Mister America (2019)
Written by Tim Heidecker, Gregg Turkington, & Eric Notarnicola
Directed by Eric Notarnicola
For seven years, writer/actor/comedian Tim Heidecker has been building a universe. It started with “On Cinema at the Cinema,” a film review show on YouTube. Heidecker and Turkington starred as versions of themselves, the former an arrogant prick and the latter a film buff obsessed with all that is mediocre. Worldbuilding occurred during the conversations the men had. This included Heidecker marrying a Japanese friend, having a child with the friend (Tom Cruise Junior), and the child dying because Heidecker became a strict anti-vaxxer. It was clear that Heidecker had a point of view to get across, the sort of profoundly twisted satire mainstream media doesn’t provide audiences with.
From there, the Heidecker character began embodying all the worst things about over the hill, entitled men in America. He created a spy persona for a web series called Decker that him espousing conservative talking points in a manner meant to point out their absurdity. A rock and roll band was formed, which led to Heidecker starting the Electric Sun Music Festival, an event that led to nineteen people dying from toxic vape juice Heidecker was selling at the time. That escapade led to the most ambitious piece of this whole ongoing piece of performance art: a five-hour-long courtroom special where Heidecker is tried for murder.
This brings us to the mockumentary Mister America, which chronicles Heidecker’s bid to run for district attorney of San Bernadino, California. His reasons for doing this, which the character never admits on camera but are explained to us by Turkington, are because current DA Vincent Rossetti humiliated him in court, exposing what a fraud and a phony Heidecker truly is. That court case ended in a mistrial when one juror refused to convict, a decision Heidecker has reframed as him beating Rossetti in court (he represented himself during the case).
Since Heidecker’s early days on Adult Swim with collaborator Eric Wareheim, he has specialized in niche humor, building a passionate following that eats up both the subtle and the grotesque. In Mister America, the jokes are more subtle with the grotesque coming from Heidecker’s inflated sense of self. Paying close attention, you notice the constant drinking of Bud Light, Heidecker’s consistent awkwardness around people of color, and his coded insistence that “the original San Bernadinans” want their city back. Every aspect of this picture is so entrenched in our current moment, sometimes intentionally and other times, just a sign of how in tune with the culture Heidecker and company are. The poison vaping story was developed long before the current moral panic over the devices. The refrain that San Bernadino needs an outsider for DA and that a career politician is inherently corrupt are talking points trotted out daily throughout conservative media.
The On Cinema web series is still going on and has continued this universe by teasing an appearance by Mister America’s director to talk about the documentary. However, when that episode came up, the fictional director Josh Lorton didn’t show. This led to Heidecker calling out Josh as a coward and revealing his animosity over having himself further humiliated. He then goes on to promote moneyzap.com, a highly dubious online banking service. One of Heidecker’s favorite objects of mockery is conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. So much of the character Heidecker is playing comes from that same place. This is a man whose own life choices have led to so much failure in his life but refuses to accept his role. Instead, it’s everyone around him, and groups of people he rarely interacts with that are at fault. It’s frustrating that so many people view a program like Saturday Night Live as saying anything relevant about modern times when it all it does is pitch softballs at those in power. Heidecker has made something that appears to not have an end in sight, that is, digging into the psyche of the people who worship power, wealth, and success, never understanding how they are groveling at the feet of conmen.