Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim rose to fame through a surreally silly comic sensibility, but the pair's work ethic is deadly serious. The alt-comedy duo, known by their cultlike fanbase simply as Tim and Eric, has spent the last year juggling a bizarro musical tour, a new TV program and a string of live comedy shows, the latest of which comes to the Civic Theatre Friday. The tour is the pair's latest project, though the diversity of Tim and Eric's past work makes it difficult to guess what the show will entail.
"It's multimedia, for sure," Heidecker says. "We combine live performance with an audiovisual component to emulate the TV stuff. It's sort of a traveling Tim and Eric off-Broadway idiotic spectacle, a nonsense-driven stupidity."
Those unfamiliar with the pair's past work may be confused — and possibly revolted — by the show. The duo's greatest claim to fame, Adult Swim's Tim And Eric Awesome Show Great Job!, combined public access TV aesthetics, Dadaist tangents and poop jokes to the point it seemed like an assault on the senses more than a comedy sketch show. In a fairly typical sketch, a commercial for the Lazy Horse Mattress Store, Will Forte plays a salesman who settles down for a nap and enters a traumatizing hellscape of night terrors. In the lunatic world of Tim and Eric, the merely odd takes a hard turn into the realm of confusion or terror. Heidecker says his sense of humor might not be for everyone.
"We see a fair amount of horrified, perplexed faces out there in the crowd, but we don't get too many complaints," Heidecker says. "We must be doing something right."
The Civic show will open with the musical stylings of Los Angeles' DJ Douggpound and also will feature a guest appearance from John C. Reilly as Awesome Show mainstay Dr. Steve Brule, who also stars in the Adult Swim spinoff Check it Out! with Dr. Steve Brule.
Tim and Eric came through New Orleans with a decidedly different supporting cast in June. The duo's swamp rock musical outfit Pusswhip Banggang delivered a memorable show at The Howlin' Wolf. Clad in a variety of wigs and gloriously tacky outfits, Tim and Eric delivered a set that half-celebrated, half-satirized the blistering banjo pickings and extended solos of Southern rock. Midway through the show, Wareheim took a hefty rip from an instrument/pipe called a "saxabong" and then played it to the uproarious approval of the crowd.
"It's fun for us to get that immediate reaction [from the audience]," Heidecker says. "When we do the TV show, we're in our editing room and we're removed from the public. So it's fun to go out there, do something physical and get an immediate laugh."
Tim and Eric's upcoming brainchild returned them to the editing room. Tim and Eric's Bedtime Stories airs on Adult Swim this fall, and it's a departure from the frenetic sketch comedy of Awesome Show. Bedtime Stories takes the shape of a suspense series (think Twilight Zone on peyote). Heidecker says the anthology format brings a clean slate every week, affording a great degree of freedom.
"The original idea was that every week, we'd do whatever we wanted to do with that time," Heidecker says. "As we started making it, we started drifting towards a darker tone. We felt it suited the style of the show better, but there are lighter episodes as well. Our intention was to bring a new thing every week. Some will be sillier, some will be about getting buried alive."
Between the gross-out gags and experimental transgressions, both Awesome Show and Bedtime Stories have a way of rankling viewers.
"We want our work to be visceral and to create reactions from people, not be a passive experience that you can disengage from," Heidecker says. It should be something that surrounds you and shakes you up. I think that's what all great art should do."
As busy as the two are, Heidecker has managed to fit other projects into his schedule. He appeares in the upcoming Merry Friggin' Christmas, one of the final films to feature Robin Williams, who died Aug. 11. Heidecker regularly hosts On Cinema, a podcast parody lampooning windbag film critics. In Rick Alverson's film The Comedy, Heidecker starred as a remorselessly self-centered Brooklynite who takes sick glee in all sorts of edgy humor — racial, scatological or sexual — until he's faced with the death of his father. It is a surprisingly nuanced performance in comparison to the over-the-top mania of Awesome Show. Heidecker has no current plans to return to such weighty fare, but would explore his options if the right script came along, he says. And he's always working up ideas for Tim and Eric, such as a follow-up to 2012's Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie.
"We go to Africa to watch a version of Saturday Night Live there."