Decker: Unclassified’s Tim Heidecker: ‘Watching failure is amusing’

The incompetent critic of On Cinema is now the hero of his own series playing a rightwing, narcissistic spy very badly, and gaining an ardent online audience

In the Adult Swim web series On Cinema, actor, writer and comedian Tim Heidecker plays himself, sort of. He and Gregg Turkington take the guise of increasingly grandiose film critics. Indeed, the more movies that Heidecker watched, the more he realized he could make them himself only better.

My character is sort of this right-wing narcissist, real bit of a bad guy. A mental patient, said Heidecker, the man, not the character. In On Cinema he began to make this show and it was an extension of his political beliefs and his own sense of greatness.

Thus was born Decker, a series starring Heidecker as Heidecker as Jack Decker a hero for America, a man, an ideal, an American legend. What started as a spin-off of On Cinema soon overtook the original, becoming its own online entity with an ardent fan base.

While Heidecker and Turkington cant agree on what season of Decker it is, when Decker: Unclassified premieres it will be making the leap from the web to the television, airing on Adult Swim. As the show graduated from the web, Heidecker admitted that they had to make a few changes to the format. We kind of upped the production value to a place where its still unacceptable for television, but captivating and entertaining to watch how much time and effort must have gone into the making of this.

Despite the fact that the show has a few seasons-worth of backstory, its easy to jump into Decker without needing to know the intricacies of the relationship between special agent Jonathan Kington and president Jason Davidson or why Dracula was in an action show. We encourage people to watch the whole series and see it progress, but we try to figure out a way to make it so that anyone can jump in at any point, said Heidecker. Each episode is its own little story, its own little adventure, but the series has an arc, so it kind of acts as a miniseries.

Jack Decker, the impressively incompetent super spy, is a resoundingly patriotic citizen and the upcoming season pulls a lot from both #TCOT talking points (the conservatives of Twitter) and Donald Trumps presidential campaign, which Heidecker is happy to see continue long enough for their jokes to still feel relevant. I was worried is this going to feel like old news by the time June comes around, and it certainly does not feel like old news right now, said Heidecker. So if theres any silver lining to the current state of things

While the show is ripped from the headlines in a sense and has a deep political streak, Heidecker doesnt take it all too seriously. Its a reflection of the year we live in, said Heidecker. But at the same time its very silly. But I think it is funnier and stupider and more enjoyable if you share the point of view that somebody like Donald Trump is a joke. If you believe in him and think hes the answer, then you might not pick up on some of the jokes were telling. (He still wants you to tune in, though.)

Decker fans tend to take the straight-faced satire very seriously, though, and take the jokes online, posting images of Jack Decker in front of a bald eagle on Twitter. Theres just a lot of irony and sarcasm that goes into being a fan of Decker, said Heidecker. Its like a world that exists outside of the show thats almost as interesting as the show.

honey (@wiIdhoney) June 17, 2016

Ready for season 3 of #Decker !!Jack Decker has inspired us to protect our British values! @timheidecker

In the new season, fans of the series will recognize returning characters like Joe Estevez who plays President Davidson, which is particularly apt casting since Estevez is the real life brother of Martin Sheen, who famously played President Bartlett on The West Wing. Its a subtle form of humor that requires its audience to have a broad field of knowledge, but once you get the joke, you cant help but laugh. This complex but understated comedy is par for the course for much of Heideckers body of work on shows like Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! or the oddly endearing Check It Out! with Dr Steve Brule which stars John C Reilly as doctor of life.

On Decker, the quiet humor is most evident in the fact that the performances are truly bad, which is completely by design. Not to give away too many trade secrets, but weve definitely manipulated things. Weve rewritten scripts the night before so that actors who might have learned their lines too well, then well give them new pages in the morning so that they arent as comfortable going through it, said Heidecker. I write a lot of my dialogue, but I dont look at it for a while, so that I kind of forget it, so you have a lot of those umms and uhhs those pauses that are just killers.

As for why Heidecker loves bad performances so much, he considers it a very philosophical question about comedy, but it seems to boil down to schadenfreude.

Theres something about watching failure that is amusing, he says. Theres something about audacity, too. About someone trying something and failing, based on their own narcissism or their own image of themselves. So something like The Room that we all loved, by Tommy Wiseau the 2003 film with a cult reputation as the worst ever made It is so funny because you see this guy trying, swinging and missing, you know? We try to capture that and recreate that in the best way possible.

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