The only thing more surreal than the work of outsider artist/musician/comedian David Liebe Hart is the man himself.
Known to his cult fanbase for appearances on the late-night Adult Swim show Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Liebe Hart, 61, worked as a street performer for nearly 40 years before receiving any widespread exposure.
During that time, those in the Los Angeles area may have seen him performing outside the Hollywood Bowl or the La Brea Tar Pits, where he’d frequently sing songs and paint portraits.
He also appeared regularly on public access television, hosting over 12,000 episodes of his show, The Junior Christian Science Bible Lesson Show during its 20-year run. The show was a precursor to his parts on Tim and Eric, as it featured several of the more than 60 unsettling puppets he now has in his vast collection, and began exploring the unusual array of subjects he now approaches in his work, including saying no to drugs, staying in school, religious teachings, alien encounters, and failed relationships.
|David Liebe Hart
wsg The Wrap, Sexy Toxins
Louie’s Back Room, 629 Walbridge St., Kalamazoo
July 22, 8 p.m. doors, 9 p.m. show
$10, 18 and older
louiesbackroom.com, (269) 389-9359
But no amount of backstory does anything to prepare you for speaking with this truly one-of-a-kind performer.
In person, Liebe Hart is intensely genuine, his voice fraught with the years of struggle he’s endured.
He’s also disorienting and disjointed, railing and rambling about whatever’s on his mind: from his upbringing in Chicago and Park Forest, Ill., where he was raised in the Christian Science Church, to his frequent mistreatment on the road and his lifelong experiences with various races of extraterrestrials.
He makes random claims to having been introduced to puppetry by Jim Henson, who he says was his Sunday School teacher in the Christian Science Church, and to having gotten into standup comedy alongside Robin Williams back in 1976 when he first moved to L.A. He also counts Orville and Wilbur Wright as ancestors on his dad’s Caucasian side, although he admits to rarely speaking with the few living relatives he has left.
What is abundantly clear after only a few minutes of extremely one-sided, free-form conversation is that Liebe Hart’s inexplicable onscreen and onstage self is no satirical, avant-garde, anti-humor persona, like some have speculated online. But what remains unclear is if he feels like he’s being exploited by others for comedic or financial gain.
“I’m grateful for all the success I’ve had on the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! but I wish they would’ve used me more as an actor,” Liebe Hart said of his experiences working with comedians/show creators Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim.
He says he wishes he could work with the comedy duo more now, but is happy that he has appearances lined up on the show’s spin-off series, Check It Out with Dr. Steve Brule, which stars acclaimed actor John C. Reilly and airs its fifth season this summer on Adult Swim.
Wholly himself, Liebe Hart has concocted a live show like nothing you’ve ever seen before. He and his musical collaborator/manager Jonah “Th’ Mole” Mociun perform in front of psychedelic graphics and otherworldly animations, while swirling together bizarre electronic music, pseudo-ventriloquism, awkward stand-up, and absurdist performance art.
“I myself never really know where David’s reality ends and fantasy begins,” Mociun said of working with Liebe Hart. “It can be aggravating and requires a lot of patience and perseverance. But it’s also really gratifying as an artist to collaborate with David because he’s pretty open to my creative input and he has a large and open-minded audience to appreciate our work.”
Together the two have toured the country for the last two years, supporting his latest string of solo releases, including 2014’s Teleportation Thru Space and last year’s Astronaut.
“I sing about the UFO phenomenon. I sing about things I’ve experienced. I’ve written songs about everything I’ve been through in life,” Liebe Hart said about his songs, which he insists are entirely autobiographical.
Liebe Hart has been a songwriting member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers for over 40 years. However, due to legal restrictions with Adult Swim/Cartoon Network, Liebe Hart can’t play popular songs from Tim and Eric like “Salame” and “Father and Son” live, but he does play revamped new songs like “Dad and Lad,” and “Go into the Light Until Next We Meet” instead. Either way, he’s become a success story and he’s grateful.
“I asked Doris Day what is her key for success because she had become so successful as an actress and a singer. She told me to know that ‘I am God in action,’” Liebe Hart said. “[It’s wonderful] to know that I’m successful and that I’m loved, cherished and appreciated.
“And I tell kids all the time at my concerts that they need to set goals for themselves,” he added. “That no matter who tells them that they’re no good or not right that they should not accept it and believe in their dreams.”