Tim and Eric’s surrealist cringe comedy has sparked a movement over the last decade.
Courtesy of the Adult Swim TV series Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! – which ran for five seasons between 2007-2010 – Tim and Eric’s influence can now be felt at any given amateur comedy night.
The show was rooted in the unfortunate eccentricities of US public access television. It prioritised awkwardness and was rife with non-sequiturs, while also exposing the gross consumerism that infiltrates our lives.
Check out Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!:
Eric Wareheim has gone on to star alongside Aziz Ansari in the Netflix series Master of None and buddy up with Kanye West. Tim Heidecker has made two albums with Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado and two additional records of anti-Trump protest songs, which are at turns deeply depressing and piercingly funny. Most recently, he appeared in Jordan Peele’s horror film, Us.
But despite the duo rising to genuine celebrity status, Tim and Eric’s collaboration remains a polarising phenomenon. That’s never been much of an issue in Australia, however, where Tim and Eric have found a cohort of diehard supporters.
So much so, in fact, that they’ve chosen our shores as the launchpad for their 2020 Mandatory Attendance World Tour. The live show will consist of all new material and precedes the launch of a brand new Tim and Eric TV show.
Ahead of their January visit, The Brag spoke to Heidecker about his friendship with Wareheim, the peculiarities of the Tim and Eric live experience, and his music career.
The Brag: You and Eric have been busy with various other projects since season two of Bedtime Stories, such as acting, directing and making music. What draws you back to Tim and Eric?
Tim Heidecker: Over the past five or so years we’ve done stuff separately and it’s been great. It’s helped us feel like we don’t have to end what we’re doing, but that we can look at our schedule and say, “You want to try to do something next year? What do you want to try to do?”
It’s natural that the metabolism of the stuff slows down, but it makes it so that we’re not sick of each other either. We can get back into this mode of writing this live show when it’s fun and it’s good to hang.
TB: Is having a strong friendship essential for making good work together?
TH: I feel that way about my favourite bands or my favourite comedy groups. Like, “What are they really like? I wonder why they don’t work together anymore.”
So it’s nice to be in the middle of that and know, oh yeah, we do genuinely like each other and work well together when we are in that place together to do it.
TB: So much of your comedy seems to stem from your desire to amuse one another and that’s a really compelling feature of the Tim and Eric dynamic.
TH: And we are different and we have different interests – that’s clear if you follow us online – but there’s a common ground that we both generally find the same things funny and both want to do the same kind of things in that space together. That really makes it an enduring partnership.
TB: You released the solo album, What the Broken-Hearted Do…, earlier this year. It’s your second album of earnest singer-songwriter numbers made with Jonathan Rado. Do you think these records confused a lot of Tim and Eric fans?
TH: There’s going to be a number of Tim and Eric fans that it’s just not their kind of music. And then there’s going to be people that aren’t fans of Tim and Eric, that might have seen Tim and Eric and gotten turned off it, that would like this kind of music and stay away because they have a preconceived idea of what it is.
It’s more of a labour of love for me. I love the process, I love working with musicians and I love writing songs. I don’t expect it to be some kind of chart topping thing. When an idea for a collection of songs comes together I like to see it through and do as good a job as I can and put it out there into the world.
Tim Heidecker – ‘When I Get Up’
TB: In your episode of Amoeba’s What’s In My Bag, you and Rado talk about channelling ‘70s greats like The Band, Warren Zevon, Randy Newman, Bruce Springsteen, and so on. Do you experience any imposter syndrome making records, especially given how tonally distinct they are from Tim and Eric?
TH: I’ve gotten more comfortable with it. This new collection of songs I’ve written that I think I’ll be putting out next year are really quite earnest and very personal. I just think that’s what happens when people work on their craft more; they get better at it.
Earlier in my life when I was making music and doing more parody work and satirical stuff, it really was because I didn’t feel like I had much to say that John Lennon or Elton John hasn’t said already.
Tim Heidecker & Jonathan Rado – What’s In My Bag?
TB: The Mandatory Attendance World Tour kicks off in Australia in January. Your comedy routinely inhabits the realm of awkwardness, going past the laughter into some undefined beyond. Can that make it hard to know when you’re succeeding in a live context?
TH: Seeing us live is a new way to experience our stuff because you’re in the room with like-minded people who are on the same wavelength and are reacting as you would in a traditional comedy setting – because there are jokes that might not work in a general audience but work pretty well with this crowd.
But there are bits that are audience patience testing or just conceptual, fuck-with-the-audience kind of moments that require there to be moments of uncomfortableness before the laughter starts.
What I love is when the rolling laughter happens. There’s people where it’s really killing them earlier than other people and there’s this wave of reaction that some of the audience is bewildered and some of them are laughing because the audience is bewildered.
Tim and Eric – 2020 Mandatory Attendance Tour
TB: There are obviously elements of the TV show you can’t recreate live like the clunky editing, disorienting close-ups and the presentation of everything in a grainy video effect. But playing off the energy of a live audience must add another component to your comedy.
TH: We treat it as a totally different thing. The audience is in on it and it’s very interactive with them. But every time we’ve gone on a live tour, we’re not doing this for the casino crowd. This is for people that are excited to see us.
Almost to liken us to the Grateful Dead or Phish or something – you’re in the club and this is for you and that’s why you’re here and we’re going to give you that show.
Tim and Eric Mandatory Attendance Tour
Wednesday, January 15th, 2020
Enmore Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Thursday, January 16th, 2020
The Tivoli, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday, January 18th, 2020
Astor Theatre, Perth, WA
Monday, January 20th, 2020
The Gov, Adelaide, SA
Tickets: The Gov
Tuesday, January 21st, 2020
Hamer Hall, Melbourne, VIC
Tickets: Arts Centre Melbourne