Street: So for starters, did you take a traditional approach towards writing script, as in finding themes, creating character arcs, all of that stuff?
Eric Wareheim: I mean yeah, we came off of doing a sketch comedy show, then we made three short films for an HBO series, like fifteen minute shorts that had a beginning, middle and end, characters, transformations, and that was our inspiration to write a feature. We knew we didn’t want the experience to be sketch–based; we love movies, and we wanted to make something that had a slightly more traditional structure. We knew going that anything we could really do would feel a little different, but also at the same time we wanted to try fucking with movies, and the idea of a movie within a movie, playing with every second of the movie, from the production slate to the credit jokes.
Street: You obviously have a large group of fans, were you trying to do something other than what they expected here?
EW: We love surprising everybody. Sometimes on our TV show when there’s a popular sketch we kill of those characters immediately. We never want to have that Saturday Night Live feel where they just think, “I can’t believe you’re re–doing this” again. You feel like you’re cheated, and to us it’s more challenging to try and do something new. So with the movie, a lot of our fans have thought “Oh, that’s not as wacky as the show,” but others have thought “Oh, that’s a whole ‘nother thing.”
Street: So what do you say to somebody that says, well gee, John Reilly was in it, but wasn’t playing Steve Brule?
EW: We wanted the movie to be something that anyone could go and not rely on our past material. The ultimate goal is to both please our fans and new people.
Street: In light of switching things up, we noticed there may not only been some slight anti–corporate messages, but also a commentary on comedy in general. Would you say that was what you were aiming for?
EW: I mean, I think it’s in two parts. One, I think it’s a commentary on Hollywood movies, you see that in the first part of the movie. I think our comedy is always a comment on comedy, it’s just what makes us laugh. We feel like we’re in a kind of post¬–comedy world, where we’ve seen every show, every character, and we’re trying to find new things that make Tim and I laugh. Sometimes it has more of an edge to it, like when we turn to the camera and say, “This is a dick joke,” or if we wanted a laugh track, we were trying to make fun of the way traditional movies were made, not just to make money.
Street: When did you decide to make the feature–length film?
EW: Well first we produced 50 episodes of our Awesome Show, we made those short films, and then we thought we could make a movie. It was always our goal, even when we were at Temple University film school. We wanted to make movies, so we went to LA and interned at big production companies, and we became really disillusioned with how the process was going from an intern to a big director, that’s going to be 20 years of our lives. So we thought, “Fuck it,” and we came back to Philly, got real jobs, and tried a different way.
Street: Your comedy relies a lot on public access programming. Was there as ource for that when you were growing up in the area?
EW: Yeah, but it wasn’t as much public access here as it was local commercials, car dealership stuff, instructional videos — when I was at college at Temple, we would collect different instructional videos with our friends all over the country, and we would share them and see how bad the production value was. At the same time, at Temple the equipment was so bad that we had these horrible tape editors that just made it look shitty, and awful in a way. And we kind of fell in love with that.
Street: You were both at Temple at the same time?
EW: Yeah, ’94 to ’98. The year we graduated they got their first computers. Now I’m glad we learned that old school stuff, but it didn’t prepare us for the real world.
Street: There’s a certain scene towards the beginning that I had trouble watching. Did you have any problem getting that in there? You did get an R, I see.
EW: We gave it to the MPAA, and we thought we might have to cut a few things to get an R, because we didn’t want an NC–17. Then they sent it back with an R, and we thought, “Holy shit, that’s crazy!” Literally, full of shit. I think they thought some of the stuff was so childish and playful, rather than offensive, so it was okay.
Street: Based on that, in the show and in the film a lot of your characters are men–children. Does that reflect on you guys now?
EW: I mean, yeah, definitely. We’re kids at heart. Drawing penises still cracks me up. But it’s also the character trait of a guy that’s not quite there, has problems getting stuff done, we find that funny. The struggle of being a non–professional.
Street: Is there anything that happened while you were at Temple that influenced your work now?
