It’s been said that many comedians secretly want to be musicians and that lots of musicians actually wish they were comedians. We’ve seen enough comics awkwardly infusing acoustic guitar into their set and have endured a lifetime worth of clumsy between-song banter from lead singers through the years to give credence to that theory. However, very few artists can capably exist in both realms. Tim Heidecker is one of them.
After achieving cult comedy notoriety with shows like Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Tom Goes To The Mayor, appearing in major motion pictures like Bridesmaids and Us, and bolstering his comedic cottage industry with passion projects like On Cinema and Office Hours Live With Tim Heidecker, the actor and comedian also started earning attention and critical acclaim for his musical output by way of well-crafted albums that ably alternate from hilarious and politically-pointed (2017’s Too Dumb For Suicide) to earnest and identifiable (2019’s What The Brokenhearted Do…).
In 2020, Heidecker confronted his mounting middle-aged worries on his Fear Of Death record, then chased the album later that year with his An Evening With Tim Heidecker comedy special in which he put on a leather jacket and took cookie cutter club comics to task by imitating their hollow personas and lazy material. That special also featured the multi-faceted Heidecker bringing the show to a close by playing originals ranging from serious songs about the impending end of the world to, well, a song about drinking piss. By special’s end, the two vastly divergent artistic identities of Tim Heidecker had been fused into one force that proved it can exist, if not thrive, in either medium.
On Tuesday night, Heidecker put both of his creative likeness on full display at Turner Hall over the course of a two-hour outing that skillfully merged music and comedy (or expertly executed anti-comedy) in marvelous fashion as part of an unconventional tour that promised “The Very Good Band” and “No More Bullshit.” Before Tim Heidecker & The Very Good Band took the stage for a 75-minute performance, Milwaukee was treated to a memorable opening set by Tim Heidecker: Thought Leader Comedian.
Following a disclaimer announcing the audience was about to see “one of the most offensive comedians of all time,” Heidecker bounded onto the stage, knocking over his mic stand in the process. Once again sporting a leather jacket, slicked back (not pushed back!) hair, and a shit-eating grin, the acerbic comedian caricature channeled the tech-difficulty aspect of his special’s intro with feigned outrage directed at the sound engineer for playing the Happy Days theme song instead of “some rock and roll like Clapton.”
After berating the venue’s staff (“I’m happy to be here, but this place sucks!”), the character Heidecker created with the specific intention of lampooning hack comedians set his miscalculated sights on airing faux frustrations with the likes of Bud Light, “O’Biden,” Robin Thicke, technology in general, and social media. “Are you on TikTok? No, but I have Tic Tacs!” he said before spraying the miniature mints into the ballroom’s first few rows and eating one off the stage. The 35-minute comedy portion almost had it all: Hilariously mangled punchlines, a dyspeptic delivery, a ham-fisted ad read for Stanley Steemer that was poorly disguised as material, recurring microphone throwing fits, and the worst casino-related closer imaginable. It was terrible and it ruled. The only thing it didn’t have? Any traces of bullshit.
A few minutes after Tim Heidecker the brash comedy character made his exodus to have some “CB IPAs” in the green room, Tim Heidecker the affable bandleader in a button-down shirt took the stage with his Very Good Band in tow. After member introductions were made and a comparatively warm welcome was issued to the audience, Heidecker and company kicked things off with “When I Get Up” to set an energetic and upbeat tone that would persist for most of the performance.
In addition to his original and (mostly) serious solo offerings like “Property” and “Backwards,” Heidecker and his accompanying band lightened the mood with humor-infused musical portions. He sat behind the piano for a spell to play a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Lenny Bruce” and paused at points to comment on the absurdity of its lyrics. He covered his urine-obsessed project, The Yellow River Boys, at points as well. He even dressed up like Johnny Depp and brought out a guitar for a musical bit specifically put into the set to roast Joe Walsh. There was a perfect portioning of emotionally evocative material and musically proficient fodder included for the sake of humor. No matter the tone, the singer’s voice was excellent and The Very Good Band lived up to its name…and then some.
While both Tims mostly kept to their prepared material, Heidecker couldn’t avoid addressing the elephant (or elephants?) just outside of the room on the eve of the Republican debate at Fiserv Forum. “We put Sean Spicer on the list. Is he here?” he said between songs. Later, the added “Spice Baby is gonna come down on us for this one,” before his arena-ready rendition of “Hot Piss” closed out an eclectic and extremely enjoyably evening that showcased two different-yet-equally impressive sides of Tim Heidecker, a certified musical and comedic talent.