Tim Heidecker Live! | Sun., July 31, 8 p.m.  |  The Carolina Theatre, Durham

If Tim Heidecker seems spectacularly inept at stand-up comedy when he performs at the Carolina Theatre this Saturday … well, that’s the point.

“It’s the ‘No More Bullshit’ character,” Heidecker says in a phone call with the INDY, referencing his persona from the 2020 YouTube stand-up special An Evening with Tim Heidecker. “You know, toxic male, shitty, shouldn’t be touring, shouldn’t be performing stand-up publicly. But it’s the kind of act where if you’re in the know and you are hip to the satire of it, then it becomes a really fun, exciting part of the show.”

Heidecker’s fans are used to this kind of funny-because-it’s-failing-to-be-funny comedy from his nearly two decades of TV shows, movies, and podcasts specializing in horrifyingly inept, sometimes malicious characters whose need for recognition far outweighs their talent.

In such series as Tom Goes to the Mayor, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, and the long-running On Cinema, Heidecker’s comedy specializes in awkwardness, grotesquerie, and rampant destruction wrought by people who chase fame despite their lack of understanding of technology, dealing with an audience, or basic human interaction.

The “reviews” of On Cinema’s film critics always dissolve into petty bickering that has nothing to do with the films themselves; one of Heidecker’s recurring characters on Awesome Show, Great Job! was a sweaty, crater-faced child singer named Casey Tatum who couldn’t get through an off-key song without vomiting.

“I think failure is a big component of my comedy,” says Heidecker, who is 46. “It’s sort of a core aspect of comedy itself; like, the act of seeing somebody fail can be very funny if they’re failing for selfish reasons or slipping on a banana peel, metaphorically. So, I’m drawn to that, into showing characters who we see in the world, and laughing at them and making fun of them for being the way they are.”

Given the state of the real world, Heidecker admits that “I might be coming close to a place in my life where creatively, it’s like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know if I need to keep making this statement about toxic masculinity.’ You know, to what degree it is just preaching to the choir and not really making any difference?”

“I try to do it not in a preachy way and not in a pretentious way but in a way that that can be funny on its own and have a universal comedic quality to it that you could perhaps enjoy if you didn’t necessarily agree with me on everything,” he adds.

While Heidecker’s an old pro at playing rank amateurs, attendees of his Carolina Theatre show will get a look at his more professional side in the musical second act, featuring songs from his acclaimed album High School with The Very Good Band.

“There are two sorts of sides of my personality, or my creative life, that I have been doing for years but have never traveled with and taken on the road,” Heidecker says. “And for those two things, it felt like it was time to try to mount a show together. But it works out nice because I get bored quickly as an audience member when something is just, you know, one thing. So, there’s a variety to the whole show that I think will keep you from getting bored by any one thing.”

Heidecker’s musical career is more straight-faced than his stand-up act but still veers toward the comedic, with past collaborations satirizing everything from Bob Dylan to concept albums to internet trolls. Heidecker says that his sense of humor remains a key part of his music.

“Some people might be skeptical about or hesitant about the musical side of the show, but I think the band is going to blow everybody away. I think the best compliment I saw about my new album was that somebody commented, ‘It sounds a little bit like this, it sounds a little bit like that, but to me, it sounds like Tim.’”

Heidecker hopes the show at the Carolina Theatre goes better for him than it would for his characters. “We [Heidecker and Eric Wareheim] played there last in 2020 and received this lovely statue of a bull because the show sold out, because that’s their tradition there,” he says. “And I’m hoping I can get a second bull to go with my first bull.”

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