Trying to describe the comedic style of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim to someone who has never seen it is a Sisyphean task–the pair’s humor is impossible to peg down. It’s fragmented, disgusting, absurd, and you either love it or hate it. The best description I can think of is lying on your couch watching infomercials and public access television at 3:00 a.m. as you drift in and out of a fever dream.
You may recognize Tim and Eric from their solo projects; Heidecker had roles in Bridesmaids and Jordan Peele’s Us, and Wareheim played Aziz Ansari’s giant friend in Master of None. But the actors are best known for their work together on the outrageous Adult Swim series, Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!, which aired from 2007-2017
After some time apart working on separate projects–Heidecker released an album last year, and Wareheim has been focusing on his Las Jaras Wines label–the pair decided to get back together and take their show on the road.
I spoke with Tim Heidecker about what we can expect this time around. You can catch Tim and Eric’s 2020 Mandatory Attendance Tour January 30th at the Majestic Theater.
It’s been a busy few years since the tenth year reunion tour for both you and Eric. What was the impetus behind getting together again for the Mandatory Attendance Tour?
When you think about doing one of these tours, you’ve got to look pretty far into the future. I think about a year ago we said, ‘Do we want to do this again?’ and it felt like it was time.
We also launched this Channel 5 streaming thing on Adult Swim, and we’re also working on a new super secret project this year for TV, that it felt like it like 2020 was going to be a good Tim and Eric year.
You and Eric have been collaborators for so long, how has your friendship and your working relationship changed over time?
Oh, that’s a good question. I think as you get older, you know more about that person, you have some expectations about what they’re going to think about something. We’ve always worked pretty well together, obviously–we wouldn’t still be doing this if we didn’t. There was a lot more pressure earlier, we were kind of in a pressure cooker together making stuff in a really concentrated way. I think now that we also have outside projects, and other pursuits that we do independently, there’s less preciousness about our work together, there’s less pressure in that relationship.
We can get together and there’s a very nice, big, thick Venn diagram of the kind of stuff we both enjoy doing, that we do together very well, and that nobody else is really doing in the way we do it. We feel like we still have sort of a unique space in the comedy world. And other than that, it’s very similar, we still laugh at the stupidest shit, and we still make each other laugh in ways that nobody else does, so it’s really fun.
Yeah, this will be my third time seeing you guys live actually.
Oh good, well that’s good to hear that you’re not like, ‘I’m never doing that again.’
Is it hard getting into the flow after working apart for awhile, or is it easy to pick up where you left off?
It’s really, stupidly easy. It’s a system. We’re looking for that stress, and looking for that nervousness, and that challenge. And then I go, ‘Oh wait, we’ve done this for 15 years, we know what we’re doing, and there doesn’t need to be a whole lot of sleepless nights about it because we’re pretty confident and good at it, and it is what it is.’
I think that’s a new feeling, but it’s always been this thing where we get together and have lunch and sit around for an hour or two. I’ll have an idea or Eric will have an idea for a very basic concept of what a bit in the live show could be, or a big overall talk about what we want the show to be, what are the things we want to do differently, and just have those conversations. Then a Google doc starts building, and it becomes a really sloppy unfunny mess, and then it gets refined and polished. There’s a period of doubt where you go is this working, is this funny, is this anything, but I think we have that confidence, like I said, to just keep working on it. Last week we were rehearsing the show every day, and every time we rehearsed it, something new was added, something changed, something got better, and that’s how we do it. Then we have to put it in front of an audience for the first time next week and see if any of that makes any sense to anybody else.
We’re at that state were it’s all very theoretical and like, ‘This is going to be good,’ and then there will be the first week of shows, which are a little rocky a little finding our feet and then we’ll be in that — where are you calling from again?
You’re on the fairly early side of the tour. You’re in the sweet spot where it’s just gotten really good and we’re not sick of it yet. We’re still probably laughing, we’re trying not to laugh at certain things, but we might miss a few dance steps. A week after your show it’ll start being a bit like we’re on auto pilot, but you guys are going to get an exciting show from us.
How would you prepare someone who has never seen any Tim and Eric for the Mandatory Attendance Tour? What makes the live show different from the recorded series?
How do you prepare them? I think the responsible thing to do would be to compile your favorite five bits of ours and show them that and if they’re like get this away from my eyes then maybe they should do something else. But I think if there is a general like “that’s funny” or “that’s different,” I think they’re good to go.
I don’t think there’s anything you need to know specifically to go to the show. It’s not like a bunch of inside jokes. It’s very stupid, it’s a little mean at times. It’s a very interactive show, I think this is the difference between you watching the show on TV and being in the theaters. We kind of require your participation, and we want you to feel not just laughter, we want you to feel a little scared some of the time.
One of my favorite bits has always been your alter egos, Jim and Derrick. They existed in a very specific Spike TV MTV mid-2000s world. If the Jim and Derrick Show were to come back, what would that look like in 2020? What would they be up to?
That’s a good question, but those people, are they having a comeback now? That generation I can’t tell. It may be too soon, but you know it’s coming. The thing is would that feel nostalgic now, or does it feel like we’re still in that time period? I think it would feel pretty nostalgic. It’d be funny, the older those guys would get the more pathetic it would be. We might have to wait a few years and then visit them. The older they get and still trying to be cool is pretty pathetic. You’re giving me ideas. I’m like Jim and Derek, let’s check in with them in three years, I’ll put it in like 2023 calendar.
There have always been amazing “guest stars”, like John C. Reilly, Jeff Goldblum, Ray Wise, Zach Galifinakis, on Awesome Show and Bedtime Stories. Is there anyone that you wanted to come on the show that you weren’t able to get, or someone you would like to work with in the future?
You know in the early days we were always trying for some of our comedy heroes like Christopher Guest, and Albert Brooks would have been one of mine. The more I think about it now, I’m sort of like, it’s probably for the best because we’ve been so nervous around those people and just that idea of like trying to put what they do in our world maybe wouldn’t work. I think David Byrne is probably another one that we would have liked to work with, or could still work with. He’s a big influence on me. But I realize it’s fun to have those. Our relationship with John [C. Reilly] has been really wonderful, we’ve made so much stuff together and that feels like a true equals collaboration relationship. The best stuff comes when everyone’s comfortable and relaxed. We’ve worked with bigger names that we had idolized or something, and it’s not the most fun because you’re a little star struck, and a little nervous and that’s never the best environment for creativity.
In the last year alone you had Mister America, your solo album, and you appeared in Jordan Peele’s Us, what other projects are you working on now?
I’ve got a new record but coming out sometime this year. Luckily, I can keep saying that because it’s January 7, and I’ve got a whole year to figure it out. But besides that, this thing I’m doing with Eric and a couple other things that I’m not really allowed to talk about yet. It’ll probably be another busy year, or it’ll be a year full of me just surfing the internet. The first half of the year is just going out and seeing our beautiful country every day, so that’ll keep me busy for the next few months.