IN THE COMEDIC world of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, everything is kind of... off. Often, that is rendered in a big way, with grotesque characters and the use of video editing and Photoshop to distort people's faces and bodies to surreal effect. But just as discomforting are the little details that leave you baffled.
For example, the pair released a YouTube clip recently to promote their current stage show, Tim and Eric and Dr. Steve Brule, which hits the Newmark Theatre this week. In it, they keep repeating the claim that it's been a decade since they've toured, which left me scratching my head. Weren't they just here like four or five years ago?
"You're not alone there," Heidecker says, laughing at me for asking if the 10-year gap was legit. "The idea behind that joke was just to fuck with people's perceptions of time. 'Wait a minute, I saw them four years... No, has it really been that long?' No, it really hasn't."
Tim and Eric's delight in setting fans on edge has been apparent for the last decade. The two first came to the world's attention via the 2004 animated TV series Tom Goes to the Mayor, but they truly cemented their aesthetic on the follow-up, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!
Through five seasons, the two introduced disturbingly hilarious characters like Casey Tatum, a sweaty, sad, and tuneless singer with serious mommy issues; the Beaver Boys, two party animals obsessed with white wine and shrimp; and a terrifyingly hairy baby known simply as Chippy. What kept the show even more off-kilter were recurring appearances by non-actors who never quite seemed to be in on the jokes happening around them.
Bizarre as it was, Awesome Show found a devoted audience, and enough cult success to open the door for bigger endeavors, like their 2012 feature film Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie and their stage shows, which feature outlandish musical numbers (one tour had them dancing on stage in brown unitards augmented with oversized testicles) and characters from their TV work.
Fans have been abuzz about the current tour because joining Tim and Eric on this run will be Dr. Steve Brule, the dimwitted, marble-mouthed star of Awesome Show spin-off Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule, played by Oscar-nominated actor John C. Reilly.
"It's going to be a one-man show, TED Talks-type of experience," Heidecker says. "We're fucking with the audience and playing with the idea of doing a show like this. It's not something you could just walk in off the street like you're seeing Cats. We want people who are on board with our humor."
The tour also serves to promote the pair's upcoming TV series Tim and Eric's Bedtime Stories. Premiering on September 18 on Adult Swim, the show is a Twilight Zone/Tales from the Crypt-style horror anthology, but steeped in Tim and Eric's skewed outlook. In one early episode, a podiatrist (played by Breaking Bad's Bob Odenkirk) spends his days cutting off the toes of his willing patients, and in another, a new cul-de-sac resident has his sanity slowly chipped away by a boorish neighbor. Though quite funny, Bedtime Stories is surprisingly and authentically disturbing. The idea of cutting one's toes off for vanity is silly, but they spend a lot of time showing the appendages getting trimmed away.
"For this show, we wanted it to be grounded and anchored in the real world," Heidecker says. "Those classic nightmare scenarios taken to an absurd level. We wanted it to look great and feel real, but just like the world of Awesome Show or Check It Out!, everything is a little tweaked."