TRANSCRIPT Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Tim Heidecker on the Craziest Day of his Entire Career

The Craziest F**king Day of my Entire Career is a segment where we let some of our favorite people tell us the wildest stories from their long and storied time in showbiz. This time it’s Tim Heidecker, a comedian, actor and creator of intricate worlds in which he often plays a fictionalized version of himself. One of these alter-Tim’s is Special Agent Jack Decker, a spy that could easily be the illegitimate spawn of Trump and Chuck Norris. He’ll tell us about a time when this character for his show Decker was just a little too on the nose, just a little too close for comfort.

Guests: Tim Heidecker

Transcript

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Gentle, trilling music with a steady drumbeat plays under the dialogue.

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Speaker: Bullseye with Jesse Thorn is a production of MaximumFun.org and is distributed by NPR. [Music fades out.]

jesse thorn

I’m Jesse Thorn. It’s Bullseye!

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“Huddle Formation” from the album Thunder, Lightning, Strike by The Go! Team plays. A fast, upbeat, peppy song. Music plays as Jesse speaks, then fades out.

jesse

Time, now, for a segment that we call The Craziest [censored] Day of My Entire Career—where we let some of our favorite people tell us the wildest stories from their long careers in showbusiness. Next up, Tim Heidecker. Tim is, of course, half of the very funny comedy duo, Tim and Eric—a partnership that has spawned four television shows, countless tours, and a feature film. [Music fades out.] Also, this song—which they proposed as a commercial jingle for Rolos.

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Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim: [chanting rhythmically with no musical accompaniment] Rolo Tony brown town. Check yourself at the door. Gimme some more, gimme some more, gimme some more of your Rolos!

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jesse

Tim has also kept himself busy with other pursuits. As an actor, he appeared in Bridesmaids and Jordan Peele’s Us, among others. He also hosts Adult Swim’s On Cinema at the Cinema, alongside Gregg Turkington. It’s ostensibly a movie review show where he and Gregg play kind of a low-budget, fictionalized version of themselves reviewing the week’s latest movies. Only, in its 11 seasons, Tim has nearly killed himself with New Age medicine, overdosed on nutritional vaping systems, performed in corny rock and electronic music acts, and done all kinds of other crazy stuff. His character is also the star and creator of another show called Decker—kind of a 24-style spy thriller with a much lower budget. You’ll hear more about that, later. Most recently, on On Cinema, Tim ran for district attorney in the county of San Bernardino, California. That campaign is the subject of the new movie, Mr. America. In it, Tim dawns a shlubby suit and solicits real people to vote for a bizarre, somewhat reactionary, ultimately doomed campaign.

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[Muffled sounds of street noise, in the background—cars, people, and other ambient sounds.] Tim: I’m coming out here, talking to voters. Speaker 1: Ooh, okay. For DA? Tim: Yes, for district attorney. I’ve said that three times, now.

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jesse

When we asked Tim about the craziest [censored] day of his career, he took us back a few years. Almost three, to be exact. Take it away, Tim.

tim

Hi, this is Tim Heidecker, and this is the craziest [censored] day of my entire career. The day I’m thinking of begins the night before. It is November 8th, 2016. We’re shooting a television show called Decker.

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Electric rock music fades in.

tim

It’s a political satire, action show from the On Cinema universe where I play Jack Decker, who’s basically—sort of—a cartoon character of a right-wing, Trump-supporting [censored]. [Music fades out.] With a little bit of Steven Segal and Chuck Norris thrown in there.

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Plunky xylophone music plays.

tim

We are following the election quite closely. So, everybody in the country, of course, is kind of wondering what’s gonna happen and we were a bit terrified of Donald Trump becoming elected and had spent the good part of the year kind of satirizing and lampooning him. But also, you know, recognizing him as a complete joke and a horrible guy.

