Cheez-It Gets Blamed For Stealing From Tim & Eric

Today, social media was filled with fans outraged mobs of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim jumping on board to blow the whistle on Cheez-It (or the agency behind an advertisement) for allegedly stealing from Tim & Eric. It eventually got enough buzz where Splitsider and AgencySpy published articles, both jumping on the bandwagon of justice. At the time of writing this, the advertisement has been pulled from the internet, but here are some Tweets pertaining to the issue:

Let me start off by saying, I’m not a lawyer, but I have spent the last couple of hours scouring the internet to research copyright laws, while trying to find the exact meaning of derivative works. It’s insanely confusing to me, but I feel qualified enough to at least give you my ‘against the grain’ opinion of this matter. Anyone in the creative realm, especially in the realm of video production, knows that creating video is no simple task. Moreover, anyone in the world of absurd comedy knows that Tim & Eric absolutely dominate the world of absurd comedy. One might even say they have a monopoly on absurdity.

Personally, as someone that is trying to break into the world of absurd comedy, while working on a dual career in marketing, I disagree with the angry mob of obsessed Tim & Eric worshipers. Moreover, the attitude of Tim Heidecker is totally off-putting. Here’s what he told Splitsider:

Yea, no ok or compensation from us. A few fans alerted me. Ultimately it’s Adult Swim’s property so it’s up them whether to pursue. Pretty straightforward rip and I hope Turner’s legal department digs into this and helps protect our “intellectual” property!

First off, I totally understand what it’s like to have my ideas ripped off. It’s happened to me my whole life, which is part of the reason I’m not extremely successful. The other part is that I’m not that funny, but that’s neither here nor there. From my point of view, Tim is on top of the world of comedy; not only does he have his feet in the world of corporate comedy, but he also has a cult following in the world of underground comedy. Does he even realize that his hopes of legal action will ultimately effect someone’s family or someone’s life? I don’t know the source of the Cheez-It ad, whether it came from an ad agency, or not, but it’s highly possible that this advertisement idea came from some guy on a marketing team that happened to be a fan of Tim & Eric. It’s probable he even watches Tim & Eric’s show(s), buys their DVD’s, and essentially supports the life Tim can give his family. What if the person at the ad agency behind this ad (that will likely get fired from this PR shit storm) actually has a family? Can you imagine what he’s going through? I just hate the rhetoric in Tim Heidecker’s statement… I get why he’s upset, but I just don’t agree with his reaction. If by chance he reads this article, which I’m sure he won’t, he’ll probably say something akin to this:

Yes, that’s a tweet from the man himself, to little old irrelevant me. My first encounter ever with someone I look up to was this, all because I asked him why he was so angry about Ted Cruz sending prayers to the victims of the San Bernadino shooting. That’s it. I never claimed I was a Ted Cruz supporter, but he responded quickly, as if I was. In fact, many of the people I follow and admire for their work, have interacted with me in this way when I say something ‘different’ than the rest of their followers. I’d be much happier if they didn’t acknowledge me at all. Many celebrities, artists, or ‘verified people’ assume that if you are not in total agreement with what they have to say, that you are against them. It’s unnerving and it makes it impossible to connect with them in a significant way. I basically took that Tweet back as “Who the fuck are you? You’ll never work with/for me.”

I’ve been a fan of Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job (and all the works connected to it) since late 2014, when my comedy partner Robby Moccio introduced me to it. Prior to that, I had never heard of them or watched Adult Swim. However, on several occasions, I heard from several people that our videos were “so Tim & Eric.” This was usually at a party, at work, or some social event where I was struggling to hear the person (because I’m slightly deaf), so I generally just nodded and said, “Yea, I totally agree.” Little did I know, the way I edited and wrote, were very “Tim & Eric.” After seeing their work, it sort of angered me, because I genuinely was creating things out of my own head and it was frustrating that it essentially had already been done on a much larger scale. Now, anytime I create something, I have the fear in the back of my mind that it will come out like “Tim & Eric.” Now, if I ever do make it in this world of comedy, I obviously have that added pressure of the Turner legal team coming after me.

Whether or not this Cheez-It advertisement was created legally, or a derivative work, I cannot say accurately. According to Wikipedia:

For copyright protection to attach to a later, allegedly derivative work, it must display some originality of its own. It cannot be a rote, uncreative variation on the earlier, underlying work. The latter work must contain sufficient new expression, over and above that embodied in the earlier work for the latter work to satisfy copyright law’s requirement of originality.

When it comes to video production, this is difficult to declare. The Cheez-It ad didn’t take the source material and manipulate it. I mean, is the idea of a mind explosion copyrighted? Are actions with your hands copyrighted? Cheez-It obviously filmed (or had this filmed) in an original studio, with original equipment, with an original actor and as far as the production on the Cheez-It ad goes, I thought it was impressive and I actually liked it as much as the clip from Tim & Eric. Of course, nothing beats the acting of Eric Wareheim, but the overall advertisement was edited and animated very effectively. Cheez-It, Awesome Advertisement, Great Job!

To be honest, I actually had to scour the internet to find the original “mind explosion” works by Tim & Eric, because I’m not a big enough fan of them for it to pop into my head and say, “Hey that’s from Tim & Eric!” Ultimately, it’s not up to me, but if it was, I think ole corporate Tim & Eric, Adult Swim, and Turner Broadcasting Company should just look the other way. What do they have to gain out of this, anyway? Do they not have enough money already? To me, it’s a win-win for all involved. Cheez-It is getting more exposure from this debacle than ever (I haven’t thought about Cheez-It’s since I went organic years ago) and Tim & Eric, Adult Swim, and Turner are all getting that sweet reminder that they’re the corporate media giants that dominate entertainment to the point they’ve influenced some marketing agent.

UPDATE:


After deliberating on this issue over a year and following the Andy Kaufman-esque career of Tim Heidecker (as well as how deep his pockets are in the advertising world), I’ve come to realize that the whole thing might have been a cooperated effort between Cheez-It and Tim Heidecker. Basically, this was potentially a genius advertising campaign designed to trigger his followers and Tim Heidecker might have been behind it all. I don’t have proof of it, but it would certainly make sense… and to that, I applaud Tim Heidecker.

Cheez-It Gets Blamed For Stealing From Tim & Eric

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