Be-Be-Beaver Boys!

Curator's Note

Ever since Andy Kaufman performed his notorious “Mighty Mouse” routine on the first episode of Saturday Night Live, avant-comedy has relentlessly pursued a terminal aesthetic of sophisticated incompetence. How to be funny by being unfunny? How to signify that you’re in on the joke by being oblivious to the joke? This gets harder with each generation, of course, as strategies for staging comedic incompetence become more abstract and amplified. “Beaver Boys” is a segment from Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!, currently winding up its second season on Adult Swim. Written and performed by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim (who previously appeared on Adult Swim in the Bob and Rayish Tom Goes to the Mayor), TAEASGJ is ostensibly a sketch comedy show organized around a cable access aesthetic and mentality. While Kaufman broke onto the scene like an American Idol wannabe, apparently oblivious to the fact that his “act” was so bad as to be embarrassing, Heidecker and Wareheim often explore the hilarity to be found in the self-conscious and self-reflexive laziness of contemporary comedy. Are the “Beaver Boys” winking at their “We are two wild and crazy guys” via Night at the Roxbury heritage, or are they simply an even more inelegantly rendered variation on the “two clueless white guys in identical garb wandering through a lifestyle time warp (shrimp!…and white wine!) on a desperate but of course futile quest to get laid? The entire bit is cheap, low-tech, and wholly unoriginal…and yet somehow still hilarious— despite (or perhaps because) of the slavish conformity to its tired conventions—the matching shrimp hats, the specialized (and apparently trademarked) seduction techniques, the climactic spit-take turned vomit-take. And one unexpected flash of brilliance—a shirtless beachcomber appears on scene for a wistful take on the old bull/young bull joke, suavely enjoying a single shrimp from his fanny-pack as he watches the excitable “beaver boys” frolicking on the shrimp-strewn sand. Perhaps this is where “outsider” comedy is going—every convention, from the Catskills to Kaufman, analyzed and quoted to the point that no joke is simply a joke anymore, but is instead a position-statement on comedy itself.

Comments

Jonathan Gray's picture

As you say, Jeff, the

As you say, Jeff, the inspired moment is when that dude walks down the beach. He seems like someone bemused to see such losers, but the act of eating the shrimp complicates things (or like the When Harry Met Sally “I’ll have what she’s having” moment?) — it’s like Sancho Panza flailing at some windmills himself. Whacko comedy that denies the existence of normality as in this scene seems way more funny here than does whacko comedy that holds out hope (as in the scene with the women horrified by the guys), though maybe the latter sets up the former all the better?

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