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Music: Bright, suspenseful music plays quietly behind the dialogue. Jack Decker: Do you wanna save this country or not? Speaker 1: I’m sorry, Decker, but my hands are tied! Jack: Alright. We’re gonna be doing this the hard way, then.

tim

And as the day was getting done, you know, we’re still trying to stay focused on the job, but we were watching the news. And as the day was coming to an end, the polls were starting to go a different way, or—sort of—the news was starting to go a little bit of a different way, and we all—kind of—left for the night and said, [nervously] “See you tomorrow!” And everybody had this look on their face like, “I need to get home. I need to [laughing] get home and be with my family, right now!” We weren’t sure. I wasn’t sure what was going on. And I went to my friend’s house and we watched as things, sort of, just went the other way. And, you know, and then about an hour after leaving the set, he had basically won. A couple hours later. You know, it was very shocking and very scary, and I went to sleep, and I remember waking up in the middle of the night and sobbing. I haven’t cried in a long time. I don’t know why I need to [chuckles] make that distinction to the audience. [Gruffly] “I don’t cry, but I cried that night.” But, no, I did—I woke up crying. And then I went back to sleep. And the next day, I went into work and that day we were shooting—and I promise you I do not make this up. It was on the schedule. It had been on the schedule for a few weeks—was Jack Decker—it was set in the future, and Jack Decker had become the president of the United States. And the first scene of the day was Jack Decker, in the oval office, with his feet up on the desk, with a eCigar—because it was the future and we had to, you know, have a fake thing where he was sitting up there smoking a cigar— [Audio begins to fade in underneath Tim’s words, too soft to make out.] —with his feet up on the desk and barking orders to his assistant.

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[Futuristic, sci-fi beeping sounds.] Music: Dramatic string music slowly fades in. Jack: Our first order of business will be to eliminate the EPA and all federal organizations that have been strangling small business, all these years. We must also rebuild the military—make us the great power that we should be. The era of Davidson’s big government is over. [The sound of a phone ringing.]

tim

The way Jack Decker and Trump kind of intersect is a very simplistic, nationalistic, xenophobic point of view of the world—which is very simple and direct and—he is right every single time. There’s no room for negotiation. There’s no room for compromise or nuance. One technique we do, when we make the show, is we write a script, but I quickly forget it and don’t memorize it. And so, what happens is I try to remember what I’m supposed to say, which creates a lot of, “uuum, aaand,” and repeating and this thing that Trump does. Which is he can’t… pause. He can’t wait for a thought to come. He has to continue to create sounds, out of his mouth.

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Music: Patriotic music swells. Speaker 1: Decker, what does it say? Decker: One of these plans—plans to—is a plan for them to blow up the World Trade—the, uuh—Superbowl.

tim

[The clip continues playing quietly and fades out as he speaks.] We devised a system where I would have cue cards made of the lines and we put them far enough away so that I had to squint and I had to struggle to read what was on the, um… words. And then some words you’d, you know—if it says “worlds”, I would say “words”. And that’s another thing Trump does when he’s giving his speeches, when he reading from teleprompters—which he does very often—it—there is this appearance of him reading it for the first time in front of an audience, you know? That he has not reviewed the document that is [laughing] being read.

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Music: Dark, dramatic, operatic music. Jack: Well, son of Dracula, it’s been nice knowing you, but I’m afraid your time has come to an end. My father once told me that you were the future, but—in fact—it is America that is the future. And [clears throat]—So, son of Dracula, with a push of this n-nuclear button, your reign of terror will come—officially comes to an end. [A crash of cymbals as the music swells.]

tim

Yeah, in the moment where I’m sitting there—it’s probably 9AM on a Wednesday. [Music fades out.] In a kind of ratty soundstage with an oval office desk and a American flag, and the rest of it being greenscreen [laughs] because it’s such a cheap show. I tell this story for this segment because it is those moments in life where you are completely aware of how you will remember this moment, for a long time. And it’s a significant moment, in your life and in the country’s life. You know? 9/11 would be the other example, in my life, ‘cause I was in New York and I saw that go down, literally. You know. There was like, “Oh wow!” It’s one of those moments where we talk about the simulation being a little too canony. A little too on the nose. [Music begins to fade in.] You’re like—“Oh, really programmers? You’ve got me playing the president on this day? The person I’m making fun of, like, that just happened to be the—how things go?” It was very self-aware of how, kinda, nutty this situation was.

