Tim Heidecker Trolls Back on New LP

Tim Heidecker Trolls Back on New LP

Catalyzed by everything from 4Chan to Adele, the comedian's songwriting side-hustle exposes toxic masculinity.

Catalyzed by everything from 4Chan to Adele, the comedian's songwriting side-hustle exposes toxic masculinity.

Text: SAMUEL ANDERSON

Tim Heidecker’s new album, What the Brokenhearted Do… has the foot-tapping sonic hallmarks of Americana—unpolished vocals waxing poetic on heartache, sprinkled with organ riffs or a bit of cowbell, conjuring the likes of Dylan or Neil Young. But where such musical everymen may have served to exalt the ubiquitous average-joe experience as gritty yet dignified, Heidecker doesn’t claim a rose-tinted vision of American life. On the contrary, Brokenhearted is the latest installment in Heidecker’s ongoing repartee with the everyman’s grotesque offspring, the alt-right nationalist, whose ire the Tim & Eric star has frequently stoked over the course of his musical and comedic career.

Long a recognizable L.A. comedy figure, recently appearing in Jordan Peele’s Us, Heidecker has fringey roots in late-night Adult Swim time-slots, which seemed to offer him and writing partner Eric Wareheim a sneak-peek at a sort of vitriol now widely associated with alt-right circles—namely sex- and gender-based hate speech. “We were aware of so-called trolls online going as far back as Tom Goes to the Mayor,” says Heidecker, referring to Tim & Eric’s gonzo predecessor, which ran from ‘04 to ‘06. “We’d play around with dressing up or gender-bending, which made us a target on [online forums like] 4Chan.”

Though known for a brand of anti-comedy layered in crude production and aloofly employed stereotypes, often to a self-obfuscating degree, Heidecker says a genuine political awakening around 2008 reinforced his desire to engage with anonymous bad actors online. “I think at this point I’ve seen the worst of what they can do,” he says. “I thought, if I can use them for [creative inspiration]—trolling the trollers in some way—then some good would have come of it.”

Tim Heidecker (courtesy: Pitch Perfect)

With two solo albums already under his belt, Heidecker, who has performed in bands since high school, had been working on new material when the catalyst for What the Brokenhearted Do… came along—on Twitter, naturally. Perhaps unappreciative of tunes like “Trump’s Pilot” or “I Am a Cuck,” the latter a rework of Simon & Garfunkel’s “I Am a Rock,” a corner of Twitter, one Heidecker ascribes to either QAnon or incels, began spreading a rumor that his wife had left him.

“I think at the time I’d already been writing songs about that general theme—not necessarily breaking up or being left, but heartbreak as a kind of [starting point]; I’ve certainly been broken up with before,” says Heidecker. “So when the big rumor started going around, I took it ran with it.”

Indeed, one need not identify as a “cuck,” a right-bred term for husbands whose wives cheat on them, in order to understand heartbreak, as Heidecker’s unlikely citation of one of music’s most popular romantics indicates. “I had also been listening to a song by Adele, I think 'When We Were Young,' at the time, which inspired me to write [some of Brokenhearted], says Heidecker. “It sounded like a song I would write.”

However folksy his delivery, Heidecker’s unflinching campaign against his alt-right nemeses, no matter their attempts at emasculation, give What the Brokenhearted Do… a singular political weight—one that heightens the everyman’s defiant averageness to blushingly confessional extremes, and that seems especially listenable ahead of the DNC primaries later this month. But don’t expect the likes of Heidecker’s “Illegal” or “Funeral Shoes” to appear in any campaign ads. “The timing of the album was unintentional; I like Elizabeth Warren, but I haven’t paid enough attention to all of the candidates,” he says. “I think it’s still too early to call.”

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