Having watched five seasons of “Tim and Eric, Awesome Show Great Job!” — the irreverent, awkward comedy show on Adult Swim — you half-expect that an in-person interview with the duo is all part of some elaborate prank that will end with you having a giant bucket of puke dumped on your head.
In truth, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, the creators of “Awesome Show” and stars of the upcoming spinoff, “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie,” are totally normal guys. The film, which hits theaters in limited release this weekend, follows the duo as they try to repay their billion-dollar debt by re-opening a suburban mall. Poop gags, uncomfortable sex scenes and plenty of fake blood soon follow.
Moviefone recently sat down with Tim and Eric to discuss “Billion Dollar Movie,” jokes they consider off-limits, creating awkward comedy, and the walkouts that happened during their film’s premiere at Sundance.
I have actually seen the movie twice now. The second time around I noticed a lot of the little details, like that people were actually shopping in the mall while there was a wolf and crazy characters like Taquito wandering around.
Eric: That’s great. I love that you noticed that. Those extras were cast. That was a big challenge, to be like what state of the mall are we in? How many shoppers are in the background? It’s a weird continuity. The mall’s open for most of the movie; it’s totally operational. So we had people going through. I am glad you caught that. My friend was catching that last night to. He saw all this other stuff.
Yeah, like they were walking around with actual shopping bags.
Eric: Yep [Laughs].
Is there a topic you guys consider off limits? What would you consider the edge?
Tim: I think it’s constantly evolving and changing. There’s things that we don’t do. It’s all about context. It’s making sure you’re not just doing it to be shocking and offensive, but if it works in the context of the joke you’re telling [we do it]. But we don’t do all kinds of things. We don’t do racist jokes. It’s all pretty clean to us, except for the poo stuff and the sex stuff. But that stuff isn’t that offensive to us, so it’s not that offensive to make.
Were there any moments during the movie where the cast couldn’t believe what they were being asked to do? Was there any hesitation?
Tim: Not really. It’s funny, because when we finally put the thing together and put it in the movie is when it really hits you. But before that, when you’re reading the script and you’re just telling it to people, you can’t know how it’s going to turn out. There’s not a lot of hesitation, there’s just trust. Because the people are either friends of ours or they like our work, so everyone comes with a really positive attitude and they’re willing to do anything.
Eric: Ray Wise [who plays Dr. Doone Struts] was being very serious: he memorizes lines, he wasn’t goofing off. He was just in there for the job.
Yeah, I was almost thinking of it from the perspective of Matt O’Toole’s character, Reggie, who gets his kid taken away from him and [SPOILER] explodes in mid-air.
Tim: But that’s just funny to us. It’s just like Wile E. Coyote getting thrown off the cliff. It’s just classic comedy to us — just an extreme extension of that.
How do you not burst out laughing on set at John C. Reilly and his character, Taquito? Do you just block it out?
Tim: I think the shooting of this movie was so exhausting, we probably weren’t in the mood to laugh during most of it. But there were certain scenes where… you’d get so tired that you become punch-drunk, and you [can] ruin takes.
Eric: It’s one of the hardest things that I’ve had to learn out there. I have ruined so many takes of just crying and laughing — Will Ferrell’s scene especially. I remember in his [character Damien Weebs’] office, thank God the camera was behind me most of the time. [Will’s] such a professional. I am like, really crying, and he’s still in [character]. He’s probably done that to hundreds of people. You just try and be as professional as possible.
Tim: You keep us out of the shots as much as possible.
It’s been interesting to watch the public reaction to this film, particularly from people who aren’t as familiar with your comedy or your show. For instance, there were the walkouts during the Sundance screening.
Tim: I think that’s par for the course. It’s not the whole story of course, there were people that walked out, and that’s understandable. That doesn’t bother us. We don’t make our shit for everybody and don’t expect everyone to like it.
Eric: You also can’t judge the Sundance experience as what’s going to happen everywhere. Sundance is a very specific thing, people walk out for lots of reasons, because they have another movie to go to. It’s also a place where a lot of different kinds of people go to test stuff out.
Tim: If you go to Sundance, the experience that I’ve had there as a viewer is… there’s like a hundred movies there, and you’ve got to figure out what movies are sold out, what can you see. Sometimes you go to see movies that you don’t know anything about because it just works into your schedule. So there’s going to be people [who walk out]. And there’s a version of the Sundance audience that’s older, more conservative, uptight types, that probably are the people that walked out. I am positive that nobody came liking “Tim and Eric” walked out, so that’s reassuring.
