First published on 6 Aug 2012. Updated on 13 Aug 2012.
One of the most common things people ask about interviewing comedians is “are they funny?” After all, just because someone’s hilarious on stage or on screen is no guarantee that they’re going to be hilarious to speak to in an interview context.
“All the furniture is half sized,” Eric Wareheim says of his new office that he and comedy partner Tim Heidecker have just moved into. “Our show’s got a pretty low budget. The office space is beautiful but everything is tiny. But if you scale everything down, everyone’s still on the same kind of level. It is very powerful – and it’s very grounding, to be honest with you. We just feel very centred to the earth and close to Mother Nature. It does give you a weird sense of perspective.”
So, yes: yes, Wareheim is funny.
“Another thing is all the toilets are out in the open air; we don’t have doors around any of the stalls or urinals. We feel like it brings everyone together because you’re seeing everyone at their most vulnerable, and that’s good for business.”
So Tim and Eric advocate al fresco latrines?
“Well, I need to correct you: they’re holes, like, piss holes. We don’t allow women to work in the office, they work outside in the parking lot, they have desks out there and they figure out where to go to the bathroom. But inside, with the men, we just have piss and shit holes that go straight to the sewer system.”
It sounds, um, idyllic.
“It’s hard to leave each day, but I have about 12 cats at home that need care. And I’m not talking about normal cats, I’m talking about special needs cats, so I’ve got to come home, I gotta walk them, I gotta give them medicine, I’ve got this big kind of hamster wheel that I’ve gotta run three of them… So my day is full even without the Tim and Eric thing. I’ve got a lot of shit to do and that’s pretty much the only thing that will get me away from the office from creating things with Tim.”
Heidecker, safely ensconced in his home, is a little more forthcoming about the duo’s upcoming tour. “We’re thrilled. We’ve been trying to put this together for a couple of years now, so it’s a big win for us. We had a little bit of down time this summer and we just figured, well, now’s the time to strike Down Under, so here we come!”
“We made 50 episodes of [Tim & Eric] Awesome Show Great Job, and that spiralled into the Billion Dollar Movie. And then we also had this live tour which is really fun for people that are familiar with our work," Wareheim adds. "And we’ve been getting emails for years and years from people in Australia wanting us to come visit them, it’s one of those places we’ve always wanted to come, and people actually seem really cool there, so I think it’s going to be a good fit. I might not ever go home. If I can figure out the cats, we might just move shop there.”
And what does the show entail?
“Well, we actually never come out on stage,” Heidecker explains. “We stand backstage and show episodes and then we quietly leave when they’re done, and you get your ticket validated that we were in the building. It’s so obnoxious to come out on stage and beg for the audience’s applause. We’re just too humble to do that.”
“We have a pretty elaborate rider for when we tour and we’re having a hard time with the promoters in terms of that,” explains Wareheim, “but what I’ve heard is that everything will be worked out.”
What sort of requirements do the duo have?
“We require about ten divorced men. We do a lot of stretching work, a lot of vocal exercises, and we feel that if you’ve gone through a marriage and a divorce then you’ll have the capacity to open up and help us prepare for our shows.”
“Yeah. Look, in America, that’s totally normal for a band to have some divorcees. You know, ten is nothing – Maroon 5, they have like 30 guys back there, stretching them, doing drills. But in Australia, they were like, ‘What? We have to get 10 men?’ and we said no, they have to be divorcees: they have to have really experienced life.”
Heidecker, bless him, is prepared to give a more straightforward answer. “We come out and sing and dance and do characters from the show and make it a bit of a spectacle; it feels like a pep-rally-rock-concert kind of vibe. We don’t attempt to try to replicate the show in any way, but it’s certainly a different experience.”
So it’s not your standard sit-down-and-watch-the-comedy kind of a thing?
"We like the vibe to feel a little more like a rock show than a stand-up show, there’s a lot of pomp and circumstance and a lot of lights and music, we also show video clips, and a lot of our show is music; there’s tonnes of music in the show, so there’s going to be songs from the show.”
Please tell me that Casey & His Brother will be performing.
“Oh, Casey & His Brother sing some songs – we’re definitely doing that,” Heidecker emphasises. “And we bring our supplies of fake vomit and bodily fluids. It’s like a little bit of a postmodern Andy Kaufman-meets-Gallagher kind of show.”
“There’s going to be singing, there’s going to be dancing, there’s going to be trivia contests, fan interactions, videos…”Wareheim adds. “It’s going to be like a multimedia wonderland. See, a lot of people come to Australia like, ‘Oh I’m a band, you get to see my set’, or I’m a comedian, I’ll give you one kind of comedy’. Tim and Eric come down to Australia and we bring 110% of our talents. You know what I’m saying? That’s why we need all this extra stuff to prepare us for the show.”
The pair are currently working on a couple of new shows, but does this mean Awesome Show is completely done? “Yep,” Wareheim confirms. “We’re continuing with Check it Out! With Dr. Steve Brule. We did two seasons of that, we’re going to make another season, then we have a new Tim and Eric show which we’re making on [long time cable station home] Adult Swim which is top secret, but we feel like that’s a continuation of Awesome Show. You know, it’s not the exact same sketch show, but it’s from the same kind of energy.”
The mind boggles: after all, prior to Awesome Show the pair made the animated series Tom Goes to the Mayor – which seemed pretty damn weird at the time, but with knowledge of what was to come seems incredibly conventional and innocent by comparison. So does the new project go to even weirder, darker places?
“Have you seen Billion Dollar Movie?” Wareheim counters. “I don’t think it’s out in Australia just yet, but that will answer your question. It is really, really fucked up in a way that I am so proud of. We’ve screened this and people are screaming in terror, and also laughing ‘til they’re crying. It’s a really good combination of Tom Goes to the Mayor meets the Awesome Show; there’s a story there but we really explore some darkness and some silliness at the same time.”
Heidecker agrees. “It’s funny, we just were taking about Tom with Adult Swim. That was really met with a lot of head-scratching and criticism at the time and a lot of Adult Swim fans were like, ‘What the fuck is this shit?’ and there was a small, loyal fan base that really liked it. But now, I get messages all the time, like “When are you going to make more Tom Goes to the Mayor? Oh I hate their new stuff; oh boy, Tom Goes to the Mayor, that was good!', and I’m like, ‘Where the hell were you people?’” he laughs.
“But at the time Adult Swim would always say, ‘You wait; the audience will catch up to this show. They’re not going to get it for a while.’ And it’s so true: you do stuff and no one notices, then somehow people catch up.”
That’s got to be frustrating, already knowing that the new project will be met with people blithely dismissing it with “Oh, this is shit – but Awesome Show, that was amazing…”
“Mm-hmm, exactly. The only thing that provides optimism when you’re working on something is knowing that if it’s not going to catch on right now, it’s got a good chance to do so eventually. It trickles in, like rain into the aquifier."