If you’ve spent any time on social media, you’ve probably seen a photo of Dr. Steve Brule. The hapless doctor played by John C. Reilly is just one of the countless characters in Tim and Eric Awesome Show, great job!, which ran from 2007 to 2017 on Adult Swim. This was the brainchild of Eric Wareheim and Tim Heidecker, a duo that achieved cult status in their own right; the show spawned a number of spinoffs, including Tim and Eric’s billion dollar movie and, more recently, the globetrotter Mandatory attendance visit Tim and Eric 2020! And that doesn’t even begin to cover everything the pair have their hands on.
Tim and Eric Awesome Show, great job! was based on sketches and relied heavily on well-known non-actors and faces playing characters beyond parody or easy definition. It’s not enough to say that it’s weirdly bizarre (it is), or that the insane absurdity provided something different from other skits of the time (it is). In fact, the best analysis of their style of comedy is that everything people attribute to Millennial and Gen Z attitudes – non-sequences between ideas, focus on the absurd and the irrational, a borderline nihilistic perspective. – can be traced quite easily to Tim and Eric Awesome show, good job! The culture of memes, much of Adult Swim’s current programming, is undeniably influenced by the kind of revolutionary rejection of conventional comedic norms that Wareheim helped usher in.
As their shows and projects became more popular, Wareheim and Heidecker embarked on independent side businesses. Heidecker began to play more dramatic roles (most recently in Jordan Peele We), while Wareheim formed his own wine business called Las Jaras and co-starred, produced and directed Aziz Ansari’s hit Netflix series Master of None. However, they never gave up on their characters, and in September 2019 they announced that they would be embarking on a world tour in 2020.. On February 20, the duo stopped by Clowes Hall at Butler University.
If you had to describe what the majority of your fans look like, both the show and the other projects you’ve worked on, and now this tour, what do you think this fan looks like?
Wow. Well, at the very beginning we had a guy. They looked a bit like us, disheveled, didn’t have the greatest sense of fashion. Now because of Master of None, my wine company, and Tim and Eric, many of the early fans have aged. We watch the crowd and there are professional looking people, and there are also a lot of women. Most people think it’s a guys show, but it’s really diverse. There are always your college guys looking stoned, but that’s not everyone. We do these Q&A before the show, and recently there was this older city council member, this guy on the right, who was just this super mega fan. It’s just everywhere.
When creating a new show for a tour, do you think about an audience that is not necessarily so familiar with your work, and how do you make something accessible to them?
The first thing we always do is do the show for ourselves, both the TV show and the live show. It’s always that personal experience. And our fans who have stayed with us are in it, and it’s for them. But at the same time, with this particular series, we’re not just making characters from the [television] show, so you don’t have to come knowing anything. It’s like you can just come in and enjoy it. But there are references, there is this style of comedy that we do that is not for everyone. We don’t really take into account the public perception. But I think that’s what makes us a little different – we really don’t care when it comes to that stuff.
Come to think of it, it sounds like the comedy of you guys, and what you were trying to do with it Tim and Eric Awesome show, good job!, was really ahead of its time. We have things like The Eric André show or Nathan for you, and it seems like there’s a direct lineage to what you were doing and these shows. Was it something you saw or were aware of?
We produced these two shows, so it’s a similar universe. Creatively, I think they’re quite different, but they all use our editors and producers, so there’s going to be that air of the Tim and Eric universe that touches them. We love these shows so much and we are always in favor of new forms of comedy. I wish someone would take the Tim and Eric thing and take it a step further; We can not wait to see it. But he hasn’t come yet. I also think it’s because with the Internet and Instagram, you are so consumed, you immediately see everything that is funny. Back when Awesome show aired, there was more mystery about everything, like “Who is this person, who is this actor?” It was a little harder to understand.
There have been a number of very popular memes based on or taken from Your Guys Comedy. If you are aware of this, do you want to incorporate this idea that your comedy can become popular and work in the internet age, or are you worried that it will be co-opted?
Well, the first meme to explode was the universe meme, where my mind is kind of blown away. And at first, I kind of felt like I owned it. It was like, How dare people use it? This is not what we wanted. And we love it, we also do it with our art. We take things that are out there and we mix them up, and we fuck with it, we don’t care. It’s all part of the nature of the landscape of what’s going on now. If we can do something that people think is just these weird images, that’s great for us. We work really hard to make it authentic and use people who aren’t the best trained actors and stuff.
I go to your show when you come to Indy, I’m super excited about it. But let’s say I wanted to bring my grandmother: what should she know in advance before starting?
Ho-ho! Just get her ready for a really wild ride. It’s very strong, and there are a lot of scary parts, there are rough parts; it’s just a little over there. It’s very, very intense, in a funny way. There’s a lot of crowd participation, a lot of nonsense. I think she’ll enjoy it on a lot of levels, but just make sure she has a glass of wine or something.
The Indianapolis stop of Mandatory visit of Tim and Eric 2020! is February 20 at 8 p.m. at Clowes Memorial Hall. Tickets are available on https://butlerartscenter.org/event/tim-and-eric-2020-mandatory-attendance-world-tour.