Throwing down the gauntlet in its opening shots, The Comedy begins with a sexlessly homoerotic dance party. Naked schlubs grind against each other to a sensual R&B soundtrack, pouring cheap beer down their pale, soft bodies, tucking their genitals between their legs. The last image before the title card is a flash of Tim Heidecker’s scrotum. The scene is devoid of sex appeal because the characters aren’t into what they’re doing. The ritual is a joke inspired by alcohol-fueled late night weirdness. The characters are governed by their sense of irony and the joke isn’t nearly as funny as they think it is.
Even The Comedy’s title is ironic. The same behavior Tim Heidecker usually employs for absurdist humor is weaponized here for a scathing indictment of a generation of scumbags whose entire personalities are affectations. Heidecker’s protagonist makes a sport out of saying things he presumably doesn’t mean. He drunkenly defends Hitler as a flirtation tactic, muses about his terminally ill father’s prolapsed anus, and loudly insults a Catholic church as his degenerate friends blow out prayer candles and roughhouse on the pews. Playing an overgrown, affluent child, Heidecker drifts through menial jobs that would suit a teenager on summer break out of boredom rather than necessity. He manipulates people with his wealth in almost Cheap Thrills levels of cruelty. He pinches a sleeping woman’s eyelids when he’s ready for her to wake. He is more toddler than man and it’s genuinely tragic when he admits that he’s 35 years old. The film doesn’t allow much room for sympathy, though, as it’s gradually revealed that he’s less of a lost, listless soul and more of a spoiled brat & racist prick.
Through a few minor signifiers, like the protagonist’s affinity for the Williamsburg neighborhood and cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, the movie specifies its exact target: the aging American hipster. This is not the broad definition of “hipster” that applies to almost anyone relatively young & discerning. It’s a very specific subsect of rich kids who speak & act exclusively through ironic detachment. It was brave of Heidecker to lend his Tim & Eric brand of humor (including longtime cronies Eric Wareheim & Gregg Turkington) to such a brutal impeachment of a group that likely overlaps with his established audience. Injecting Tim & Eric’s anti-humor into real human interactions leaves their characters looking like pampered shitheads as others blankly stare at them with disgust and exhaustion. The Comedy is a melancholy, unforgiving portrait of ironic toddler men. It’s not the kind of movie where a lesson is learned. The privileged don’t get their comeuppance. No one is punched in the mouth, even when they truly deserve it. Instead, they float on unchallenged, intoxicated, and refusing to engage with a sincere existence. Just like in real life.
The Comedy is currently streaming on Netflix.