Having seen the program, it seems like the movie was almost a good middle ground. There was definitely just normal movie stuff going on. It wasn’t as over the edge as, say, an episode of “Awesome Show.”
Tim: Yeah, we didn’t go out actively trying to push people away. We wanted this movie to be inclusive to an extent, where you didn’t have to be kind of an expert on “Tim and Eric” to get the joke. And we wanted it to feel like a real movie. We wanted it to feel like it was worth sludging downtown, getting some popcorn and feel like you’re watching a real movie. It was one of our objectives.
Eric: A guy [at the premiere] last night saw [the movie] for the first time a couple weeks ago and then started watching “Awesome Show.” He was like, “I couldn’t believe you guys had a TV show!” It was like this extra gift after the movie. I loved that.
That’s funny. It’s pretty much the reverse way of how a lot of people are going to do it.
Tim: The thing is, I think it’s going to happen more and more, because the outreach this movie has created, it just reached a whole different level of people. We’ve never gotten press in certain places before, like Moviefone. We’ve never been exposed to certain segments of the population in any way. So, it’s going to find people this humor is perfect for. And they’re going to probably like the movie for different reasons, or get to it because they’re fans of Will Ferrell or Zach [Galifianakis] or somebody, and then find the show.
Eric: Yea, it will be interesting once the movie comes out and all the press is out, just to see how it goes.
I know for “Awesome Show” and “Billion Dollar Movie,” a lot of the comedy is creating these uncomfortable situations. Are there scenes for you two that are as uncomfortable to shoot as they are for the audience to watch? For example, Tim’s sex scene in the film with Twink Caplan, or the “shrim” scene, where — I assume — fake excrement is dumped on Eric.
Tim: Well the sex scene, it’s not the most fun thing to do. It’s physically uncomfortable, it’s embarrassing. You just do it. You just get it over with, because you know it’s going to be funny. I was pleased when it was finished.
Eric: The shrim scene was not uncomfortable. I was actually looking forward to it. The mechanics of it were actually interesting because we had these big vats of warm soy milk. I was just like, how’s that going to work? And the kids were fun. It was more, “Let’s be serious, guys,” than, “Oh, this is weird.” Then [having] Ray Wise [in the scene] was awesome. To see him working. I just loved it.
I feel like for that, a lot of the comedy is in the editing, too.
Eric: Yeah. I was trying to think of the scene where I was actually uncomfortable.
Tim: Probably the fountain, where we’re soaking wet in super cold, 50-degree water.
Eric: Yea [laughs]
I was thinking the pierced genitals scene, but then those were prosthetics.
Eric: A lot of this was, “Wow, we’re making something on a much bigger scale, and we’re kind of excited for it.” We’re using prosthetics and squibs, it’s more fun than nervousness.
I am assuming you had a set budget for fake heads, blood and excrement.
Eric: Yeah, we wrote the script and they break it down. It was a very low special effect budget as you can probably tell from some of the cheap gags [laughs].
Tim: We had these practical meetings with our producers, and they were like, “OK, this effect — can this be shitty? Can this be CG? Can we think of another joke here that doesn’t involve decapitation?
Tim: So it’s just like a compromise situation. Because obviously, your imagination could create a very expensive movie very quickly. But some of those limitations create comedy. Some of the things you have to pull back on really help your movie.
Eric: Especially the mannequin head at the very end. That did not intend to look like that, it intended to look like this big bloodbath. But you’re getting all these laughs because it’s so bad.
Were there any plans to involve characters from “Awesome Show,” like John C. Reilly’s Dr. Steve Brule or Zach Galifianakis’ Tairey Green?
Eric: No. Like Tim said, we wanted people to go to it without having to know a lot of information. But, if you’re a fan you know all those people, hopefully you’ll be excited that they’re doing new things. Like we’ve never done anything with Reilly without having Brule. [His character in the movie] Taquito seems to be getting a good reaction. Still a fucked up man, but, boy…
So what’s next for you guys? Are there more movies on the horizon? Are you going to do another season of “Awesome Show”?
Tim: We’re taking a break. We’ll try and write a “Trillion Dollar Movie.” There are six new episodes of “Dr. Steve Brule’s Check It Out” coming out. And that’s it. It’s been a big push to get to this point, so I think we’re going to weigh our options after this, see how the movie does and plan our next move.
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