Tim & Eric know when to move along — literally and figuratively. Throughout their ten years on Adult Swim, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim have created three different shows — Tom Goes to the Mayor, Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job!, Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule — with varying formats and characters, but always featuring their signature mix of deadpan, satire, and gross-out/surrealist humor. Later this month, they’ll debut their fourth Adult Swim series, Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories, but they hit the road this week for a look back at Awesome Show with a North American tour alongside Dr. Steve Brule (i.e., John C. Reilly’s greatest role).
Flavorwire spoke with Tim Heidecker while the guys were rehearsing for the tour a few weeks back. Naturally, we discussed Bedtime Stories, an horror anthology-style live-action show they first previewed last year in their “Haunted House” Halloween special with Zach Galifianakis. The seven-episode first season, which will feature regular guest stars from the Tim & Eric universe, premieres September 18 at 12:15 AM on Adult Swim.
Flavorwire: How’s this tour going to be laid out with Dr. Steve Brule in the mix?
Tim Heidecker: We try to put on a show that is a sort of three-dimensional, amped-up version of our stuff, and it’s just sketches and songs — all kinds of surprises but mostly a bunch of stupidity and silliness. We’re rehearsing it now, so John — Dr. Steve Brule, I should say — is figuring out what he’s doing for his portion of the show. I’d say the comparison is sort of like a TED Talk — a Brule talk, if you will — but it all kind of climaxes to a pretty spectacular finale. We try to put together a Broadway musical of the Tim & Eric universe, with lights and costumes.
So, which Broadway musical is the Tim & Eric live show?
I haven’t seen one in quite a while, but I guess Jesus Christ Superstar, maybe mixed with Starlight Express.
You also have a new show coming out while you’re touring, Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories, but the tour is Awesome Show style, right?
The tone and the energy of it is definitely different from the Awesome Show. We aren’t making the live show try to match the tone of Bedtime Stories, but yes, there is the idea of going out there and getting the new show in everybody’s heads because people don’t pay attention too closely to these kinds of things. We’re trying to give the show the best chance to be seen by as many people as possible.
Who do you mean when you say, “People don’t pay attention too closely”? Tim & Eric fans, comedy TV viewers in general, or just mass entertainment consumers?
I think all of those. Some of the most diehard Tim & Eric fans might be like, “What are you guys up to these days?” You get promoted to 24/7, so it’s just different how people receive information about what you’re doing. I remember playing a show in Seattle a few years ago, and the night after I’m walking around when some dude says, “Oh my god, what the fuck are you doing in Seattle, holy shit, I’m your biggest fan!” And I say, “We played a show last night, dude.” He replied, “Oh my god, I had no idea!” It’s weird. There are all kinds of people who don’t know who we are and have never heard of us, or they’re just coming of the age where this is something they’d be up [for], or saw one thing of ours and said “I hate these guys.”
I just went in and got coffee like a half an hour ago, and this girl just froze up: “Oh my god, Eric!” And I was like, “No, I’m Tim.” And she said, “Oh, I am the biggest fan. I watch you guys all the time.” I thought, “Really? And it still hasn’t clicked which one is which? Because I feel like we say it all the time.” So, it’s very weird, but it’s also cool. I go through most of my life and nobody knows who the hell I am, so I think we’re still on the fringe of everything, but that’s probably a good place to be. I don’t want to be like running from the hotel to the black limousine, being chased down by people. That sounds like living hell.
After so many format changes — from animation to faux-public access to shorts to feature films — why did you want to bring a Twilight Zone influence to your comedy?
We were coming off of making these shorts for HBO that told a little bit longer of a story, and had made the Tim & Eric movie, which was fun and hard. We didn’t want to just come back and do more Awesome Show or another sketch show. The idea that we could do anything for 11 minutes was sort of our beginning. At Adult Swim they trust us and are interested in doing weird things and not sticking to traditional formats. So, out of that we thought, what if every episode was a ghost story? It’s sort of like if you took a sketch from Awesome Show like “Child Clown Outlet”: let’s really live in that world and create a dark, cinematic story you can enjoy watching but is still funny, fucked-up, and weird.
After we made a few of them, we realized it could go in a lot of different directions because it’s sort of a loose umbrella that holds a lot of ideas and styles. We were inspired by Louie, where you can have multiple episodes that connect, or you can have characters that come back that you’ve seen before. If we make a second season [of Bedtime Stories], you’ll see just like everything else we’ve done, it builds on itself and becomes its own universe. You kind of have to start making something before you can really know what it is.
Do you ever feel like you’ve explored the depths of Eric, and in this case, John’s humor? Do they still surprise you with the twisted shit they come up with?
We rehearsed a bit for the tour today, and we were like three fifth graders in the back of church crying-laughing at each other. We were trying something for the first time and haven’t run it into the ground yet, as we will as we go through the tour and it becomes disgusting to us. At this point when we’re improvising — and we’re just dying. Everything John does in character as Brule is unbelievable and hilarious, so I don’t know about having explored every level of it, but still very amused by the two of them.
A few years ago, you had this online gag where you pretended you were the new Editor-in-Chief of Rolling Stone. Down to the shoddily Photoshopped covers featuring B-team classic rockers, it was truly inspired — but also kind of random. What prompted you to do that?
I think Eric may have been doing a few days on The Office. It was just one of those weird weeks where we just had nothing going on, or I didn’t feel like doing the stuff we had to do. I think it began with a tweet saying, “I am the new editor at Rolling Stone.” That was as far as I’d thought about it, but it was one of those things where it immediately got a lot of favorites and retweets. It seemed to strike a chord, and it just kind of inspired me to go with it for the next week or so. Rolling Stone have never been big supporters of us either, I should say.
I used to love and subscribe to Rolling Stone in high school, and it definitely shaped the way I think about things. But for years now, it has felt like a trashy, shitty magazine that still has this amazing reputation — sort of like Saturday Night Live, where when you actually look at what it’s producing, it’s pretty poor. So, it was a fun little target to play around with, and nobody gives enough of a shit to do it. I’m also a fan of classic rock and what’s funny about classic rock, and it was fun making those covers. Can you imagine if Micky Dolenz [from The Monkees] was on the cover of Rolling Stone now? Yet, at the same time, it wouldn’t be that crazy to think about Mick Jagger on the cover of Rolling Stone. There are these weird lines: it would be hilarious if Jeff Lynne [from ELO] was on the cover of Rolling Stone tomorrow, but it would make sense if Tom Petty was. But what’s the difference between these two things?
A lot of people believed it and still believe it. Sometimes I get PR requests from amateur rappers who Google “Editor-in-Chief of Rolling Stone” and my name comes up.
Has social media has changed the way you workshop a joke? Like you were saying, you created this whole world while riffing on Twitter and seeing that people liked it.
I tried to tone back using Twitter and responding to people because it can just get very out of hand very quickly. I’m trying to decide what I’m going to do about this show. I don’t really want to hear from everybody, you know? Especially the people who want to tell me what they think, because those people generally have negative things to say. It does actually affect me, and I know it’s stupid that it does. I’m thinking of not checking in so much. It’s very addicting, and it is nice to be able to communicate with people directly. It’s a great outlet for ideas that only work in that way, just jokes or stupid things you think about, but not really when you’re premiering new stuff.