The first time I saw Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! I didn't like it. Or, more accurately, I just didn't get it. The comedy was bizarre—somewhere between QVC and David Lynch—and it wasn't exactly subtle, either (the sketch I saw featured a product called Fahrtz' Poop Tube.) How a shit-spewing butt-vacuum wasn't totally hilarious to me is now almost unimaginable. Maybe I wasn't mature enough at the time.
But even if Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are an acquired taste, just a couple views of The Power Embrace or The Snuggler! make it clear there's more to the duo than gross-out pranks. (Outside the comedy realm, Wareheim's music video direction has risen to Chris Cunningham and Spike Jonze-levels of awesome—just check out HEALTH's "Die Slow".) So it's no surprise that Tim and Eric's latest venture is, like pretty-much everything else they do, totally fantastic. Like their previous show, Tim and Eric's Bedtime Stories, premiering tonight at 12:15 am, is an 11-minute Adult Swim show, but instead of short skits, each episode is dedicated to a single scary story. If Great Job! was often described as Lynchian, Bedtime Stories is Dennis Hopper's lipstick scene in Blue Velvet—pure, concentrated creepiness. I caught up with the Beaver Boys themselves to talk about collaborating with celebrities, what truly scares them, and how they feel about their obsessive fan-base. Needless to say, things got weird.
So, I watched the first two episodes yesterday—I thought that it was as funny as anything else that you guys have done, but it's also legitimately creepy and disturbing. Was your goal from the outset to actually freak people out?
Eric: Yeah, we just wanted to create these little nightmares. To us, even in our old work, Awesome Show, you kind of saw some nightmares of living, society and people, and interactions. That's what we wanted to do in a short form, short film anthology. There are moments that are like horror. Every week is different. The two you probably saw were "Hole" and "Toes."
Yeah, that's right.
Eric: Those are more our horror-genre ones. They range from week to week, but they will still have that overarching sensibility of generic nightmare scenarios.
When you showed Bob Odenkirk what you wanted to do for "Toes," what was his initial reaction?
Tim: He was excited about it. He always has trusted us and felt like, "I'm just gonna follow you guys wherever this goes." It's funny because that one in particular didn't feel as dark and horrifying making it as it turned out when when it was all said and done with the music and the special effects and everything. I think he'll be a little shocked to see how severe the whole thing plays.
Were there any ideas that you guys floated around that were too dark or weird to actually film?
Eric: We have a couple extra scripts that we want to shoot next year that are far out. Everyone of them is really dark. We have an episode called "Brain Doctors" where you do a lot of brain transplant surgery.
Tim: I don't think we've ever been in a situation where either of us has said that's too weird or that's too fucked up. Generally, it would be the opposite, where the idea would get shelved because it's not weird enough. We have our own line that we don't cross, or our own sense of good taste that we're not gonna do. We also don't really have a lot of ideas, so when we have an idea, we try to do it.
When I was watching these episodes, and definitely with a lot of the Great Job stuff, I thought about how disturbed I would have been if I had seen it as a kid. What were the things that each of you watched that left a mark?
Tim: I have a pretty strong memory this Doctor Who show, I don't know what era that was, but it was in the late '70s, early '80s, the one with the guy with the big scarf. I remember feeling like that show was being made in my basement and being pumped into my TV. There's something really crappy about it and really lo-fi, you can almost see the cardboard sets. It just felt really sinister and creepy and terrifying.
Eric: For me it was Poltergeist. For some reason that one in particular haunted me. That clown that came out from under the bed. The idea that you're whole house was haunted, everywhere you go. That was pretty heavy. I didn't watch lots of horror movies, but I remember that one being a particular scary.
Are you ever surprised by the fervency of Tim & Eric fans?
Eric: I'm still shocked today to see my face used as an animated gif over and over again on different things. But it feels good. The best reaction is when kids come up to us and say, "This is what me and my friends think are funny. We're the outsiders at school." That's pretty awesome for us, because that's how I grew up with my friends. We had a very personal sense of humor that we only thought we liked and cared about.
Two of my friends actually have matching Spagett! tattoos. I'm sure it was an interesting experience for them to explain what the hell they have tattooed on them to their parents.
Eric: When we start seeing our faces actually show up on people's bodies, that's scary. [Laughs.]
Are there any other episodes coming up for the series that you're particularly excited for people to see?
Tim: Oh we're excited for just about all of them. They're all so different from each other, and they're all they're own special little homemade product. It's not this typical sitcom, 22-episode or whatever thing where you can check in and out. They're all handmade and we spent a long time working on them and making them exactly the way we want them, so we're hoping everybody will cherish each one individually and treat it like a great newborn baby in need of a lot of love and attention and care.
Is there anyone that you've wanted to work with that has just not really got it or anyone that you'd still like to work with that you think might be into it in the future?
Eric: We worked with Jason Schwartzman this season which we've always wanted to do.
Tim: He was at the top of our list for 10 years now. We don't really think about it that way. Most people just don't work. It would be weird to see Brad Pitt in our world, not that he would want to do it, but it doesn't mean that much to us to necessarily have a celebrity for the sake of being a celebrity in our stuff. But some of these people like John C. [Reilly] or Will Ferrell, or people like that, we just love them because they're genuinely funny and weird and bring their own tools to the table. So it makes our job a little easier. We try to shy away from casting famous people for the sake of them being famous.
You guys have worked together for so long at this point—how has your working relationship changed with each other since you guys first started?
Tim: I don't think it's really changed that much. We still have a very loose, natural working relationship. It's pretty consistent and positive. We do step outside of Tim & Eric now as sort of like pressure release. Or as opportunities come up you follow them. So we can take breaks from each other which is nice, and when we come back in it's a very positive, healthy sense of mutual respect, and it's been pretty good.
Nathan Reese is a News Editor at Complex. He doesn't have any Tim and Eric tattoos (yet). He's on Twitter.