Good news, kids: If you happened to drop the ball on catching inventive comedy duo Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim's Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie when it opened in limited release in early March, or just want to watch it again and again, you'll be able enjoy first, second, and even 100th servings of the bonkers flick thanks to its release on DVD and Blu-ray today.
Written and directed by the twosome, who gained an impressive cult following with their twisted sketch series Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, B$M follows the pair as they blow a hefty budget on a flop of a movie and try to earn the money back before facing the wrath of its livid funders, the Schlaaang Corporation. Naturally, the guys do what anyone would do when faced with that situation: attempt to breathe life back into a seedy mall. Weird spiritual awakenings, bizarre sex, and "shrim" (a special bathing ritual we doubt you'll be trying anytime soon) ensue.
Complex recently chatted with the Heidecker and Wareheim about their movie's unique conception, bringing nightmares to life, and what makes them squirm.
One of the things that makes your comedy fun, weird, and especially fascinating to watch is the utter randomness of it all. Reflecting on past sketches of yours, like "Bub Bubs" or "Steve Mahanahan," it's hard not to wonder: How do these ideas come to you?
Eric Wareheim: Tim and I have a very strict set of rules and ideas that we both think are really funny. For example, "Steve Mahanahan" is the idea of making fun of a really horrible situation: kids and a dad-like figure. And "Bub Bubs" is more of the same, with these weird older guys dancing and trying to win the affection of this woman. They might seem random, but most of our stuff is based on these things that we find really humorous and dark and mysterious and funny.
Do you guys usually sit down and bounce ideas off one another, or do they tend to come to you at more unexpected moments?
Eric: Yeah, I have a little notepad on my bedside table. It won’t be a dream, but I’ll wake up and have these thoughts and write them down, and sometimes ten-percent of them are legible. And other times it does take me sitting down and saying, “I’m going to write right now,” but we don’t do current events or anything like that, so it’s a different kind of personal process: just trying to make Tim laugh.
So we can assume most of these surges of inspiration arrive in a sober state?
Tim Heidecker: All of them do. There’s not any value in doing any kind of drugs or hallucinogenics to create these ideas. The trippy, psychedelic elements come much later. The original writing and ideas are based on some sort of reality; the writing doesn’t include the weird craziness. That gets added to the sketch in the editing process.
Eric: There’s no doubt we construct these bits with the idea in mind that we don’t want it to look normal. We want it to look like a nightmare or a colorful version of reality. It is trippy to watch our show; the color palettes that we use and the way that we edit it and the filters, it does kind of heighten your senses in a way, but we never make anything thinking, “This will be so good when you’re high.” It happens to be really good when you’re high, but that’s not really where it comes from.
In Billion Dollar Movie, the Schlaaang commercial felt like a very fitting intro. The second you hear that cheesy music, it’s reminiscent of the start of an Awesome Show sketch. Was that a deliberate move? What struck you about it as just the right kick-off?
Eric: Yeah, we wanted to play with the idea of making a movie and horrible additions that people are doing to movies, like making everything 3D and having to sit in a stupid chair—that was part of it. We also wanted that kind of Cinco-feeling commercial to start out, which is just a product that is a nightmare. We also did want people who knew The Awesome Show to start out thinking, “This is cool. I remember this fun kind of thing.”
With all of those special features, including needles in one's arm, pumping fluids causing them to experience the sensations of a movie's characters, what do you think the ultimate worst movie would be to watch in a Schlaaang seat?
Tim: J. Edgar. That was the first movie I thought of, one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time.
Infomercials definitely appear to be a running theme with your projects. They can also be very reminiscent of those work training videos that you can tell were made in the ‘80s. Is there a special place in your heart for those? Are there any in particular that have informed your work?
Eric: I think one that Tim and I both really love was the chop thing… What was that one, Tim?
Tim: The Magic Bullet?
Eric: Yeah, just the way that that stupid family was kind of put together and they were making each other breakfast and stuff. That one really got to me. But we’ve really been into that kind of thing for a long time, selling products that are crappy in our Cinco commericals, and also the idea of an infomercial is big inspiration.
What were you guys like of kids? Do you think your senses of humor have remained pretty consistent?
Tim: We were basically the same as we are now, only children. When we were very young, we developed an adult sensibility, adult personalities, and adult voices, so I’ve been like this since I was like eleven.
Eric: Yeah, I’ve always been an old man at heart.
You guys met your freshman year of college. What was plastered all over your walls?
Eric: I had pictures of hardcore bands, punk rock bands, and things like that.
Tim: I was into the Red Hot Chili Peppers, so there was lots of Anthony Kiedis posing with Flea, and I also played the bass, so there were lots of bass guitar posters.
Having effectively become adults together, do you think your history has really helped you stay on the same wavelength in terms of humor?
Eric: Yeah, we’ve been friends for a long time, and you slowly develop little things and characters and ideas and it all started in the dorms of Temple University, just fuckin’ around with shit. Pretty much exactly what we’re doing right now, which is kind of amazing, except the movie’s a little bit higher end.
