Tim & Eric
Over the course of five seasons, plus a multitude of peripheral offshoots,Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! has amassed a ridiculously fervent global fanbase with its absurdist, near-coded brand of hyper humour. WhileAwesome Show has run its course, masterminds Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim have kept busy in 2012 with the release of their Billion Dollar Movie – as well as gearing up to mark the Australian debut of their liveAwesome Tour experience.
While still incredibly confounding to many, Tim and Eric’s niche brand of humour has managed to make some impact on broader culture. “Well I don’t know about the mainstream,” Heidecker muses. “We’re certainly not considered mainstream here in America at all. I’m sure we wouldn’t be considered mainstream in Australia either, but perhaps more successful than some other people. I think it’s because it’s a specific kind of humour, and if you’re into that kind of humour then you’re really going to cherish it. It’s not going to be some flash in the pan kind of thing, you’re going to like it for a long time and be supportive of it. I’m not really sure though.”
That influence can be identified more frequently in the world of television commercials, which makes sense considering one of Tim and Eric’s breakthroughs came in the form of a three-part advertisement for vodka, co-starring a tempestuous Zach Galifinakis. “We’ve worked in the commercial world a little bit ourselves, and generally ad people are all frustrated late-20s, early 30s people wanting to make their own TV show. A lot of them are fans of our show, and I’m sure they can be influenced by us occasionally. It’s only natural,” Heidecker reasons. “As long as it’s not anything that’s a literal rip-off, I’ll be flattered.”
From their debut program Tom Goes To The Mayor onwards, Tim and Eric’s work has been imbued with a profound sense of creative freedom – which is something of a rarity these days. “It’s a great feeling. From the beginning we established that what’s best for us is to have as much autonomy as possible. We generally only sign up for things that offer that. So we’re very lucky in that sense. There isn’t that much coming in these days, but when stuff comes in you just have a gut reaction to it. You try not to sign on to anything that’s too gross, you try not to be in them unless it’s something you have total control over. It’s case by case.”
While Awesome Show can be readily enjoyed with mindless abandon, there have been a few instances of discourse aiming to intellectualise the show’s motifs. “We don’t necessarily sit around and make literal layers to sketches, but there is some depth to it. It’s not just the surface level,” he explains. “There have been some people that have articulated that intelligently and taken it beyond a typical analysis of it being crass, bizarre and absurdist. There’s a lot going on in the show and what we do in general. I don’t have a problem with people analysing it. But of course it can go too far.”
The five seasons of Awesome Show featured an impressive roster of guest stars – from comedy legends Bob Odernkirk and Fred Willard, to Flight Of The Conchords and Will Ferrell, to Jeff Goldblum and the Oscar-nominated John C Reilly as the hapless Dr Steve Brule (a role which resulted in two spinoff seasons). “They get a nice little piece of video for the reel,” Heidecker laughs as he explains the stars’ motivations for appearing on the show. “It’s a very fun, quick and easy experience for them. We make it as fun as possible. They like our work if they’re doing it, and they want to be a part of it. I think it benefits both of us in the same way.
“Most of the time we approach people. We have a sort of picky taste. There are people that we like but never use because their style of comedy generally doesn’t fit in with ours. But somebody like Will Forte or Zach [Galifianakis] – these are people that we really have a close connection with and are friends with off camera. We trust and know that when we put them in front of the camera they’re going to be in our universe and contribute to the show in a valuable way,” he reasons. “I think like an A-level star would have been a lot of fun to have on the show – like a Dustin Hoffman, somebody just gigantic. It’s a case of the bigger the better most of the time because the bigger they are and the more absurd the situation [is what] makes it more exciting.”
With Awesome Show finishing its run with season five, Tim and Eric are currently working on the next chapter of their television lives. “We’re developing another show for Adult Swim, and hopefully doing some more Check It Out [With Dr. Steve Brule]. All kinds of different stuff is coming up. It’s always changing. Television is kind of like the last bastion because there are still advertising dollars there to make stuff with,” Heidecker states. “It’s still a place where you can experiment and do weird things.”
As well as a few select appearances by well-loved characters – which may or may not include the likes of Casey and his brother, Jan and Wayne Skylar, and the delightful Spagett – Australian audiences can expect plenty of new material when the Awesome Tour hits town. “We had no idea that the show was being played there. It’s kind of nice, kind of cool. We’ll personalise it a little bit. Not everything, but there will be certain nods to country. I’m sure we’re going to incorporate Crocodile Dundee in there somehow. We toured England last year and we felt it was funny to pander as much to the country as possible.”
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK
Tim & Eric Awesome Australian Tour, Great Job! hits The Forum on Saturday September 29 and Sunday September 30. Tickets onsale now. Tim Heidecker also performs a stand-up set at The Toff on Monday October 8.