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tim

You have to understand, it’s a small show. It’s a small crew. We’re all very close. Also, we have incredibly creative, artistic, young men and women. And a lot of women that were very, very shaken and upset. And a few of them—our costume designer came in, was crying. [Music fades out.] She came over and, you know, we had a hug and I said, you know, “Well.” You know. I tried to—I was just trying to put it out of the room, a little bit, and not focus too much on it, ‘cause we had a job to do that day. But, you know, it was in the room and everybody was just, like, shocked and scared. Because, you know, there seem to be real consequences to this, now. You know? [Laughing.] There was now a guy who was promising to do all sorts of stuff that was gonna, potentially, affect a lot of these people’s lives. And, um—not one to give speech, but there I was, sitting behind the oval office, dressed up as Jack Decker, and I could tell that there was no way were gonna get into this day without at least, kind of, cleansing the room or something. And so, I kind of gave this little motivational speech, choking back tears and just saying, “You know, I know—I feel the same way as you guys do. I’m really upset. And I’m scared, in a lot of ways, and disappointed. But our job, in the past few weeks and going forward and today is to make fun of this mother[censored]. You know? And goof on the insanity of it and satirize it and go hard on it. And try to do it in an entertaining way.” But we kind of rallied everybody up and said, “We’re actually here to do this thing.”

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tim

In direct reaction to the—many of the things he said and what he’s potentially planning on doing. We had a nice, big clap and a [laugh] team moving—let’s move forward and get through this day. And we got through the day. And I think I was proud to have, at least, kind of recognized a moment to not just, kind of, ignore the moment but to acknowledge it and do something about it. Luckily everything turned out great. And we’re, you know—I was completely wrong and everything’s going so well that I can’t [laughs]—I have to look back with much regret that we ever shed any tears.

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The piano music swells.

jesse

Tim Heidecker on the craziest [censored] day of his entire career. His new movie, Mr. America, is available to rent or download on pretty much any platform. You can check it out there. [Music comes to a resolution and ends.]

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jesse

That’s the end of another episode of Bullseye. Bullseye is produced at MaximumFun.org headquarters, overlooking MacArthur Park in beautiful Los Angeles, California—where my producer Kevin saw a kid take a giant palm frond, that was on the ground, and throw it in the trash. Helping to keep our park beautiful. What’s the generation after Millennials called? I don’t remember. But they’re good folks. The show is produced by speaking into microphones. Our producer is Kevin Ferguson. Jesus Ambrosio is our associate producer. We get help from Casey O’Brien. Our production fellows are Jordan Kauwling and Melissa Dueñas. Our interstitial music is by Dan Wally, also known as DJW. Our theme song is by The Go! Team. Thanks to them and their label, Memphis Industries, for letting us use it. And there are nearly 20 years of Bullseye and Sound of Young America interviews available for free, on our website, at MaximumFun.org. You can also find many of them in your favorite podcast app by subscribing to Bullseye. I recommend, for example, the time Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim came on the show. This was back when I used to tape it in my apartment. And they just wanted to talk about jazz. Just talked about jazz, the whole time. It was a lot of fun. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Just search for Bullseye with Jesse Thorn. You can keep up with the show, there. And I think that’s about it. Just remember: all great radio hosts have a signature sign off.

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Speaker: Bullseye with Jesse Thorn is a production of MaximumFun.org and is distributed by NPR. [Music fades out.]

About the show

Bullseye is a celebration of the best of arts and culture in public radio form. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring you in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.

Bullseye has been featured in Time, The New York Times, GQ and McSweeney’s, which called it “the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world.” Since April 2013, the show has been distributed by NPR.

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