From 2007 to 2010, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job was an anchor of the Adult Swim evening lineup. Since then, the creators of the show have gone on to make full-length movies, albums and even a series of nightmarish bedtime stories for children, bringing their absurdist sense of humor to the masses.
To celebrate a decade in show business, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are trekking across the country for a “Ten Year Anniversary Awesome Tour Live,” which makes a stop at the Pabst Theater on July 25. We spoke with Heidecker about his career in comedy and his upcoming Milwaukee appearance.
Tell us a bit about your early career. How did you get started in comedy?
Eric and I started making stuff in college – we were roommates. Eventually we began entering film festivals and showing shorts around town and got some good feedback, so we put a few tapes together and sent them to Hollywood, to Bob Odenkirk, who helped us get our first show on Adult Swim.
How did your work on the Adult Swim show Tom Goes to the Mayor influence Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job?
Tom Goes to the Mayor was originally just a short. We never expected it to become something larger, but it kind of clicked, and we learned how to make a TV show while developing it for Adult Swim. It gave us the confidence we needed to try something a little bigger.
Some pretty famous comedians have had cameos on your shows. Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Fred Armisen. Who were you especially excited to work with?
We usually enjoy working with the dramatic actors the most. That being said, we can really lean on a lot of the comic actors, and work with some of them – like Will Forte and John C. Reilly – over and over again because we know they can come in and improvise and whatever we give them will be funny. It’s comforting to know that they’ll always do something amazing, and will be open to a dialogue.
So is much of the show improvised, then?
We always write a script, but we don’t always pay attention to it. We throw it out when something isn’t working.
Episodes of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job were just 11 minutes long. Did you find it challenging to stretch the show into a full-length movie?
Yeah, it was a challenge. A TV episode doesn’t need to have the same structure that a feature film has, and we didn’t want to wear audiences out or bore them.
We initially thought we’d make something with broader appeal but of course ended up doing what we always do – making something that appealed to us.
Critics have described your sense of humor as surreal and absurd. Some have even used the term “anti-comedy.” Do those labels fit?
I think surreal and absurd fit. I’ve always rejected the idea of anti-comedy because we’re still trying to make viewers laugh – we’re still trying to be comedic.
What should Milwaukeeans expect from your show at the Pabst Theater?
The tour celebrates our ten-year anniversary. It’s full of music and characters from the show.
I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll say that we mess with the audience a bit and have some surprises lined up.
And I’m really looking forward to being backstage at the Pabst Theater again, actually. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. It’s got a great vibe – a record player, video games and comfy couches. And we’ve been touring long enough at this point that I’m looking forward to hanging out there.