Tim: We’ve worked with Ronnie [Rodriguez] before on the show, so we knew that he could bring it. He was the best Johnny Depp impersonator that we had ever seen up to that point, so we just knew it was a slam dunk.
Has the real Johnny Depp reacted to his vicarious cameo in the movie?
Tim: Not to my knowledge, but he only watches DVDs, so he might be waiting to watch the DVD.
Those personal makeovers that you both get in the movie are something else. What instructions did you guys give to the stylist? Was there a particular look you were going for?
Tim: I was going for Jon Bon Jovi.
Eric: I was more of a Motley Crue, aging L.A. rocker.
How long did it take to get that tan makeup off?
Tim: It took a lot longer to put on than to take off.
Eric: It was a spray process that was kind of annoying at first. But after you see it on camera, I think the makeup person does an amazing job on us.
Just after you have your revelation to get involved with the Swallow Valley Mall's re-opening, you guys launch into this especially memorable dramatic little dance walk. Had you guys toyed around with a bunch before you settled on that one?
Tim: Two others. We were originally driving a little ATV in that scene, and then we couldn’t do it for budgetary reasons, so we brainstormed, which is sometimes the best solution to a problem, to get on your brainstorming caps and work out a solution that’s better than your original idea. When you’re pressed up against a wall, sometimes inspiration just finds you.
That mall truly looked like its own seedy, hellish version of some bad part of a city. What about a mall struck you as the right place to set the scene?
Tim: It first was a small town and that was a little more than we could handle, so a mall seemed like a great next choice because it’s sort of like a micro world.
Within that mall, you deliver plenty of awkward humor, namely the simultaneous sex and "shrim" sequence, which is no doubt the movie’s most squirm-inducing moment for first-timers. Did you feel like you were testing them in a way with those scenes?
Tim: No, we just make the stuff up to entertain ourselves. We just think that’s funny. We know our audience can handle that. It didn’t seem that completely insane. I think when the movie came out, a lot of normal people began reacting as though we’d slaughtered a child on camera, but I think we realized that people are prepared for that kind of humor. I don’t think there was any sense of, “This is the craziest thing that’s ever happened.”
Twink Caplan, who plays your shared love interest Katie, looked so familiar to me at first, and it took a little while to place her. She was actually Miss Geist in Clueless. How did you guys wind up connecting with her for this role?
Eric: She did a bit for Awesome Show that we never used, working with Tommy Wiseau, and she was very open and willing to do a lot of funny physical moves, and she just nailed it. She knew what she was in for from having worked with us on the show.
It seems as though you’re both so immune to the uncomfortable when it comes to your work. Does anything have the power to make you guys flinch?
Tim: I can’t think of anything. Still haven’t crossed the line of doing full frontal nudity yet, that’s still one I don’t see crossing anytime soon.
Eric: One thing that’s interesting is that a lot of people think that we’re really into gross-out stuff, like diarrhea, boogers, and stuff, and we like making fun of it and performing it, but I actually am really grossed out by stuff like that. I don’t really like when people talk about shit problems or see people picking their nose—it actually really affects me heavily. That’s a weird little tidbit. But I love doing it on film to freak other people out.
Which scene in Billion Dollar Movie resulted in the most outtakes?
Tim: Will Ferrell’s office scene with Mr. Weebs in his office. There was originally a version of that scene that was like 15 minutes, and there was so much improvising and goofing around that it kept on getting slashed down.
You both weren’t afraid to push the boundaries with B$M. Do you have any regard for what critics think, or is the focus really much more on what makes you two laugh?
Eric: Since we started with Tom Goes to the Mayor, we’ve had the same reaction, which is polarizing. People really love it or people really hate it that don’t understand it. We sort of knew what we were getting into with this movie. This movie we made for ourselves, it was so unfiltered, exactly what we made, and the reviews were exactly what’s happened forever—really good and really bad. But it doesn’t affect us—it doesn’t affect me. I stopped reading them.
Tim: There’s a point when you read them and you’re like, “Oh, this person couldn’t have been watching the same movie.” I’ve learned through his process that it seems pretty obvious to me that the mainstream press has some kind of agenda that is weighted against independent filmmaking and stuff that doesn’t fit into the category of traditional studio pictures; some people were very harsh on the movie in ways that were not accurate or not fair and I think that there’s a real tendency for some of these people to fight for the big, giant mass-marketed pictures a lot harder than some of the smaller pictures.
Lastly, what’s up next for you guys?
Tim: Well, we have a pretty interesting phone chat later with someone who’s hopefully going to be designing some apps for us for mobile use. We’re getting into the app market. It’s very primordial: "Let’s get on the phone, talk about what ideas are out there, what do we want to do and what we don’t want to do." It’s really at that developmental stage. It’s probably going to be some kind of calorie counter, though.