Alumni Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” hits theaters March 2.
Flashes of brightly colored lights, unusual transitions and strange, repetitive noises. No, you’re not having a seizure – you’ve entered the delightfully demented world of alumni Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim.
Better known as Tim and Eric, the comedy duo has developed a cult following with their Cartoon Network Adult Swim show, “Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!” On Friday, March 2, the two, along with other characters from the show, will make their own silver-screen debut in “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie.”
While the movie retains all the wackiness of the show, including roles played by other “Awesome show” cast members including Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly and Zach Galifinakis, Eric said they aimed to stay true to their comedic style while transitioning into a feature film.
“We knew we didn’t want the experience to be sketchy,” Eric said. “We love movies so we wanted to make something that has a slightly more traditional structure. Also, at same time, we were kind of f–––––g with movies, and the idea of movie within a movie and playing with every second of a movie.”
In the movie, Tim and Eric’s characters are given a billion dollars to make a movie, which they squander away, and are left indebted to the Schlaaang Corporation.
In order to make the money back, they take over a disheveled and bankrupt mall, full of unusual characters and shop owners, and run by Damien Weebs (Ferrell), in order to make their money back.
Though it received an R-rating, some of the slightly more vulgar scenes may deter one from watching the movie with their mother, including penis-piercing, masturbation, a strange sex scene and a feces-bath received by Eric. The unapologetic comedy led to “mass walkouts” during the Sundance Film Festival screening.
“We love surprising everybody in our TV show, so when there’s a pop sketch we kill off those characters immediately because we never want it to be like a [Saturday Night Live] feel when you’re like ‘I cant believe you’re redoing this again,’” Eric said. “We feel like that’s cheap, and to us it’s more challenging to try something new.”
The duo met during their time at Temple, from 1994-98, through film and media arts classes. And while Eric asserts that his college career and living in Philadelphia certainly played a role in what they do today, he said that it motivated them to “do it themselves,” moreso than it gave them an edge in the industry, or any particular skills or knowledge.
“I love Temple because I met Tim there, but they [were] so unsupportive of comedy,” Eric said. “We made a lot of videos as protests against film class.”
One of these was for their senior thesis project. When told to make a “serious documentary” rather than their original idea, the two made a video spoofing the assignment and got an “A” on it. Though he did cite the support of professor Dave Perry as one who “promoted creativity,” Eric said that the two had to take their comedy career into their own hands.
“They were supportive in other ways, but comedy wasn’t even an option early on,” Eric said.
After college, Eric spent his time doing wedding and bar mitzvah videos for clients in the Philly area and on the Main Line.
“I’m still waiting for someone to be like, ‘that’s my bat mitzvah photographer,’” Eric said. “But that pretty cheesy editing – stupid wipes, like hearts coming over the screen – we kind of took that style when we made our new stuff.”
With Tim working in New York, the two would meet up on weekends to film short, experimental art pieces. Another less serious work included the two wandering around Philadelphia, humping various landmarks in “Humpers.”
“We went to [Los Angeles], interned with big production companies and we were really disillusioned with how the process works – trying to go from intern to director, that’s going to be 20 years of our lives,” Eric said. “So we were like, ‘f––k it,’ we came back to Philly, got real jobs, and tried a different way of doing it.”
While Temple may not have had much of an influence on their future comedy career, Eric said the Philadelphia DIY punk scene did. A musician himself, Eric played with punk bands before and during college, and said he saw “1,000 shows” at the First Unitarian Church.
“That community of doing stuff for yourself, screening your own T-shirts, promoting your own show – all that went into early Tim and Eric stuff,” Eric said. “We made our own website, and when we first left Philly we made these DVDs with these shorts on it and that’s how we got discovered.”
“I was making DVDs myself, doing the labels, making it professional and that all came from the DIY scene,” Eric added.
He’s still involved with musical undertakings today, with a hand in producing various music videos.
“I give so much credit to that world – not having any money but [still] figuring it out,” Eric said. “Now, it’s so easy to send a YouTube link, you know, ‘check out my comedy,’ but back then there was no YouTube, and it took a little more work to make a nice presentation.”
Now, in Hollywood, the two have continued their way of doing things, and “Billion Dollar Movie” can certainly attest to that.
“It’s commentary in two parts, commentary on Hollywood movies – you see that in the first part of the movie, but our comedy is always a comment on comedy,” Eric said. “We usually feel like we’re in this post-comedy world where we’ve seen every joke and every character.”
“We’re trying to find new things to make us laugh and sometimes that has a sarcastic edge to it. [Initially] we wanted a laugh track – it’s all making fun of the way traditional movies are made to make money,” he added.
Everything from casting – Eric said he had a personal hand in choosing extras, and ‘dredged from the bottom of the acting barrel’ to find unusual faces – to editing, where he said they like to use editors straight out of art school to avoid it looking ‘too clean and professional,’ speaks to their style.
Moving forward, Eric said that a “trillion dollar movie,” is hopefully in their future, and six episodes of “Check it out with Dr. Steve Bruhl” will run in March. Additionally, the pair has got another TV show in development, though their still formulating new characters. And while he said they’re still taking their time forming the basis of the show, fans can be assured it will still be in the same vein of past Tim and Eric endeavors, though it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what that means.
“We don’t have a name for it, it’s just Tim and Eric,” Eric said. “A lot of our friends work in the ad world and they’re like, ‘do you realize people use your name to describe a certain kind of thing?’ Like, ‘we want this to be a Tim and Eric-y commercial, which means weird editing, bad people on camera who shouldn’t be on camera, crazy colors, and were like ‘that’s great.’”
Kara Savidge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.