Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are self-taught filmmakers who broke the system and found immense success all while never changing their style.
They have the look of a public access show, never feeling polished or in control—and that's the point. Tim and Eric are a comedy duo who care about making you laugh. That's it. It's their only mission.
And they changed TV by succeeding at it.
They are responsible for the Adult Swim shows Tom Goes to the Mayor, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule, Tim & Eric's Bedtime Stories, and Beef House. They also created an actual movement in comedy.
Even if you've never heard of them before, you definitely seen (and have probably sent your friends a million times) the "mind-blown" meme, which features Wareheim during a skit called The Universe.
Tim and Eric make comedy that's always weird, hilarious, and sometimes straight-up uncomfortable. Has their Adult Swim success watered down their edge? Or have they figured out how to stay weird even while making commercials?
The answers are "no" and then "yes"!
Check out this video from Wisecrack for the explanation, and let's talk after the jump.
How Did Tim and Eric Change TV?
Comedy was polished in the early 2000s.
We were used to popular sitcoms that were done on soundstages, movies with perfect cinematography and lighting, and movie stars cracking the jokes. Even Saturday Night Live thrived on planned performances and written jokes.
Then Tim and Eric came into the picture. Their late-night Adult Swim shows developed a penchant for making things seem weird...weirdly funny. They were shot low-budget and achieved almost instant cult status.
They were making people laugh not by spending money, but by being funny.
Their real success came in the form of Tim and Eric's Awesome Show, a sketch show that distilled their energy and homemade antics. The show not only had huge celebrities make cameos but also found bit players on Craigslist.
Dave Itzkoff, a columnist for The New York Times, distilled the show with this description: “Awesome Show revels in an aesthetic of awkwardness.”
Itzkoff pointed out the amateur performers often brought onto the show, sometimes via Craigslist, which added to its unpolished, unassuming nature. For instance, puppeteer David Liebe Hart and comedian James Quall were soon added to the cast. Quall often did terrible voice impressions.
Heidecker told Itzkoff, "We know that it’s not good. We’re not idiots. But to James Quall he’s doing a great job. And he’s on TV. So everybody kind of wins."
At the end of the day, this was all seen as a new art form, a new way to frame comedy for a mass audience.
This caused people to take notice. Soon you saw blatant ripoffs of Tim and Eric on SNL and in commercials... until they got commercials of their own.
With their rejection of real budgets and new style, Tim and Eric changed the way we look at television comedy. They actually got people to focus more on the web-show look and also to reexamine what it means to be artistic, and what it means to be subversive.
It will be interesting to see where they go from here, especially with them headlining commercials now and making cameos in big Hollywood productions. Heidecker, for example, appeared in Jordan Peele's Us, and Wareheim had an impressive guest role in Master of None.
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyh3C1xDT3Y
One thing is for certain, the public is ready to see things shaken up. And if there's one lesson this comedic duo teaches us it's to be okay with experimenting and pushing your artistic sensibilities to its limits (and then way beyond). Deliver your audience something entertaining, and worry about if you fit in later.
What's the advice to take from Tim and Eric? Let us know below.