[COMEDY: Interview] Tim And Eric
Tim and Eric’s particular brand of comedy tends to provoke extreme reactions from people. Those who love them feel as if they’ve found kindred spirits, while those who don’t refuse to even acknowledge that what they do is comedy. ‘Awkward’ is nowhere near a strong enough word. Their Adult Swim series, Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, took viewers to a new circle of hell every week. The pair played a series of helpless and hopeless characters in wretched and surreal situations, often on the brink of complete mental collapse. The sketches were intercut with a series of faux-commercials for questionable products – many of them themed around diarrhoea in some way – and were shot in a style that suggested the bottom rung of public access TV. Like-minded souls caught on quickly, and the show’s roster of guest stars stretched from comedy players like Zach Galifianakis and John C. Reilly all the way to popular acts like The Shins.
Eric Wareheim met Tim Heidecker in college, and the two knew right away that they would share a special bond. “We got to know each other in our first film class together, in freshman year film school,” Wareheim explains. “We sat near each other because we lived in the same dorm. We started cracking each other up, but we were doing it on a very deep level that we were really shocked at.” They wiled away their classes passing notes – containing jokes, possible band names and other crudities – in an attempt to make each other laugh. “One time, Tim cracked me up so much that our professor yelled at us in front of all the other students,” Wareheim says. “That was so embarrassing, but at that point we realised that we were on the same level, that we liked the same shit.” They’ve been working together ever since – on shows (Awesome Show, Great Job! and its predecessor, Tom Goes To The Mayor), films (Tim And Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie), viral commercials (for Old Spice and Absolut) and sketches – and much like those early college days, amusing one another remains the primary goal.
There’s a childlike innocence to Tim and Eric’s twisted humour, and it’s not all that surprising to learn that Wareheim himself has been honing his craft since he was a precocious teen. “My dad was a videographer, a real hobbyist, so we would always have old VHS cameras lying around. My sister and I would make talk shows and animations, and looking back on them, they’re pretty messed-up. They’re funny, but they’re weird. That’s one of the first examples, I would say, of me putting my kind of comedy down on something.” He still has the tapes somewhere, but insists that they will never see the light of day. “They were recorded when I was 13, which is about the most awkward age for a young man,” he says. “I’m six foot seven now, and I was six foot seven when I was that age, so I just looked like this lanky monster. I dress myself up in disgusting things all the time, but looking at myself as a young teen is really hard for me.”
People say that comedy is pain, and the characters on Tim And Eric certainly seem to be working through some very painful stuff – like tearful, screaming outbursts on the set of infomercials, uncovering horrific memories of child abuse, and expressing them via the medium of quilting. I ask Wareheim what exactly draws the pair to this aesthetic. “That’s just sort of what we love,” he says. “The nightmare-parts of life and living. We kind of amplify them on the show: going through a divorce, having to go to the bathroom in a park, these are horrible moments that we like to explore.”
There’s a notable undercurrent of daddy issues on the show – one cheery sketch concerns a kid who wears his absentee father’s dirty socks to feel like he’s around – but Wareheim assures me that this doesn’t come from real life. “We both had great upbringings,” he says. “I guess we’re coming from the point of view that dads are just funny. When you grow up and realise that your dad is a real man, with his own set of interests and passions, and not just your father – that’s really funny to us.”
In October this year, fans will get to experience the pair in the flesh when Tim And Eric Awesome Australian Tour 2012, Great Job! rolls into town. Given that their comedic style is so intimate, I’m curious to know how exactly their awkward sketches and vignettes will translate to the live stage. “Well, the live show is a very different experience than the TV show,” Wareheim tells me. “We do a lot of characters on the show, and they have their own songs and dances. Tim and I are in lots of bands and we do a lot of live performance art as well – we love doing that as a different kind of comedy. At the core of it, it’s still Tim And Eric. It’s the bizarre, awkward, in-your-face stuff that you’d expect.” There may also be a guest star, although Wareheim can’t say who just yet. “We do plan on having some surprise guests in Australia, although they’re not quite confirmed,” he says. “I can’t say too much, but it could be awesome.”
Since the series wrapped up, Tim and Eric have been working on their live show and their movie, which was released earlier this year. I ask Wareheim how they see their relationship continuing from here. “Well, we’re going to continue doing stuff together as long as we think it’s funny and we don’t hate each other,” he says. “Tim still cracks me up, I still think he’s the funniest guy out there. We have a bunch of new shows that we’re working on with Adult Swim, and we’re thinking about another movie. We do our own things, though, to satisfy other parts of our brains. It’s been a great working relationship so far, and I think there’s still a lot more that we can do.”
What: Tim And Eric Awesome Australian Tour 2012, Great Job!
Where: Metro Theatre / Factory Theatre
When: October 2 (sold out) / October 3