's seeing it as something wrong, because what's going on screen isn't letting on, it's so confident as it's falling apart.

And it triggers certain questions, you know? Like how conditioned you'd be to interpret a message due to its presentation rather than its contents. Or that maybe future generations will be dismayed, looking back at today's media, at what we consider our normal?
posted by infinitelives at 2:33 PM on June 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

The one thing I remember about the Tim and Eric movie is all of those THX Production Vanity Logos at the beginning.
posted by ovvl at 5:49 PM on June 16, 2016

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