Written by Bob McMahon Monday, 12 March 2007 03:40
The dirty little secret is you gotta be weird to get on Adult Swim: you gotta come across as a weirdo. So we came out with this idea of, "Let's come out with the weirdest show we could" as a joke, and it kind of caught on and we kind of had to stick with that formula.
With a funky soundtrack and a colorful disco backdrop lurking in the background, an African-American man in a gold suit is calling out dance steps to two adults dressed as kids in an instructional dance video for children. It starts off normal enough: "Slap your hands" is the first instruction. But things get progressively weirder. Soon, the dance instructor yells out "Now think about your dad," then eventually tells the now perplexed and nervous pair of "children," "I wanna meet your dad."
Such is a typical sketch on Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim's new show, Tim and Eric: Awesome Show, Great Job. The duo met in a comedy troupe the summer before they both attended Temple University and soon found out that they shared the same, self-described "left-of-center" sense of humor. After cutting their teeth on the improv scene together, they sent demo tapes of their sketches to many of their comedy heroes, including Bob Odenkirk of Mr. Show fame. Odenkirk was impressed with their "Tom Goes to the Mayor" short and helped Tim and Eric develop the short into a series for the Adult Swim programming block on Cartoon Network. With two seasons of Tom under their belts, Tim and Eric are now working on their new sketch show. They talked to us about the show, their sense of humor, and other things.
Compared to mainstream America's sense of humor, your sense of humor is oddball and weird. How did you develop this, or is it something you always had? And when was the first time you realized that you both had the same sense of humor and could connect as a duo?
EW: I can remember a very specific point. Tim and I were both in film class together, we were kind of in the same group of acquaintances, started writing band names to each other and Tim came up with a band name called "TGIF." And to me that was probably the funniest thing I've heard in days.
TH: There was a lot of funny stuff going on at college. Eric and I were both in a comedy troupe together the summer before college called Rascals. And we worked together, we did a lot of improv games together, we traveled around just perfecting our craft.
So did you just work together long enough and eventually realize you would work well together?
EW: It took a couple years for us to realize that we were compatible. If you have much experience with comedy troupes, it's a pretty rough scene. Tim would write bits for me and I would write bits for him and then after a couple of years of just work shopping we were like, "Alright, we can start making stuff together."
TH: There was six of us together in the Rascals. The other guys left to pursue safer jobs, more traditional routes, like getting into marketing, and one went to get a job at his dad's car dealership.
Tim and Eric launch into a history of where all of the other Rascals went and what they're doing now.
EW: The point about this is some people got to get real and be rational and if you want a family and children, you've got to go that route. Tim and I decided to gamble and get into comedy.
Another thing about your sense of humor, this is something I've noticed: With Tom and Awesome Show, Great Job, they seem to have this contrast [within each show] between these two types of humors. With Tom, you'll come up with these outrageous, absurd, bizarre scenarios that the characters get into. But at the same time, it contrasts with this dry dialogue you guys have that's understated and subtle.
TH: That's a good observation.
EW: To give you an example when we make this Awesome Show, we have two kinds of bits. We have a comedy bit and we have a mood piece. And that's a good example of our kinds of humor. Comedy bits are the more crazy, absurd, wacky, laugh-out-loud stuff and then you have these mood pieces that are like...well it's extremely funny to Tim and I but it could be just not for everybody.
TH: You know, comedy is a little bit like a mountain range whereas you have a high peak and low valleys. And the mountains don't mean a darn if you don't have the valleys next to them. In other words, you sit on a plateau. So you need those peaks, you need those valleys.
EW: When you talk about a good singer, you talk about their dynamic range.
TH: I'm a tenor, Eric's a bass.
EW: You need both of those to round out a harmony range.
TH: If you want to do a four-part harmony with just two men, you go to look into at least four-track or two-track machine. But we do ProTools, so it's not even an issue.
You were saying "it might not work for somebody"; that brings me to another thing. The kind of left-of-center humor [you do], there's no doubt about it, it's very polarizing.
TH: We don't mean to be polarizing. When we were in the Rascals together, it was the opposite definition of what we do. Our stuff was pretty much right down the middle of the road. We did political satire and a lot of stage comedy using stage combat techniques. And it appealed to everybody. My grandmother could go see it and frat boys could go see it. Everybody went to the shows. Everybody walked away, got a piece of the pie. You know, everybody got an opportunity to enjoy themselves.
