Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! barraged viewers with five seasons of awkward freeze frames, purposely clumsy speech, moist sound effects, and copius bodily fluids. Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim's breakout TV series also spawned John C. Reilly’s Dr. Steve Brule, a man-child who offers life hacks to his “dingus” viewers and joins the duo on a tour that hits Seattle in September.
Tim and Eric first saw the light of late-night TV after Bob Odenkirk, Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman, pled the duo’s case to Comedy Central (which passed, but recommended it to Adult Swim, which greenlighted Tom Goes to the Mayor). Now their Abso Lutely Productions gives a leg up to shows like Comedy Bang! Bang! and Nathan for You.
While developing tour material, Heidecker stopped to chat about it and his new Adult Swim show Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories. —Ariana Dawes
Is there a theme for this year’s tour?
For the first time we’re touring with Dr. Steve Brule, so he’s going to be taking up a lot of the time, which is great for the audience. It’s a mixture of songs, crazy presentations, and videos. We’re putting the show together now, and there is this arc that’s forming. Our goal is to create a feeling like you just went to some fucked-up Broadway show. It’s not just two guys telling jokes or something. It’s like a musical—dance, lighting, costumes—an extravaganza of absurdity.
In 2010, Seattle was your tour’s first stop. How would you describe the reception?
Oh, fantastic. We love it up there. The first shows always are not the best because you’re still working out the cobwebs. So we’re excited that we’re doing a week in Canada before Seattle. We dabble with things going wrong so much, I don’t know how an audience member’s supposed to determine what’s intentional or not. A lot of it is rehearsed; but then a lot of stuff just sort of happens and gets integrated into the show as we move along. By the time we get to Seattle, it’s gonna be in great shape. [Beat] Not to suggest that the people up in Canada are going to get a bad show.
They’re used to it. When Foreigner goes on tour, they start in Canada first. Fleetwood Mac does Canada, and then the real cities.
What’s it like to work with “serious” actors like John C. Reilly?
It’s the best. We vacillate between working with nonactors and actor actors, and it’s always what’s best for the project, if it’s funnier to make it people that don’t belong in that world. With this new show, Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories, the focus is more on the story and performances. This scene that we were just looking at features John C. Reilly as a character—not as Steve Brule—and Laurie Metcalf. Those two people are working at the highest level of acting, and they’re amazing, and it’s a crazy absurd scene.
Do actors approach you or is it the other way around?
We’ve had a few people who’ve said, “Yeah I didn’t know who you guys were, but I asked my kid and he said you gotta do it.” [Laughs] I think that was the case with Laurie Metcalf. Jason Schwartzman was the opposite. He’s been a fan for a while. Bedtime Stories in general is crazy and really dark and really funny and almost kind of a horror movie, but it’s about real people and real experiences. It makes a little more sense [than Tim and Eric Awesome Show]. For example, Jason Schwartzman is playing an actor in Hollywood, so he can play that part because that’s who he is. We’re trying to be creative and not stick to what we’re used to doing, because we have the opportunity to do whatever we want.
Anybody who can debut two movies at Sundance in one year and sings songs like “I Sit Down When I Pee”...
The key is to not get too wrapped up in how they want to be perceived. Doing something like The Comedy, it was never like, “I don’t know if I should do something that’s not a comedy because I’m a comedian.” We just try not to put ourselves in boxes that limit what we want to do.
What was the feedback from Tim and Eric fans who saw you in The Comedy or Bridesmaids or Eastbound and Down?
Feedback you hear is never a great indication of what the real perception is. There’s a fair amount of [affects dingus voice], “Dude what the fuck are you...why’d you do this?” But most people understand you can see people in different kinds of things. Any criticism on Twitter you gotta take with a bowl of salt. I always love the people that are like, You used to be funny. That’s always the best. In the beginning, there was so much hate, when we were doing Tom Goes to the Mayor. There were a lot of people writing us nasty things: “I wish you would die” and “Faggots.” Now I’m at that phase where there are former fans who now hate our stuff. Somehow we’ve let them down with our current work, but that’s just the way it goes.
What is your most surprising influence?
One person I think about a lot when it comes to career is Bob Dylan. He is the guy that wrote the book on sort of destroying your image and not worrying about it, and letting your audience catch up to you. And creating a career that lasts for a very long time.
Do you still consult Bob Odenkirk now that he’s Breaking Bad famous?
We just had him on Bedtime Stories. We wrote this script for Bob as this dramatic lead role—very dark, somber, funny—letting Bob go as an actor and not be silly, and he just fucking nailed it. We got to go through what’s out there in the world, going, “Did you see this thing?” “Oh, fuck man, that’s the worst” [Laughs]. He put us in such a great place. We’re on our own now; we’re grown up.
He’s working with comedy troupe the Birthday Boys in a similar way. Do you see a familiar upstarty quality in them?
We’re producing their show. They’re great. They’re doing a little more straight sketch comedy that we respect and love when it’s done well. Bob’s always joking that the problem with them is they don’t have an angle, they’re just funny white men; there’s not anything special about them so it’s hard to distinguish them. But they’re just really funny, really smart; great writing, great performances. People are starting to catch up to it and enjoy the show. I’m happy to be associated with it.
Is it your mission to unsettle people or does that set audiences up to laugh?
It’s always just [funny] in our minds and a lot of our ideas are generally just upsetting or fucked up or gross. Just because that makes us laugh. Being uncomfortable makes us laugh, or making other people uncomfortable. It all goes back to trying to elicit an emotion out of somebody, and you can do that in a lot of different ways. You don’t want to sit there like you’re watching Home Improvement or something just to zone out and disconnect. We want an audience-participatory experience when we make stuff, and get people cringing or gagging or laughing or all three.