Steve Brule of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job and later Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule could've easily been a one-note performance, an "Aha! It's that famous guy guest-starring to play that one character that they're only kinda good at!" that you've seen plenty of on late-night sketch shows. But he isn't. In the hands of John C. Reilly, one of the most underrated actors in modern cinema, Steve Brule becomes a borderline perfect comedic performance, imbuing the good doctor with so many foibles, obsessions, and tragic bits that the role rivals the best HBO and prestige drama leads. Dude should've won an Emmy.
Tim and Eric's brand of surreal and self-aware humor is a perfect fit for a character like Brule, the early morning local access host with a penchant for mispronouncing words constantly and getting involved in stuff that tests his own sanity. Every episode is Adult Swim's Heart of Darkness, with Brule playing a deranged Marlowe and every guest and subject playing his Kurtz. And because Reilly is so good at evoking pity, so good at portraying the absurdly beset everyman, you never get tired of watching him call people "dingus" or seeing him stumble his way through life.
But I think one of the main reasons I love him so much is because I grew up watching local-access TV. As a child, I had about 10 channels (11 on a good day! Sometimes the Disney Channel would show up out of the ether and my siblings and I engorged ourselves on Kim Possible and Motocrossed.) And so, early in the morning before it felt like anyone else in the world was awake, we'd watch the local-access channel with its barrage of government PSA's and "Is this really happening?" 5:30 am content. Tai chi tutorials? A pro-wrestling talk show that seemed to last for a week? A dude wading in a creek telling me how to clean a crossbow? That is TELEVISION, y'all. And no show seemed to capture its bizarre energy until I saw Check It Out!
Brule is that kind of host that I remember seeing, that before-sunrise dude that you watch through the haze of sleep and wonder "What is this guy's life like? What does he go home to? Why did he decide to do this?" Because Brule feels real, despite all of his cartoonish buffoonery. He feels like a product of a real person's history, so disturbed and consumed by certain things that he reeks of a full, sad life lived. From him constantly trying to find his Dad to his repeated use of the phrase "Check please!" (which he most certainly saw in a movie and thought sounded cool) to his unbearable, chronic loneliness, to his bizarre creative impulses (Please watch his "Bag Boy" special, a sitcom that he directed, wrote and starred in,) Brule is as three dimensional as they come.
As far as I'm concerned, Brule might be Reilly's magnum opus, and I was delighted to seem him embody some of the character's quirks in his role in Kong: Skull Island. We may never see another season of Check It Out!, as the last one ended with Brule arrested and his hosting duties given to the sheepish Scott Clam, but I love to imagine that in the show's universe, he's back in the saddle, introducing his next guest Theodore Davis as "Thad Drangledon." Brule 4EVER.
Daniel Dockery is a writer for the internet. You can follow him on Twitter!