The Warped Tour
Tim and Eric perfect the anti-joke
There's something sweet about watching Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim channel Jan and Wayne Skylar, a tanned, vest-clad "Married News Team." "Uncomfortable" could also describe a lot of the duo's comedy. The reluctant film school graduates' aversion to traditional filmmaking was embraced by Adult Swim, which picked up their animated series Tom Goes to the Mayor in 2004. Heidecker played Tom, the bumbling entrepreneur, while Wareheim was the man-child mayor of a chain-mall hell called Jefferton. The show attracted a cult following, which was then treated last year to the live-action Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! With nods to the absurdia of Monty Python and the interwoven sketch of Mr. Show (whose co-creator, Bob Odenkirk, executive-produced), Awesome Show's 15-minute barrage takes the current cult of comedic discomfort and doses it. Season one, just released on DVD, is a circus of special guests (Weird Al Yankovic, Michael Cera) and characters like Dr. Steve Brule (John C. Reilly), a glassy-eyed news channel "expert" and Casey (played by Heidecker), a physically repulsive cable-access singer. Last year, the two also debuted Tim and Eric Nite Live, an Internet talk show that streams on SuperDeluxe.com. With season two of Awesome Show currently airing, Heidecker and Wareheim are taking the show live, no doubt with lots of fake vomit. We spoke to them about why not everyone gets their brand of humor.
Austin Chronicle: Your characters are pretty out there.
Tim Heidecker: They're subconscious. A lot of them come from ... I don't know. They are pretty sick.
Eric Wareheim: Sick and dark and demented. Half the characters on the show are real people who have come into our lives. When Tim and I were in college, we befriended a lot of older men and did film projects with them or just hung out. We've always been drawn to those sort of eccentric people.
AC: A lot of the people on Awesome Show seem like you might have found them wandering around the grocery store or something.
Heidecker: We've been experimenting with that for a few years, since Tom Goes to the Mayor. Using real people as background just seemed much more natural. We were going for that awkward cable-access feeling, people who really shouldn't be on TV being on TV.
AC: And a lot of your sketches spoof bad cable access or ridiculous products, like the Cinco MIDI Organizer.
Wareheim: It's stuff that really, really makes us laugh. For example, we just saw this commercial for a device Sharper Image is putting out that looks like it was made on our show as a joke – you play these instruments with your hands in a virtual environment, and the Cinco products are just that tweaked to another level. We're obsessed with the idea of advertising, people pushing themselves, infomercials, actors trying to make it.
Heidecker: And also products that are way more complicated than they should be.
AC: The culture of TV right now is so focused on making people feel disgusted. What you see every day must provide fodder for the show.
Heidecker: Oh, yeah. We watch a lot of TV. I watch TV late at night, when all the good stuff comes on.
AC: Did you want Awesome Show to be more fast-paced?
Wareheim: It's not something we necessarily wanted. That idea actually came before Tom, when it was the Tim & Eric Variety Show, and Tom Goes to the Mayor was just one of the 10 ideas that we came up with for it. So it was a natural progression to a more performance-based show.
Heidecker: Tom Goes to the Mayor was a great training ground for us. I don't think we would have made a good Awesome Show if we hadn't done Tom first. We learned how to manage a show, how to write, and we had to make Adult Swim confident enough in us to create a show that's very hard to pitch.
AC: Right. I couldn't see it on any other channel.
Heidecker: I think it would be a disaster.
AC: John C. Reilly is ridiculous as Dr. Steve Brule. Is that his character?
Heidecker: Yeah, he came up with the name. All the stuff you see in the first season was done in a day, and the stuff from the second season was as well. We're all just cracking up behind the camera because he's so good, but we try not to prepare too much. We want to get the mess-ups and slurring of the words.
Wareheim: He recently did one new thing about teaching kids different body parts. We did one 15-minute take, and it was genius – truly uncomfortable. The kids were really freaked out.
AC: Has living in L.A. changed what you write?
Wareheim: We have such a resource of amazing actors who are dying to be on TV, so that helps. And being saturated by advertising and a lot of bullshit kind of fuels us to do a little commentary on it.
Heidecker: But the livin' is easy!
AC: Is there a married news team there?
Wareheim: There's a billboard I pass every day, and the whole news team has tans very close to Wayne Skylar's. But once you live here, that's just part of your landscape.
AC: How much work is taking the show on the road, keeping in mind what translates and what doesn't?
Heidecker: We're kind of writing a whole new show from what we did last year on the road. It's a different set of skills – rehearsing and picking what video clips are good for a big crowd.
Wareheim: It's nice to do the show once a year and take a break from making one. You get a different energy from people there to see comedy, so you get this group reaction that's really just an awesome feeling.
AC: You seem to like jokes about the body and bodily fluids. "Double chin comedy," I think you call it on the DVD.
Heidecker: Every once in a while we throw in a poop joke and get silly, because the show is about that, too. Pee and poop and farts and vomit – those are the essentials. The first jokes!
The Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! tour will appear at a sold-out show at the Parish on Wednesday, April 30. The first season of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! is now available on DVD. For more information, see www.timanderic.com.