Tim & Eric - interview

If you’re not a fan of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job you’ve either never heard of it or you loathe it with a fiery passion and cannot understand how other people even tolerate its existence. There’s no halfway point with these guys – their comedy is divisive to a degree that few others can match. People only need 30 seconds to a minute. Then they either turn the show off in disgust and never watch it again or they say something like “Oh my fucking God” and plunge headfirst into the hour after hour of abrasive, loud, kinetic and sometimes just flat out disgusting sketch comedy that Tim and Eric have spent the last half a decade producing.

This, for example, should be enough to make up your mind:

Yet, if you’re on the inside, Tim and Eric represent something truly unusual in the ranks of entertainment: a form of comedy that is completely unlike anything else, past or present. Perhaps this is why their fans are so rabidly devoted – it’s the feeling that you’re privilege to a knowledge that the rest of the world has been denied. People call it lowbrow, but you know better. They just don’t get the genius at play behind the scenes.

See? Genius.

With their inaugural Australian tour happening at the end of September and their recently released Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (B$M) proving suitably divisive (I described it as the comedy version of Irreversible: a great movie that I will never watch again), TheVine caught up with a tired-sounding Tim to talk live shows, body fluids, doing stand-up and turning 11 minutes shards of comic brutality into a vaguely cohesive 90 minute film.


Hey Tim, how's it going?

Good. How are you?

Not too bad. So B$M has been out for five months now. Have you been happy with how it's been received?

Yeah, very. I mean, we got to make the movie we wanted to make and the fans certainly enjoy it. Also, my father’s very proud.

That’s always important. How was the process of making B$M different from the show itself? How did you go about spinning a hyper-fragmented 11 minute show into 90 minutes of mostly coherent narrative?

We took our time deciding what we wanted to say and do and really try to script it out as much as possible, to try and work out a way to bring the absurdism of the show without doing a sketch movie. So, we tried to juggle both of those things. But the actual process of making the movie wasn’t that different, we kept it pretty small and made it with the people we knew and loved. It was a little more concentrated than the show in terms of getting it all done at once.

You just said then that you never considered doing a sketch-based movie. Was there a major reason behind that decision?

More than anything, I’ve just never seen one of those movies work. If you’re getting an audience to watch something for 90 minutes, they’re going to tune out if there’s nothing for them to care about, and it’s hard to care about character sketches. It just gets tiring and exhausting and you just drop out after a while. Maybe we could have made it work, but that’s the choice we made.

90 minutes of iBumper could have been tough going. Did you feel like you could really lash out in terms of the in-your-faceness of the humour because of the fact you were working in film?

Not necessarily. We didn’t have to put it on TV, so we could get away with certain language and certain situations, but other than that we just wanted to make a funny movie. That was all we were really worried about.

You actively prioritised an online, on demand release before the film actually made it to cinemas – talk us through your motivations there?

We want as many people to see the movie as possible and we just can’t put this movie in a lot of movie theatres, y’know? There’s just too many Spidermans and Batmans and Green Lanterns hogging up the space. But at the same time there’s a fan base that’s spread all over the country and in other countries and we really want them to see it. People these days have nice TVs and good sound systems and it’s a new way for independent film to continue on. Of course, in New York and Los Angeles there’s always going to be cinemas you can get the film into, but if you live in Perth, Australia or Boise, Idaho all you’re going to get are big Hollywood blockbusters.

So, now that you've pumped out a full length film, what's the next iteration? Mega-musical? It worked for the South Park guys...

We’re not in a big rush to make another movie, that’s for sure. At this point, we’re just going to do some more TV shows next year and see what happens.

When I first saw Tim and Eric, I think the reason I had such a strong response was because it felt so totally unlike anything I'd seen in comedy before. Did you have that feeling too, were you explicitly trying to do something that hadn't been tried before, or were there precedents you drew upon?

We just did what we thought was funny or that was interesting for us. There was some sense as students of entertainment it’s pretty clear that your chances of success – and failure – go up dramatically if you do something different, so that was part of it, but other than that, we had an idea of how our show might work and we worked with some really creative, talented people who helped us make that happen and were lucky enough to have a network that let us do whatever we wanted basically. We established a style and look and it went from there.

I look at so many sketch comedies and I can see the process by which these ideas evolve, but watching Tim and Eric it’s often very hard to comprehend where something like Steve Mahanahan's Child Clown Outlet or Here She Comes (see below) emerges from.

It’s pretty natural. People sit around, people pitch ideas, some are out of this world, some are out of a nightmare or a dream they might have had and then it’s just refinement and execution and trying to make it as funny or as fucked up or scary or emotional as we can in the amount of time that we have.

There's few other comedies that draw upon every facet of the audio-visual experience for their impact – it's the editing and cinematography and sound design that often make your sketches what they are. How much of that is your work?

In the beginning we were very, very, very much involved. But when you build a style you get to separate yourself a little bit from it, people can do the shorthand. It gets a little easier. But certainly nothing goes out without our scrutiny.

Has there ever been a sketch you've come up with where we've you've just gone "No. That would be crossing a line from which there is no return"?

For sure. Every once in a while you’ll have an idea that you know is too far, or somebody else says is too far, or it’s just in bad taste. Or there’s no reason or justification for it and then you move on to your next idea. Ideas are the easy part, so it’s not a big deal.

Eric's picking up a bit of a reputation as a music video director at the moment, are there other post-Tim & Eric solo projects that you’re getting involved in?

Yeah! We have a TV show that we’re developing with the team that did Awesome Show, and we want to do more of the Dr. Steve Brule show. We’re just focusing on that stuff right now. Our production company (Abso Lutely) is producing a few other shows and movies, but really I’m laying low for the moment – just trying to put out stuff that I care about.

I've seen a few videos of you doing stand-up recently – is this something you’re focusing on at the moment?

I’ve been doing it for these past five years and been doing on the weekends when we’re travelling and stuff. I think I might be doing it in Australia as well, when we’re done with our shows. It’s fun, I’m enjoying it, especially now that my audience, the Tim and Eric audience, get the joke, so we can all just get in on it and enjoy it. It’s about the performance now, not necessarily the material.

You have a fan base that could perhaps be described as cultlike... in a good way. I do notice that you've just had extra shows announced for your tour down here – what's it been like emerging from the realm of obscurity to this sort of obsessive fandom?

It’s great! Although our fan base is confusing to me. Sometimes they seem huge, but sometimes I don’t hear them at all. They’re a mystery to me. I could tweet something and it’ll get crickets, it’ll get no reply and then next day I’ll do something and it’ll get all sorts of attention. I really haven’t been able to put my finger on it. Of course, when you go to the live show a lot of people come out of the woodwork and there’s a much wider base. But overall, they’re lovely people. A lot of people we’d probably get along with because we probably have the same sense of humour.

What can we expect from the live show in October? What’s the balance of TV material to new stage stuff?

This is my first time in Australia, which is very exciting! There’s going to be a lot of laughs, a lot of entertainment and just a great time. If you’re fans of the show then you’re just going to enjoy the hell out of it. It’s like a fan club meeting. All the material is new, although some of it is based on characters from the show. But these are all new versions of things you’ve never seen before.

Luke Ryan




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