In 2007, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim premiered their now-famous Adult Swim television series Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Part fever dream, part sketch comedy, the explosive 11-minute episodes watch like Public Access dosed with LSD. Through the psychedelic maze, I first saw an eccentric, alien-loving, puppeteer: David Liebe Hart.
Like many parts of the show’s hallucinatory quilt of bizarre content, Hart is attached to a long thread— and if you pull on it, things start to unravel. Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself very far from the start.
Hart’s thread starts in Park Forest, Illinois in 1955, where he born and began developing his passion for puppets, art, music, and entertainment. The beginning of his career as a public entertainer is unclear. He claims a lot of things— appearing with Robin Williams on The Gong Show in 1977, learning his craft from Jim Hanson as a child at a Christian Science Sunday School— but he became well-known when he started singing songs about the Church of Christian Science with his puppets for a show called the Junior Christian Science Bible Lesson Program, which appeared on Los Angeles public-access television.
Despite gaining recognition from Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Hart’s work isn’t done yet. In 2012, he attempted a Kickstarter campaign to make a punk album. It didn’t go well, but Hart doesn’t get discouraged easily. Earlier this month, he released his latest album, Space Ranger, and has put music videos for some of his songs on YouTube. (I encourage you to watch “Insect Woman” before asking why I couldn’t include the video in this article).
Before David Liebe Hart brings his tour 40-date tour to The Ottawa Tavern in Toledo on Friday, September 29, we caught up with the preferred puppeteer of stoned teenagers everywhere in a naive attempt to pin down his surreal charm.
I first saw you a few years ago when I was watching Tim and Eric and I loved it. How did you get involved in with the show?
Well, finding a job is like finding a woman that you care about, my grandmother says that there’s gotta be a chemistry between two people. If the chemistry works between two people it’s great and you have a relationship started.
I was mailing out my pictures and resumes to tons and tons of television shows and Eric Wareheim called me and said that they were the producers of Tom Goes to the Mayor and they wanted me to come in for a cold reading of their new show, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!
They had me read and memorize a script. They liked my script and then asked me to write a weird song about aliens and UFOs. The first song I wrote was “Salame”. Tim recorded it, memorized the melody, had the words typed out, and put it on a cassette tape. They called me back a week later and said, “We want you to do one of our first episodes.” So, I did it and it became a big hit.
You’re very popular for your puppets. What makes [trails off]…
They remind me of a politician controlling us or telling us what to do or a school teacher or a parent. I was fascinated by puppets even as a kid. I had three famous puppeteers as teachers at the Christian Science Church. The first one was Bert Weedon [the late British guitarist], who did “Cook with Ben and Ollie” and he would teach us The 10 Commandments and other Bible stories. Then, when I went to family reunions in Washington, D.C., I had Jim Henson as a Sunday school teacher at the Christian Science Church and he taught The 10 Commandments with Kermit the Frog.
You also make a lot of visual art…
I make paintings you can see all my art at artbyliebehart.com. I started painting when I was a kid growing up in the 50’s. I used to paint the L train. My favorite train that I first drew was the Chicago North Shore Milwaukee Railroad, I liked that train it shared tracks with the CTAL.
Since you have many, what’s your favorite talent?
Well, I like doing music. I like creating songs. When I started doing music at Church, I would play piano for the Christian Science Sunday school then my grandmother taught me how to direct the choir at her church. I’d play gospel music at her church, and then I had my other grandmother, one was Southern Baptist and the other was Lutheran, and I did music at both denominations. My second favorite talent is doing stand-up comedy.
What’s your favorite joke?
I made it up and Tim and Eric liked it, but it’s kinda dirty. You know, women have beavers, and they sure know how to swim with them with a guy in the lake. [Explicit description of genitalia appearing like beavers]. I’m sorry.
Is that where their “Beaver Boys” thing comes from?
Yeah. I wrote so many comedy lines and sent them to Tim and Eric, and they said: “Oh we’re not gonna use them.” I didn’t copyright them, so they got them and I made another joke about how a man’s penis is like a mushroom in the lawn. Eric refused that joke.
Well, sometimes you have to move onto another project. How do you stay productive?
Well, I just stay focused. You know, just like when you drive a car you gotta stay focused on what you’re doing. I used to drive, but I haven’t driven since 1994 since my divorce. So, driving a car is like acting— you gotta know the right timing.
How do you stay inspired?
By being open to new, different things. I am grateful to Jonah Mociun (music composer/producer for the album) for changing the show every time I tour with him because he’s keeping it fresh.
