Quick Chat With Eric Wareheim
If you’ve spent any time at all on social media, you’ve probably seen a picture of Dr. Steve Brule. The hapless doctor played by John C. Reilly is just one of countless breakout characters on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, which ran from 2007 to 2017 on Adult Swim. It was the brainchild of Eric Wareheim and Tim Heidecker, a duo who has achieved cult status in their own right; the show gave birth to a number of spinoffs, including Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie and, most recently, the globe-trotting Tim and Eric 2020 Mandatory Attendance Tour! And that still doesn’t even begin to cover everything the pair have their hands in.
Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! was sketch-based, and relied heavily on both non-actors and well-known faces playing characters beyond parody or easy definition. It’s not enough to say it’s outlandishly bizarre (it is), or that the insane absurdity provided something different from the other sketch shows of the time (it did). In fact, the best analysis of their style of comedy is that everything that people attribute to Millennial and Gen Z attitudes—non-sequiturs between ideas, a focus on the nonsensical and irrational, a borderline nihilistic outlook —can be traced pretty easily back to Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Good Job! Meme culture, much of Adult Swim’s current lineup—these are all undeniably influenced by the kind of revolutionary rejection of conventional comic norms Wareheim helped usher in.
As their shows and projects became more popular, Wareheim and Heidecker moved into independent side ventures. Heidecker started acting in more dramatic roles (most recently in Jordan Peele’s Us), while Wareheim formed his own wine company called Las Jaras and co-starred in, produced, and directed Aziz Ansari’s hit Netflix series Master of None. They never let go of their characters, however, and in September of 2019 announced they would be embarking on a world tour in 2020. On February 20, the duo stops by Clowes Hall at Butler University.
If you had to describe what you think the majority of your fan base looks like, both from the show and the other projects you guys have worked on, and now this tour, what do you think that fan looks like?
Wow. Well, in the very beginning, we had a type. They kind of looked like us—scruffy, didn’t have the greatest fashion sense. Now, because of Master of None, my wine company, and Tim and Eric, a lot of the early fans got older. We look out in the crowd and there’s professional-looking people, and there’s a lot of women, too. Most people think it’s a guy’s show, but it’s truly diverse. There’s still your college guys that look stoned out of their mind, but it’s not everybody. We’re doing these Q-and-A’s before the show, and recently there was this older city council member, this right-wing guy, who was just this super mega fan. It’s just all over the board.
When you’re creating a new show for touring, do you consider audiences who aren’t necessarily as familiar with your work, and how to make something that’s accessible to them?
The No. 1 thing we always do is we make the show for ourselves, both the TV show and the live show. It’s still this personal experience. And our fans that have stuck with us are into all that stuff, and it’s for them. But at the same time, with this particular show, we don’t just do characters from the [television] show, so you don’t need to come in knowing anything. It’s like you can just come in and enjoy it. But there are references, there’s this style of comedy we do that’s 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 don’t really give a fuck when it comes to that stuff.
Looking back on it, it seems like you guys’ comedy, and what you were trying to do with Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Good Job!, was really ahead of its time. We have things like The Eric Andre Show or Nathan for You, and it seems like there is like a direct lineage to what you guys were doing and these shows. Was this something you saw or were aware of?
We produced those two shows, so it is a similar universe. Creatively, I think they’re pretty different, but they do use all of our editors and producers, so there is going to be this air of the Tim and Eric Universe which touches them. We love those shows so much, and we’re always so into supporting new forms of comedy. I would love for someone to kind of take the Tim and Eric thing and go even further; we can’t wait to see that. But it hasn’t come yet. I also think it’s because with the internet and Instagram, you’re so consumed—you see everything that’s funny immediately. 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 figure it out.
There have been a number of really popular memes that have been based on or taken from your guys’ comedy. If you guys are aware of that, do you want to roll into this idea that your comedy can become popular and work in an internet age, or are you a little wary of it being co-opted?
Well, the first meme to kind of explode was the universe meme, where my mind is kind of blown. And at first, I kind of felt ownership over it. It was like, How dare people use this? This is not what we were intending. And we like that, we do that with our art too. We take things that are out there and mix it up, and fuck with it, make fun of it. It’s all part of the nature of the landscape of what’s happening now. If we can make something that people think is just this weird found footage, that’s awesome for us. We work really hard to make it authentic and use people that are not the best-trained actors and all that stuff.
I’m going to your show when you guys come to Indy, I’m super excited about it. But let’s say I wanted to bring my grandma: What is one thing she should know ahead of time going into this?
Ho-ho! Just prepare her for a very wild ride. It’s very loud, and there’s a lot of scary parts to it, there’s some gross parts; it’s just kind of out there. It’s very, very intense, in a funny way. There’s lots of crowd participation, lots of silliness. I think she will enjoy it on a lot of levels, but just make sure she has a glass of wine or something.
The Indianapolis stop of Tim and Eric 2020 Mandatory Attendance Tour! is on February 20 at 8 p.m. at Clowes Memorial Hall. Tickets are available at https://butlerartscenter.org/event/tim-and-eric-2020-mandatory-attendance-world-tour.