Found on the Fringes


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When Tim Heidecker of "Tim and Eric" fame tweeted the news of Richard Dunn's passing the morning of June 4, the event seemed farfetched, almost impossible, even though common sense dictates that the elderly are moribund. The little-known character actor had become something between a figurehead and a cherished grandfather on Adult Swim's "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!", where his recurring appearances rendered him an unlikely star. With his gentle demeanor, comb-over and woolen sweaters, Dunn fueled Tim and Eric's brand of absurdist sketch comedy and will be remembered as the show's beloved Pep Pep.

Before becoming a regular on "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!", Richard Dunn played bit parts for a living, working for anyone in need of a doddering senior citizen on the set. Hardly noticeable at a glance, Dunn's presence survives in surprising facets of pop culture. He stares up in shock as P.Diddy rolls up to the curb in the "Bad Boy for Life" music video, plays a cancer patient in an episode of "Weeds" and moshes, his face painted blue and silver, in 3 Doors Down's video for "Kryptonite."

Despite his ripe age of 73, the actor's mortality didn't even seem like a factor to consider given his quiet ubiquity on the small screen. Dunn wasn't driven by Hollywood glory, or at least not outwardly. Most of his life's career consisted of military service. In a 2007 interview, Eric Wareheim told "A.V. Club" that he and Tim Heidecker hired Dunn because they wanted to seem as if they carelessly hired an old man to play Tim's father for their first episode of "Awesome Show."

"We actually saw him from our office, in the parking lot, getting out of his car, smoking a cigarette," recalled Tim, "He was wearing that sweater… It was immediate to us. We looked at each other and jumped up and down."

As comics, Tim and Eric operate on deep levels of irony. Other than Dunn, personalities like the balding amateur ventriloquist David Liebe Hart frequent episodes of "Awesome Show." The characters' awkward musical performances and uncomfortable guest appearances add to the duo's mock '90s style of editing and pop art-derived graphics.

The actors on "Awesome Show" look like people you would expect to see in line at the grocery store rather than on television, but their sincerity trumps their sex appeal: their quirks and foibles lie exposed. Sketches about defecation, homoerotic friendships and bloody nipples run through "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!" The humor is almost Freudian, taking the embarrassing and crude aspects of mundane life and rehashing them in a familiar format akin to low-budget cable programming.

Though a sense of parody pervades the show's five seasons, Dunn was never made the butt of a joke. Instead, the soft-spoken, stick-thin old man became a sort of celebrity inside Tim and Eric's warped dream world. When Dunn played a Gothic talk show host on a sketch called "Dunngeon," he seemed unfalteringly hip to the show's bizarre aesthetic with his inappropriate pauses and mispronunciations. Meanwhile, his interviewee, Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction, proved to be the true buffoon in his vexed self-importance.

During his stint in the acting world, Richard Dunn serendipitously gained a cult following of fans at an uncommon age. As Tim and Eric move on to other Adult Swim ventures like "Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule," Pep Pep will remain one of the fondest memories of "Awesome Show."

Say a tearful goodbye to Pep Pep with Nastia at [email protected]

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