When I used to work as a church musician, the music chairman would not let me do any of my new arrangements or compositions he had me do the same old Christian Science solos. Nothing fresh or new, which I felt got boring, then he finally replaced me.
What do you think about when you’re alone?
Well, I’ve been alone a lot since I’ve been having problems finding a girl on Tinder, so I’m just learning to love and appreciate myself. If it’s God’s will for me to get married again, or to get a girlfriend, then so be it.
If it isn’t I’m gonna have to accept it, but I’m hoping and praying that since I’m the last to carry on my family’s name that God will bless me with a caring, loving, supporting wife or girlfriend. But like my grandmother said, I have to choose my friends better than I choose my clothes because there’s a lot of people that married into my family that broke up the closeness.
What makes you swipe away on someone on Tinder?
I read their bio and see if they are a musician or artist like I am. I’m looking for someone who has the same interests. Their write-up is like a resume about themselves, and I’m more interested in the women who are musicians like I am or trying to break into acting or journalism.
I studied journalism but I never became a journalist. I mailed out my resume since my acting career was kinda slow, and I haven’t heard from anybody, but I know new doors are gonna open so I’m staying positive. I can do all things with Christ with me. I’m a winner, not a loser, and I am productive and successful. I try to stay positive that new doors of success are gonna open for me.
What’s your best pickup line?
“You could be my dream come true, please leave your return phone number on the back of my card, contact me using my email or my cell phone, looking for Miss Sincere, not Miss Phony.
People think that I’m on too strong to girls, but you’re never gonna see them again, so I try to talk to them and get to know them.
Well, you gotta be honest and upfront…
I dated women for a long time and I thought I knew them for four or six years, and they still dumped me for other people. They thought the grass was greener on the other side. That even happens with people that are married, so you just gotta pick up and keep on trying.
Can you tell me about the best date you’ve ever been on and the worst date you’ve ever been on?
Okay, the best date: I was substituting as a school teacher and I met this woman named [name redacted] and I thought she loved me and cared about me. We went to the county fair together and we had a wonderful time. I helped her get a job as an organist at a Christian Science Church and we had a lot in common. We took turns playing piano and sharing songs, she was a songwriter too. Then, all the sudden the boyfriend that dumped her got in touch and they decided to get back together again. That was the end of that.
The worst date: I had a best friend from Indiana and we collected model trains together and he decided to divorce and leave his wife. She was a very outstanding business manager, she used to be the manager and my boss at [a grocery store]. She was Methodist, a musician, and a choir director, so I thought they were finally through because they had filed the divorce papers and they were living in separate apartments. So, I started going out with her to lunch and to dinner. When he found out about it and he beat the crap out of me for it. He’s never returned my phone calls and I’ve never heard from him after that. She told me she was free and she was single and she’s sent me an email saying she’s completely single, she just has two dogs, but I’m afraid to go back to her cause I don’t want no jealous jelly.
I also just recently had a weird experience happen with me. There was a woman that was calling me all the time and I didn’t care for her, she was from Michigan, and she called me before she started dating the guy that I worked with on television. Then I got back and she was calling me like every five seconds… so I could tell she had a crush on me…. and I told her I just didn’t feel right because that’s not fair to my friend that I’m working with. I blocked her from my phone, then she gave my ex-wife my phone number, and my ex-wife and her boyfriend were calling me all the time wanting to borrow money. They were all mixed up with drugs and alcohol. I told them to go to the church to get help, but I just didn’t wanna get involved with them.
So, I want to go back to some unrelated questions… If you were an animal, would you be a hunter or a gatherer?
I would be a hunter so I could eat. I know I was different forms in a past life but I think the best creation form you can be is a human being that way you have more authority like aristocracy. I believe in reincarnation. I believe I was different people in past lives, that’s why I was born with different talents as a painter and an artist.
Can you describe yourself in five words or less?
Outgoing, persistent, positive, successful, determined.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of the work I did with the Tim & Eric show. I’m proud of my music that’s on the internet. I’m proud of my music with CCLI Christian copyright licensing and GIA Publishing company. I’m sad about the Christian Science Church that refused all my music, at the last moment, they told me they were gonna accept 12 songs out of 60. Then they had me pay another Christian Scientist $200 for other songs, and then those got rejected.
If you were to give the fifteen-year-old David advice, what would it be?
Stay in school. Avoid the people who tear you down and have a negative attitude towards you. Be around more positive people. I heard a pastor once say it takes more talent to build one up and it takes no talent to tear someone down. I stay around positive people who support me and build me up, not tear me down.