Tony Trimm

The auteur

Hannibal Buress’s DJ” is how Tony Trimm used to get pegged, but growing up in Des Plaines he showed early promise as an autodidact. Making camcorder action comedies with his brother, cooking pancakes for the family, skateboarding, graffiti art, hip-hop, and breakdancing all converged into a warped, pandemic-born vision that resulted in his ten-episode YouTube HomeFEED Show, which just wrapped last month. It’s a lysergic, postapocalyptic nightmare that enlists a small army of chefs, musicians, comics, artists, and his two chihuahuas, Chicharron and Nacho, in a cooking show produced in hell.

Interview by Mike Sula

Photos by Eddie Quiñones

DJing I got into out of necessity. I had a lot of friends that liked to freestyle rap and didn’t have beats, so I would buy a bunch of 12-inches, blend the instrumentals on the B sides, and make mixtapes.

I was always trying to make a scene in college. I had an open mike night. It’d be poets, actors, singers, mostly rappers, and I’d play beats. And then Hannibal started signing up and I was like, “Man, you’re great at this. You should just host it.”

I worked with Serengeti, fresh out of college. We toured and made music together. It wasn’t really a lucrative thing. It was just two guys, like-minded artists, just doing things together. It wasn’t really like a hustle or anything. I was basically DJing for beer money and writing raps and living in apartments with four or five roommates and partying and just being a dumb kid. I never had any ambition to dive into the real world and save money. I was always looking for the next thing to do. 

I was never thinking about DJing as a thing that I wanted to pursue. I just wanted to make music and produce and do audio engineering and stuff.

Hannibal started taking me on the road. He’d be like, “Will you come to Minneapolis with me? We’ll get you a flight. You got a hotel and it pays this much.” And that turned into, “Let’s do a tour.” Then we started doing the podcast and we’re getting sponsorships. He’s paying me for that and gigs. I’m like, “Oh shit, I need to start paying taxes.”

Tony Trimm makes a “psychotic cooking show.” Credit: Eddie Quiñones for Chicago Reader

That’s pretty much where I got all of it from. Hannibal is a master of comedic timing—how to structure a joke. There’d be many sessions where we’re sitting together, editing. He’d be like, “OK, that’s a beat too late, or a beat too early.”

[I’d be] hanging out with other comics, talking backstage with them. Seeing how they crack jokes, seeing what makes them laugh, seeing what they think is corny. You just have to be around funny people. I just wanted to be with the cool kids. You learn, “I gotta be funny if I want to be around these funny people.”

I started doing visuals for Hannibal on the road as well. I would take crazy videos off the Internet, lay them over music. It became an integral part of Hannibal’s stage show. I started learning this different medium and getting more comfortable with it.

I was always exhausted. The road life ages you horribly. You don’t realize how crazy your life is until you get a moment’s rest. Pandemic hits, world shuts down, and then all of a sudden, “Oh man, there’s a lot of free time.”

I got all these cookbooks and I started learning how to make these really high-level dishes and getting really good at making bread and kombucha. I wanted restaurant-level food at my crib at all times. I was also making tons of fucking weed cookies, so I was getting really stoned.

It was a great time. It felt like a vacation. And then, that wears off after a while. A bunch of months go by, the drinking gets increased, you’re exercising less. I was gaining weight and feeling not the best I can be. I was in a funk.

My only companions were Chich and Nacho. I started feeling like I was in this infinite hell loop. My comprehension started getting all wonky. I started losing my mind a little bit. I was not in a good place. And then my buddy Ted [Park] started coming around: “Dude, you gotta keep working on stuff. You got to stay creative.” I didn’t want to hear that shit. It’s fucking hard be creative when you’re in a dark place.

Credit: Eddie Quiñones for Chicago Reader

He asked me: “What would you want to do right now?” I was like, “I’ve been cooking a lot. I would do a cooking show.” I was already experimenting with Chich. She loves to hang out in the kitchen while I cook, and I would pan over to her and she’d be staring at me and I would have a conversation with her. And it seemed like she was responding. It was a funny premise: “I’ll do a cooking show, about this guy losing his mind talking to his dog.” 

