Once upon a time, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim – the Philadelphia-raised comedy team known as Tim and Eric – told their oddly absurd tales through the lens of lo-fi, DIY technology and socially awkward characters.
With their 2001 start at Temple University and the creation of TimAndEric.com, uncomfortably long pauses, stiff cut-and-paste illustration and the stilted feel of public access television became their comic signatures. That was the look, the sound and the feel of every Tim and Eric television production, from “Tom Goes to the Mayor,” their groundbreaking “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Good Job!” and “Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule,” the latter starring actor John C. Reilly.
Like those Adult Swim network shows, “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” featured cheesy cable access technology, cheap, faux advertising schemes and goofy, big-name co-stars such as Zach Galifianakis, Will Ferrell, Jeff Goldblum and Will Forte. So beloved was the five season-long “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Good Job!” that the pair made a rare live appearance at Philadelphia’s Merriam Theatre in July for that show’s 10th anniversary.
Now, Tim and Eric are about to launch “Bedtime Stories” – a second season of scary, silly shows premiering Sunday on Adult Swim..
“The humor element – the thing that drove Tim and I together – is almost a supernatural phenomenon,” said Heidecker.
“The lo-fi and the cut-and-paste thing was just us working with what we had available.”
Besides inexpensive but innovative design and silly, Dadaist jokes is what won Tim and Eric the attention of Bob Odenkirk. That comic actor and producer, known then for HBO’s “Mr. Show,” is now famous for crime dramas such as “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.”
“We didn’t know actors, so we became the actors; didn’t know how to make animation but couldn’t afford to pay someone,” said Wareheim about the pair’s start.
“That was our spirit, the whole DIY can-do nature of who we are…That’s us coming from Philly and hustling.”
The acclaimed “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Good Job!” lasted from 2007 until 2010 with 50 episodes and two specials.
What Tim and Eric became known for is an avant-garde comic take on the traditional sketch-shorts concept that made “Twin Peaks: The Return” look like a Pixar flick in comparison. “Bedtime Stories” is a dark parody of horror anthology television (think “The Twilight Zone”) that looks like nothing the pair produced in the past. Only the weird riffs on bodily functions and uncomfortably funny laugh lines remain.
“By the time season four of ‘Awesome Show’ rolled around, we had filmed so many sketches that we were ready to make something more story-like with characters to follow,” said Wareheim.
“I mean, when we started at Temple University, our intention was to make movies. Plus, throughout our time with ‘Awesome Show,’ we did horror-based shorts with Funny or Die Presents like ‘The Terrys’ about a couple who give birth to a puppet boy.”
Heidecker said that with those shorts, the pair found that they could do something fulfilling, humorous and haunting at the same time.
Bedtime Stories” is a dark parody of horror anthology television (think “The Twilight Zone”) that looks like nothing the pair produced in the past. Only the weird riffs on bodily functions and uncomfortably funny laugh lines remain.”
“Some stories would be funny. Some would be scary,” stated Heidecker.
“We don’t do those sorts of repeat characters with cool catchphrases,” said Wareheim.
Heidecker agreed that patterns of expectation (“from our audience, maybe ourselves”) simply got too comfortable on “Awesome Show,” and the pair reacted. As the previous four seasons had a deep and silly connection to their sketch comedy roots, “Awesome Show” Season 5 toyed with disgust, detritus and true horror. That’s where the ideas behind “Bedtime Stories” came in.
Starting with a Halloween 2013 pilot episode, “Bedtime Stories” seems to be about those things which men fear most – like Stephen King’s “IT,’ without the toothy clowns (so far).
“The over-arching theme for this new season is the like the worst things that Tim and I can imagine in the real world,” said Wareheim.
“Real-life things are genuine nightmares to us, like addiction, anxiety, depression and human faults,” said Heidecker.
Without revealing too much more about “Bedtime Stories”’ plots, he adds but a hint to what’s in store this season.
“Growing up. Adult fears. These are the things we want to talk about now.”