The raucous comedy duo launches their live performance, along with a new Adult Swim show, Bedtime Stories
Uncomfortable interactions, seizure-inducing editing and heaps of bodily fluids have helped Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim create some of the most cringe-worthy comedy of the last decade (and possibly of all time).
The Pennsylvania natives and Temple University grads made their mark on pop culture 10 years ago with the Adult Swim show Tom Goes to the Mayor, then moving on to series like Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule. All three series feature a mix of absurdist, gross-out and avant-garde sketch comedy that uses a combination of amateur actors (some found from Craigslist ads) and A-list stars like Zach Galifianakis, Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller. And their 2012 feature film, Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, took gross-out to a whole new level (just look up the word “shrim” on YouTube).
The comedy duo returned to cable last month with the debut of their new Adult Swim dark comedy series Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories – a cross between classic Twilight Zone episodes and some of the creepiest moments of David Lynch’s films. One of the first episodes features comedian Bob Odenkirk (who originally gave Heidecker and Wareheim their break on TV) as a doctor who cuts off the toes of his patients.
Heidecker and Wareheim also have been traveling throughout North America for the last month as part of their Tim and Eric & Dr. Steve Brule 2014 Tour, which includes classic Tim and Eric sketch comedy characters and the not-so-coherent advice of Dr. Brule (a.k.a. Oscar-nominated actor John C. Reilly).
The accomplishments are not too shabby for Wareheim, who got his comedic start at age 5 by running around his family’s home in Norristown wearing his mother’s hemorrhoid pillow, later moving on to direct music videos for indie bands like MGMT and Beach House and working on a new series called Food Club with comedians Aziz Ansari and Jason Woliner. We caught up with Wareheim as he prepared for his live show in Seattle.
Fly Magazine: How are things in Seattle?
Eric Wareheim: Great. We’re about to get Mario Batali’s father’s salami sandwiches, which is more exciting to me than the actual tour [laughs]. John – uh – Dr. Brule called Mario and got a time for us to come over because there’s usually a line around the block. It’s this really famous sandwich shop. I’m kind of a food freak.
FM: Have you had a favorite place for food so far?
EW: Last night in Seattle, we had dinner at this place called the Walrus and the Carpenter. It was a place that Batali recommended, and it was all Northwest seafood – mostly raw – like oysters, scallops carpaccio and other stuff from this region. The best way for touring for me is meeting the people, hanging out, eating their food and drinking what they drink. This may be a boring interview [laughs], but we had some wine in Ontario. I had no idea they even had vineyards up there. Pike Place Market in Seattle is another Tim and Eric favorite. We always go there and get some smoked salmon.
FM: Any way to work your current food travels into Food Club?
EW: Yeah, that’s basically the idea. Next year we’re going to shoot 10 of those episodes and go to towns to find where the local underground spot is. A lot of the places we go are popular, but for Food Club we want to find the spots that are still off the grid, and then at night try to go to hardest to get in restaurant. I’m always searching for that spot that people don’t know about yet but it’s amazing.
FM: Do you have a favorite city for food?
EW: I’d have to say Los Angeles. This summer I traveled to Sicily and Tokyo. Both are two of my favorite cuisines – Italian and Japanese. But when I got back to L.A., I thought, “You know what? We’ve got it good here.” We’ve got the sushi, we’ve got the fresh produce, we’ve got everything. I love New York as well, but if I had to pick one place it would definitely be L.A. I like Asian-centric stuff – a lot of amazing Thai, Vietnamese, farmer’s markets are crazy.
FM: As a Philly native, do you have a favorite cheese steak?
EW: Well, I’m more of a Pat’s guy than Geno’s. I love them both. Whenever I go there, I’m usually with friends, and they’ve never been there. So we go to that intersection and usually get one from each place. But my favorite hoagie place in Philly is Chickie’s. I’m going to try to get some Chickie’s delivered for our show. Every show on tour we try to get our favorite spots to stop in. In Austin, we have one of our runners get us some Franklin Barbecue. Tonight there’s actually this Hawaiian chicken place we’re going to try and get.
FM: How has the live show developed over the last week from the start of the tour?