He’s like, “Dope. You should do it. I’ll produce it.” “OK, well, I need lights. I need the camera and a new mike.” He gave me his credit card, bought it all. I still wasn’t inspired to do it, but he just spent all this money. “If I don’t do this, I’m a piece of shit.”

The one thing that I wanted to avoid as much as possible was to make just another cooking show. It had to be funny. I had all these loose, crazy ideas that didn’t completely gel: “Wouldn’t it be funny if I had this recipe with eggs and I gotta fight a chicken to get the eggs?” If I wanted something in the freezer I’d have to go in and fight a yeti. I wanted these things to move in animation. I wanted the deepfake stuff. I wanted these colors. I just kept trying new things until they all stuck.

 It was originally supposed to just be a proof of concept, and we were going to pitch it. Our plan was to make a production company, release these episodes. Ted was gonna find the funding. And then he just mysteriously dies. It was a weird heart failure thing. It was a two-man team at the time. I was super fucking bummed. That’s when I started wormholing into editing because I gotta get this done for him.

It became super low budget, just about being resourceful. I’d show it to people and they were excited. They started coming on board and I started building this ragtag team of people that have random skills like, “Yeah, I could do makeup.” “Yeah, I could do prosthetics.” People started coming together and we formed this collective.

I make sure that they’re fed, they’re taken care of, they get their proper credits, and everybody’s happy with what they’re making. Our mantra is that no matter what, every episode has to be better than the last one. It has to be significant improvements in anything from sound, color, Steadicam work, acting, directing, writing.

One of the biggest lessons I learned is people constantly were saying that it cannot be done: “You need money. You need the processing power.” But it’s all bullshit. If you have a vision and you lock in, you can get it done. I’m like, “Fuck it. I’ll wake up every morning, and learn at least one thing every day.”

So the story of this character—just “Trimm”—is that he’s a clone. I’d be obsessed with the character. I write a lot of backstory, and I obsessively kind of build the world around him. But a lot of things I haven’t written down. It’s all in my head. So I’m like, “Only I can play this.” In a perfect world, I would like to just direct and have someone else play that character.

Cooking has always been there. Acting, editing, writing—these were all things that were new. But when I started doing it it just felt really natural and easy. Except for the editing. Editing was really difficult. But it’s just figuring out technology. I could see how it’s supposed to look and I know how it’s supposed to feel. I think if you have that, then everything else kind of comes naturally.

 I hated explaining, “I’m working on a cooking show.” I’m like, “Ah, it’s not really a cooking show. It’s kind of sci-fi. It’s a little horror, but there’s comedy. And there’s these dogs
. . .” Some French lady on Twitter randomly was like: “psychotronic cooking show.” “What the fuck does that mean?” So then I went online and I wormholed psychotronic cinema, and, “Oh, yeah, that’s exactly what we do. That’s what we’re gonna call it now.” Before that there was no definition of it.

If you have a vision and you lock in, you can get it done.

Tony Trimm

 I basically took a year off. I haven’t been working. I’ve been bleeding money on this project. Season two is going to be only if we can get proper funding, because I can’t afford to do this again. I want to pay these people so we can all focus on this one thing and make it better than ever. I want this show to do well, so I can retire from DJing. I’d rather shoot at locations. I’d rather direct. I’d rather write. I feel like this is my calling now.

 I enjoyed the raps, bringing the joy of everything I used to love back out again. So that’s why it’s very special to me, because it’s like, “Oh, yeah, that’s why I love doing this. This is why I used to do this.”

 The past year has been very intense. I wake up at 6 AM and I’m working till 6 PM. There’s, like, no time for anything. Eating like garbage. I gotta get my personal life together. I want to start exercising again, get back into martial arts. Meditate, eat better, walk the dogs more. I need to get my life together because I don’t do shit anymore for myself.

 All my friends that have been in the game are like, “You’re gonna have to get out there and talk to people. You have to sell it. You’re gonna have to enter stuff in festivals. Yeah, it sucks, but it’s necessary. Nothing’s just gonna come to you.”