Tim and Eric, the duo who brought you the oddly animated Tom Goes to the Mayor, are back on Adult Swim with a live-action sketch comedy show called Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job. We organized a chat with them just to hear their angelic voices and wouldn't you know it, we ended up conducting an interview, too. So if you're curious about Adult Swim, Bob Odenkirk, Monty Python or Billy Joel, you should probably keep reading.
Other than the fact that you get money for making a show, how is the process different than making videos for your website?
ERIC: The biggest difference is it's much more stressful. When Tim and I are making the stuff on the weekends, there are no time limits or money involved. Producing this sketch show, we've made like a hundred bits, and each of them cost a couple thousand dollars to make, so there's a lot more riding on them.
The new show looks pretty bizarre-not like a typical sketch show. Could you sum it in three or five words?
TIM: Crazy, fascinating, educational, tickling, huggable. Basically two idiots in a basement making a TV show.
ERIC: It doesn't feel like a sketch show. Sometimes it feels very wrong. One reason why I'm really proud of this show, is that it's very different. It feels kind of awkward and bizarre, but pretty silly.
You've been working with Bob Odenkirk a lot, would you say it's similar to Mr. Show in format?
TIM: It takes a little bit from Mr. Show in that episodes generally have a thread running through them. They keep a little tiny story happening. I think it also has this Python feeling to it because it's so unstructured. It doesn't really have a political statement. It doesn't really try to satire anything to strongly.
ERIC: There are no rules that we stick by, and from one sketch to another, you can go into another universe very quickly and never return to that original idea. Like Monty Python did.
It's Adult Swim, so the episodes are only 15 minutes. Are the sketches pretty short?
TIM: Yeah, we never stick with something for more than a minute and a half. Stuff that would play out on Saturday Night Live for seven minutes, we do in 30 seconds. We kind of play up to the audience. We expect them to be a little smart in the way they watch comedy or watch television. We don't need to pound stuff over people's heads.
ERIC: There's really no hand-holding in this show. You're either onboard right away or you're just lost. Like our last show [Tom Goes to the Mayor]. You either love it or you fucking don't understand it at all.
Do you think this new show will have a similar fanbase as Tom?
TIM: There's definitely a sensibility that exists in both shows.
ERIC: But at the same time, this show's all live-action. It's easier to watch than Tom Goes to the Mayor. Some people didn't like the type of animation we were doing. This new show is super bright and colorful.
TIM: And if you don't like a sketch, wait thirty seconds. There's another one coming up right after it.
It being live-action, was there any opposition from Adult Swim or Cartoon Network?
TIM: There was never anything that was worried about or discussed. It was something that I think they wanted to move towards anyways. We just happened to be at the right time in our career to want to do it there. I think they anticipated people being kind of weirded out by the fact that it's a live-action show. But these guys are the kings of "Who gives a shit?" They want to break the rules as many times as they can.
By these guys you mean the guys at Cartoon Network?
TIM: Mike Lazzo, Matt Harrigan, Keith Crofford...
Back to Bob Odenkirk for a second: I was curious as to how your partnership with him came about and how the working relationship operates, him being more seasoned than you guys.
TIM: We sent him a tape a few years ago of our stuff and he thought it was great and wanted to help out in any way he could. He's a very giving man. A sweet old man.
ERIC: Who happened to be one of our idols, by the way. You know, top three comedy idols.
TIM: But he was getting old and sick and wanted to carry on his legacy through us. And when he was on his deathbed, he came to us and wanted to install his sensibility in us. We're happy to pass that legacy on.
Weird Al's in the show. What's he like?
TIM: He's like the nicest guy in the world. We found out that he was a fan of Tom only after we were done making the show. And we were both big fans of his growing up. I don't think anyone's really tapped him as a comedic performer, so he was psyched about it. And he was willing to do anything we asked him to.
What kind of guest star works best with your show?
TIM: Someone that we think is really funny might not work. It often works best when it's not a comedian, but somebody that's a bad actor that we found online. Generally we have to be careful because a comedian can change the mood of the show pretty quickly.
If you could get any dead comedian to be on the show, who would it be?
ERIC: Andy Kaufman, of course.
TIM: Lorne Michaels. If he was still alive, I'd love to have him on the show.
You guys are touring as a live show. Do you enjoy performing live more than taping stuff in a studio?
TIM: Our bread and butter is shooting stuff on video and really spending time making it great. But live is fun. It's good to meet people that are fans of the show. And to put on wigs, and act like an idiot.
ERIC: There's also this instant gratification of people laughing live. Because when you're working in the studio, it's like the same ten people looking at your stuff, you get in a vacuum. So it's good to remember that there are people actually watching your show.
Any crazy road stories-like destroyed hotel rooms, shit like that?
TIM: We haven't been on the road too much. That's what's coming up.
ERIC: We could make something up for you
Oh, please do.
TIM: Well, there's this one time Eric and I stayed up until 12:30 at night. We were pretty tired the next day, that's for sure. We went down to the hotel lobby and we just ended up talking 'til about midnight and finally, I said, "We should hit the sack." But by the time I brushed my teeth it was 12:30. I don't know when Eric went to bed.
ERIC: Probably around 12:30, too.
Any projects in mind that you'd love to do, if money was no object at all?
TIM: There's a show, like a spin-off show, that if we controlled the network I'd love to able to have on the air every night. We have a character, this old guy named Richard Dunn. It's just him interviewing people like The Charlie Rose Show. We would love to produce that. No one would ever watch it.
Not even Tom Goes to the Mayor fans?
ERIC: Our dream projects are nothing like what we're actually making on TV right now. They're much slower and drawn out.
You have to make stuff for TV more punchy?
ERIC: We're really not compromising much with this new show. It's pretty true to what we started doing five years ago on the Internet.
Tim, I read somewhere that you grew up in Allentown, PA. Are you familiar with the Billy Joel song, "Allentown?"
TIM: Yes, vaguely.
Does it affect children from Allentown or are they pretty indifferent towards it?
TIM: It pisses them off when people bring it up. No, I don't care. It's a great song. Eric's a bigger Billy Joel fan than I am.
TIM: I mean, I'm a huge Billy Joel fan, but to compare it with Eric's appreciation for him, it doesn't even match. Eric's got all of his CD's and tons of bootlegs and videos of concerts.
ERIC: I've also got journals from Christie Brinkley and her time with Billy Joel.
TIM: We're working on a Billy Joel biopic.
That's one of the unfeasible projects?
TIM: Well it's not unfeasible. We're talking with Taylor Hackford who did the Ray movie. It's called the Piano Man. Eric's going to play Billy Joel.