EW: It’s developed a lot. We usually do a test show in Los Angeles where we invite some fans, but this time we kind of went into it totally blind in Montreal. We found out really quickly what works and what doesn’t work. But it’s not very far from how we originally wrote it. A lot of our show is just a conceptual train-wreck experience, so it’s fun to see how far we can push it. With a live audience, you just milk those moments that are so fun to do. We’re having a blast. Dr. Steve Brule has his own set, and he just destroys people, and they’re freaking out laughing. I think we’ve got it down to a good point and locked in.
FM: Are live shows more exciting when there’s that element of surprise and unexpected results?
EW: I’m more of a control freak – I like it to be perfect. But in Vancouver, our computer went down, and that computer runs all the video and sound effects. We look over at Doug the video guy, and he’s like, “No, it’s out.” Tim and I quickly turned to the audience and started making fun of people’s outfits for a couple minutes until they could get it up and running [laughs]. Our characters were dicks for that particular moment – the Cinco Brothers – so we used that. It’s fun.
FM: Any hecklers at the shows?
EW: Not really. People that come to our shows are pretty rabid fans who are really respectful. We’ve been doing these double shows – a late-night show and a regular one – and at the late-night show, people have a chance to drink a little bit more, so there’s a little bit more of people shouting out things they want to see. But as a joke, we shut them down by saying, “Shut the fuck up!” Even that gets a laugh.
FM: When did the concept of Bedtime Stories start to take shape?
EW: We made our movie and made a couple short films for HBO, and we had a pretty good experience doing things with a little bit longer of a narrative instead of sketches – telling stories with these pretty wild characters. That’s sort of where our heads are at, and that’s what we wanted our next project to be – a short film anthology series sort of like The Twilight Zone that still feels like a Tim and Eric experience. We had some amazing actors in the project, and there’s this overall dark sensibility of this nightmare universe that we create.
FM: Do you have a favorite Twilight Zone episode?
EW: I can’t remember the exact one. I think it happens a lot, but this guy wakes up, and he’s the last person on Earth – just walking around and feeling that feeling of dread. That’s what we wanted to do. Sometimes it’s more of a vibe where you’re in a universe where things are so uncomfortable and almost like a dream – where you wake up from a dream and you’re like, “Fuck that! Thank God I don’t have to live in that kind of a world.”
FM: How much did the imagery of David Lynch films play into the storytelling of Bedtime Stories?
EW: Massive, massive influence – the way he sets up these kind of normal scenarios of suburban life, and all of a sudden there’s a twist where you’re like, “What the fuck is going on?” The way that he plays with not really understanding what is going on and what the undercurrent is of a mood, and we have to figure it out slowly, which is something Tim and I both love doing. We have to do this – setting up a weird tone – in 11 1/2 minutes, which is really hard. Lost Highway is a huge influence – even things like Blue Velvet with its weird suburban life, and there’s just something off about it.
FM: What do you think it is about suburban life that lends itself to imagery that can turn from normal to surreal so quickly?
EW: Any kind of universe that you live in – especially suburbia, where things look so pleasant on the outside – things are way more fucked up underneath. Tim and I grew up really close to the Amish in Lancaster, and we drove by and were like, “There’s something weird going on here.” The more that you’re repressed, the more you’re going to go wild. At the time, you realize there’s all these weird things, and we love playing with that – the surface looks beautiful, but underneath? That’s just human nature. The most normal guy is going home to masturbate to something crazy that we would never expect. The human condition is not normal – that people are fucked, and we have to deal with the fucked-up things, horrible things, relationships, our bodies producing crazy, disgusting things. It’s sort-of what we’re highlighting in this new show.
FM: Is there a current band you’d like to direct a video to put your touch on?
EW: I just listened to the new Karen O record that came out today, and I had a video I was going to make for her for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs like a year ago that fell through. So, I’d live to work with her. She’s into my work, and I think we could collaborate on something amazing where she stars in it but it’s kind of like a dark universe. Her new record is like really pretty love songs, so it would be nice to do something to counter-balance that.
FM: Since it’s October, do you have a favorite Halloween costume you’ve worn in the past?
EW: I had a costume where once I was a momma cat, and I had six working nipples that I filled with Patron tequila. And at a party, people could just come up and do shots right off of my tits. I’m still really proud of that.
FM: Was that in college?
EW: No. That was just a couple years ago [laughs].