Tom Goes to the Mayor and all the images you see in this recap are owned Warner Bros and Adult Swim
Created by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim
For every generation of comedians out there, more often than not you can trace their roots back to a specific cultural touchstone that they all seemed to grow out of. In the seventies, we had National Lampoon which gave us Harold Ramis, John Hughes, Al Jean and Mike Reiss (two of the most influential voices on The Simpsons), John Belushi, Chevy Chase, and even Bill Murray. Saturday Night Live has been around for decades, but in the eighties we got Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Norm Macdonald, Jan Hooks and several others. Hell, half of the most beloved animated shows of the nineties were created by people who started out on Ralph Bakshi’s Mighty Mouse cartoon from 1987, including John K, Bruce Timm, Jim Reardon, Rich Moore, and Andrew Stanton! I think we’re still waiting to see how this will work in the age of YouTube (The Smosh guys and FRED are probably the biggest breakout stars and yet they haven’t really penetrated the mainstream, though the Homestar Runner dudes have done well for themselves), but in the decade awkwardly referred to as THE AUGHTS we had our own generation touchstone in the form of Adult Swim.
Now obviously they haven’t gotten everything right (I still have no idea what the fuck Perfect Hair Forever is supposed to be except obnoxious) and they’ve certainly had their… shall we say problems as of late (*cough* Million Dollar Extreme *cough* Mike Lazzo *cough*), but they’ve still been the launch pad for many prominent comedy writers and show runners working today including Aaron McGruder, Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro, Adam Reed, Brendon Small, Dino Stamatopoulos, and of course… Tim & Eric. Everyone likes those two, right? Well too bad! I’m gonna start recapping one of their shows anyway!
The thing is I’m really not the world’s biggest fan of Tim & Eric and their unique brand of comedy; particularly when it comes to Awesome Show Great Job and all its subsequent spin-offs, but in the right hands their kind of humor can resonate on a shockingly deep level which is amazing considering how absurdist it can be at times. Without any semblance of structure though, such as a sketch comedy show, it tends to lose any sort of context or pathos which is what this kind of humor needs to be successful; otherwise it devolves into utter nonsense. This is why the best thing they ever did was Tom Goes to the Mayor; a heartbreaking yet uproariously humorous take on the futility of the American Dream as we follow sad and pathetic Tom Peters who makes one mistake after another in his goal to be a “Successful Entrepreneur” which isn’t helped by the constant intervention of one of the most delightful bastards in all of television in the form of The Mayor.
Now before we begin covering the show proper, let’s first find out how this all started. AHEM!
LONG AGO IN THE YEAR 2001, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim were a small time comedy duo who were basically just making shorts for their website and hoping to someday get notice. At one point, they decided to get a bit more proactive about this and started sending tapes out to comedians they liked to see if any of them will scoop them up from obscurity. Lucky for them, they managed to wrangle in Bob Odenkirk (yes, the Better Call Saul guy) and he helped them develop one of their shorts into a pitch for Adult Swim. Take note, fellow funny people! The best way to success is to pester those much more famous than you! Today, we’ll be looking at the two initial Tom Goes to the Mayor shorts; the first one that was sent to Bob Odenkirk, and the one made after he got involved with the duo.
TOM GOES TO THE MAYOR (2002)
Wow. Okay, the first thing you’ll notice right off the bat is the TERRIBLE music they used to open the short with which sounds like a harmonica slowly dying of a horrifying disease… or maybe it’s an accordion? The SECOND thing you’ll notice is just how slapdash the whole production looks. The unique look that they use for the characters is still visually distinct and interesting (it’s accomplished using the Sketch feature in Photoshop and presumably some additional tweaking to give them all that blue glow) and I guess it’s a LITTLE bit unfair to judge an amateur work against what it ultimately became later on, especially since there are already hints of what made the show so fantastic once it got picked up… but come on! How can I NOT point out how terrible these graphics are!?
Alright, so ignoring the way everything looks, what is the plot of this three minute short? Well, it’s about The Mayor played by Eric Wherhiem, and who gets visited by an entrepreneur named Tom; a man with a brilliant idea! However, this Tom in this short is very different from the one we would end up seeing in Tom Goes to the Mayor proper; not only because his name is Tom Bradly instead of Tom Peters, but because he’s also a successful business man already, albeit a somewhat mediocre one. Tom’s pitch is not all that different from the one would end up giving in an actual episode in the series (WW Lazers which is the second episode and in fact, this is basically the first draft of the opening scene) as he wants The Mayor to let him open two restaurants in the town; Skooners and Gullivers. Now apparently Tom has already opened these restaurants in a neighboring town so this is him expanding his business… but he’s still pitching this like an amateur way out of his depth, including the dinky drawings he shows to The Mayor.
It definitely has that disarmingly naturalistic dialogue that Tim & Eric are known for, but the short kind of falls flat because… well it doesn’t really GO anywhere. There’s not enough time for Tom to prove that he can’t handle this kind of project, and frankly THIS version of Tom doesn’t have that sense of desperation to him that makes his character so compelling in the full series. I guess it’s not a BAD place to start, but as a short it only really works as a curiosity to fans of the show.
Tom Goes to the Mayor Returns (2003)
Alright, so Bob Odenkirk manages to see something in these two and wants to help them get a show off the ground. I’m not too clear on how involved he was in this second episode, but considering they managed to get his longtime comedy partner David Cross to play a significant cameo here, it PROBABLY wasn’t insignificant. Now the first thing you’ll notice if you have the DVD version (which I do) is that the game that The Mayor is playing on his computer has been blurred out presumably for copyright reasons. Of course, with the internet there’s nothing that can be kept secret from us and the game in question is Defend Your Castle.
The story this time around is that Tom (who is now Tom Peters) is working on the town’s Lobster Day Parade and wants to run a few of the ideas by The Mayor which of course leads to some seriously ludicrous conversations. Right away, you’ll notice that things have not only significantly improved in terms of the look of it, but if you’re a fan of the series you’ll see the seeds of several different ideas that would become fixtures of the series itself including Roy Teppert who gets mentioned as a part of the parade, Tom’s affinity for Power Point Presentations, and the flow of everything much more resembles what it would eventually become with Tom being much more passive and The Mayor being WAY out there on some of his suggestions. The turning point here by the way is when the Mayor starts to make requests about how to best secure the parade from a possible terrorist attack which is actually a really great concept that was never truly touched on in the show itself.
This is where David Cross comes into the picture as he plays The Mayor’s nephew David who is a security expert (I assume the same way Shawn Eckardt was) and might have some ideas on how to make the parade THAT much safer. Sure, he was fired from being a Mall Cop, but he had an interview with Homeland Security! He didn’t go as it didn’t fit with his schedule, but still! His plan is basically to encase the entire parade route in a black opaque protective bubble so that no one outside can see it (including terrorists) and everything should be fine as long as the parade wraps up before they all suffocate inside. David Cross is pretty solid in this part with the assured confidence of someone who’s a total idiot, but his character model is of a noticeably lower quality than everyone else’s. Eh, he was doing them a favor and probably just took the pictures himself from home! Half assed looking David Cross is still better than no David Cross!
Overall, despite some minor shortcomings here and there (it has a bit of a weak ending and they’re reusing the same opening music from the last one), this short is actually quite good and I wish that they’d have reused the idea here the same way the reused the idea from the first short in WW Lazers. It legitimately feels like a lost episode of the series and now all I want is to see how that parade would have played out!
So that will do it for this little introduction to the series! I’ll try to post these as regularly as possible and we’ll definitely get through all thirty episodes… eventually. Hey, I’ve got a lot of other shows to do too, alright!?