EW: When we were in the Rascals we did a lot of humor and comedy that you've seen before. So instantly you're like "I've seen someone else do that. That's funny!" What we did with Tom Goes to the Mayor was we came up with a whole new idea that's a little off-center.
TH: You know, personally we're not fans of that kind of humor [Tom Goes to the Mayor's style of humor].
You're not a fan of the humor of your own show?
TH: No, well...see, the dirty little secret is you gotta be weird to get on Adult Swim: you gotta come across as a weirdo. So we came out with this idea of, "Let's come out with the weirdest show we could" as a joke, and it kind of caught on and we kind of had to stick with that formula. I haven't talked to Eric about this in a while, but I think we'd rather be doing mainstream comedy.
I never would have guessed that.
EW: What Tim is saying is, "Listen, this is a business." The stuff that's going on in Comedy Central is more of what Tim and I would be interested in right now. We like standup, we like spoofs, you know, parody. That's kind of more our vein. Tom Goes to the Mayor was, "Alright, everyone took this a little too far."
TH: I hate stuff like Monty Python. You know, shows that are absurd for the sake of being absurd, just like too wacky and like, "Where's the basis for that?" I'm more familiar with traditional comedy where you can get it. It's like more appealing, 'cause we're getting a little old; I mean, Eric and I are both in our 40s [According to their official MySpace pages, both Tim and Eric are in their 30s] and it's a little weird for us now to act like children, like high school kids.
EW: There's a formula to comedy and there's a reason that certain kind of comedy works. There's a setup, there's a funny character, and then there's a great payoff. And that kind of like simple structure should be in most of the stuff, and it's [in] the stuff we're working on right now. For example, Hackeyshack, it's a film we wrote. It's got a great character, it's got physical comedy, sports humor.
TH: It's a good three-act structure where you got a resolution and an end and that's obviously something Adult Swim's not going to go for.
EW: We do Hackeyshack, that's our primary focus, and we made this thing called Tim and Eric: Awesome Show, Great Job. Don't get me wrong, it's a great show, it's just...
TH: It's not for my demographic; I wouldn't watch it. I'm kind of going through the motions.
Speaking of your new show, your website described it as "Live action, sketch, animation, emotions, phone calls, love, etc." To me this sounds a lot like what you're doing on your website. Would it be fair to say that you're kind of bringing your website to TV form to people?
TH: We've had a deal with netzone.com and they're kind of like this Internet...like what do you call it? Channel?
EW: Yeah, like a "content provider."
TH: So we had sold our website to Netzone and the conditions of the deal meant that we had to develop at least three pieces that we created for them for television. So that binded us into that, and since the pieces were so short form, we had to sort of pick and choose. And that's why we were kind of forced into doing a sketch based show for TV. 'Cause Netzone is owned by the Turner company, by Ted Turner. And you sort of get locked into these stupid deals when you have a lousy attorney. We're happy to do it, but you know...
The good news is that Netzone has a relationship with Rob Zombie, and Rob turned us onto these cool guys, this band called Excalibur that does rock music for TV shows, so they're just pretty much doing all the music for our new show. We actually got to meet Rob Zombie two weeks ago.
EW: Which was nice.
TH: He came over to the office. He's really short. He's like so short, you wouldn't believe it, but tough, he's tough. Eric made a joke about his height. He's tiny and he went for Eric and totally went and tackled him to the ground.
EW: [He went] right for my neck, using his forearm.
TH: Hopped up on Eric, literally like a monkey out of a cage.
EW: Like a little ferret.
TH: We had three people peeling Zombie off of Eric, it was nuts!
EW: I'm a fan! I'm a fan of him and I shouldn't have said, "You're stupid and you're tiny." [laughs] He just went right for my throat. He sprung up like two feet!
TH: It was so funny! He comes in our office and Eric's like, "Bring in that stupid, tiny, elf!" He rolls and jumps at the same time.
Sounds like a great first impression.
EW: You know, I didn't mean to offend him, it's just so shocking, he's like 5'2". But now we've got a great working relationship, you know; now he turned the Excalibur guys onto us.
Tim and Eric: Awesome Show, Great Job airs at 10:45 central time on Cartoon Network/Adult Swim on Sundays. The first two seasons of Tom Goes to the Mayor will be released on DVD April 3 and will contain revealing insights on the series. | Bob McMahon
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