Skip to main content
book review

In this film image released by Magnolia Pictures, Eric Wareheim, left, and Tim Heidecker are shown in a scene from "Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie."The Associated Press

Hello there. Hi.

My name is John Semley. And normally, in this space, once every two or three or four weeks, I write about books – drumming up pithy observations and glib comments in order to evaluate the effort of one or another hard-working, if ultimately deluded, would-be "author." I realize now that it was all a waste of time. Because now I am changed.

During my latest assignment, in which I was tasked with reading Tim & Eric's Zone Theory: 7 Easy Steps To Achieve A Perfect Life, a book by cult comedians and late-night TV semi-stars turned self-help gurus Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, my bleary, narrow, hitherto-closed eyes were opened.

Like all of you, I was lost. I was a blathering, cynical moron stumbling half-sentient through some pantomime of life, distracting myself with booze and barbiturates and cheap entertainment and handful after handful of mixed nuts. I fit the profile of a prospective Zone Theory convert in a way that seemed almost eerily on-the-nose.

Here's a description of the kind of person Zone Theory is built for. Use this to discover if Zone Theory is right for you. "You are in bad shape. Your breath smells and you have body odour … Incredibly, there has never once been a dog or cat who's come up to lick you or nuzzle up against you. In fact, all animals are repulsed by you. You are trash. You are a Discard."

Oh my sweet Zones! It's like Tim and Eric have known me my whole life! Like a chary cynic who enters a Scientology centre for a laugh but ends up dazzled by the beguiling rhetoric of L. Ron Hubbard, I was transformed. Now I see there is only one true way. That way is Zone Theory. And now I see there is only one true book. That book is Tim & Eric's Zone Theory: 7 Easy Steps To Achieve A Perfect Life. It is full of life-altering inspirations, ads for Food Cubes, customizable certificates of achievement, multicoloured crossword puzzles, quizzes and tips on managing genital stench and diarrhea.

I have thrown out all my other books, which now live in the bin with my banana peels, fish skeletons, photographs of my loved ones and cherished elders, and other such garbage that will only ballast me as I elevate my spirit by aligning my 7 Zones, en route to reaching Zone Plane 8.

What is Zone Theory? Amazing question. According to the book, "ZONE THEORY is a life system designed by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim and inspired by the teachings of Ba'hee Nodaramoo Priss Dimmie." As I mentioned, there are seven confirmed Zones. They are, in order: Friendship, Family, Business, Love, Health, Poems and Food. There is also Zone Plane 8, but details remain scant to fresh Zone Theory converts, like myself.

All Zone Theory ministers Tim and Eric can say is that Zone Plane 8 is "more like Heaven than you can ever know." By severing ties with your immediate family (and finding a new Zone Father), purging your diet of colourful foods ("We eat white foods only!" the book insists, "White is the color of hope! Other colors signal hopelessness!"), and engaging in plenty of Zone Certified Nude Adult Horseplay, you, too, can ascend the Zone Plane pyramid. And by following the three step Zone alignment process – Certification, Evangelize, Sacrifice (including cannibal sacrifice, described as "the perfect crime," because it leaves no corpse behind) – you, too, can potentially become a Zone minister and reach Zone Plane 8.

Soon, I will be relocating to the Zone-Zone Communal Thought-House (Z.Z.C.T.H.). Located on one million acres of uninhabitable land in Lou Gramm, Ore., the Z.Z.C.T.H. boasts "a 24-hour nude dining sauna; a 24-hour, 2-mile-long Brokk-style bowling laneway; and a 24-hour Freon supermarket."

I am prepared to surrender myself to higher-level Zone Theory rituals such as earlobe draining, mystical spiritual tongue art, and coupon collecting. I aspire to reach the suggested target brain weight of 35 to 50 pounds. I have already emptied my bank account ordering other titles in the Zone Theory series, including Actualizing Zone Theory, In Modern Life, Zone Theory, Antics And Stories and The Zone Cookbook: Volume One.

I am no longer the sad, selfish, non-poetry writing, tire-waisted, colourful-food-consuming Moan-man I was before I cracked the spine on this book. Now I am eager, without urging or coercion of any kind, to join the raft of Zone Theory converts listed on this book's back cover (including celebrity superstars Malcolm Gladwell, David Blaine, Moby and Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers) in saying, unequivocally: "Zone Theory helped me to become a happier, healthier, more confident man. I recommend it to everyone I meet. Buy it now."

So, while I feel marginally remorseful about relinquishing my semi-regular Globe and Mail books column – though not really, to be honest; like, not even one bit – I look forward to ministering the pyramid scheme gospel of Zone Theory and bearing witness to new conversions as I expand my Zone Family. See all you other Zone Theory-ers in Lou Gramm, Ore. I'll be the masked man singing devotional hymns and reading experimental poetry in the 24-hour nude dining sauna, my earlobes totally drained of the impurities that were the source of all my suffering in my previous life.