EW: The only thing it taught was how to do stuff yourself. I love Temple because I met Tim there, but they’re so unsupportive of comedy and art. We made a lot of videos in protest of our class. In our senior class, they asked everybody to do a presentation on art direction, and we just thought, “Are you serious? Who’s learning anything from this?” So we made a video spoofing that idea, just made up our own stuff, and we actually got an A on it.
Street: Can you compare your film to any other films from the past, or have you heard anyone else do so?
EW: We weren’t ever trying to make anything like anyone else. I would say our favorite films are the Christopher Guest things, like Spinal Tap. But there’s a huge difference in our work. People say it’s like a classic “Midnight Movie,” but that’s really the only comparison.
Street: We think it’s the most irreverent thing I’ve seen out of Hollywood since Freddy Got Fingered. And we mean that as a compliment, it’s just totally different.
EW: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. We feel very lucky that we got to make it, and having people like Zach Galifianakis, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in the movie, everyone just thought, “Alright, we’ll give you a little money and see what you can do.” They knew our work, but they didn’t know how to make a note on the script, so they just let us go for it. And so far so good, people are renting it, downloading it, and we’ll see how it goes in theatres.
Street: Was there a lot of improv going on, or was it totally scripted?
EW: Most of our TV show is heavily improvised, this movie had such a higher production value that we just really had to go by the script. We had to tell a story here, and this plot needed to be translated to the screen otherwise you wouldn’t know what was going on. So we had a script, and Tim had to tell me to get my act in gear, but in between those two areas there was space to fool around. It wasn’t as improvised as the show, but there was definitely a level of improv. Like the Will Ferrell scene in the office, which was like 50% improvised. We just gave him a script and said do whatever you want.
Street: How about Loggia’s part?
EW: Loggia is one of my favorite actors ever, and getting him was basically a dream. So we told him to be your bad guy, just go for it as far as you can, and he just said “Alright.” We were very respectful to all these guys, especially old school actors like that. We made him feel very comfortable, and he took his time and really stirred up all that awesome anger.
Street: Have you heard his reaction to the film?
EW: No. We invited him the premier in LA a couple of weeks ago, and I hope he comes. I’m sure he hasn’t seen it yet.
Street: How did you first attract the attention of Will Ferrell and Jeff Goldblum?
EW: Bob Odenkirk introduced us to people like Jeff Goldblum and Jack Black early on in our career, and then it kind of spread. They had our tapes, and people started saying, “You gotta check out these guys from Philly,” and it just ballooned when started saying “Listen, we had Jack Black, we had John C. Reilly, will you do this show?” And a lot of times we would have to name drop to get people in, but at this point we have a pretty huge resume, so now people want to work with us because they realize we have a legit thing.
Street: With Reilly though, how does it feel knowing that you launched his secondary career as “That Really Awkward Guy?”
EW: We love it. He has a different take on it, he often says, “You really fucked with my career man.” When he does interviews like this, I would say about 90% of the questions are about Dr. Steve Brule, instead of “How was it working with Roman Polanski” or anything else. He really loves Brule, and it is a truly wonderful character, but sometimes he’s just like, “Come on, I got something else here.”
Street: Where did some of the secondary characters come from?
EW: Well we didn’t have ideas set for everyone yet, but we knew at least that we wanted John C. Reilly to be a young boy, raised by wolves in this enclosed mall. We gave them that framework, and they’re such geniuses that they just kind of fill it in. John started talking in his high–pitched voice, coughing, being sick. He’s so amazing that on the first day of the shoot, the wardrobe people made him a little boy outfit, and he said “No, go get me a real little boy outfit, because I just want to feel like I’m busting out of it.” I think everyone we worked with was great, like Will Ferrell really just wanted to get into that mindset, like he’s just this lunatic with a mall. He managed to transfer that really true madness to the screen.
Street: What are your thoughts on this new model of video on–demand with a theatrical release a month later?
EW: At first we were against it. We made a movie, and we thought it should be in theatres, or at least the first experience should be on the big screen. But then they explained to us how they released Melancholia, which rolled out 30 days as on–demand, and people watched it, because that movie would never come to Miami or Houston or whatever. So people watched it and started talking about it, and when the movie was in theatres a lot of people went because they had heard about it, and I think it’s the same with us. A lot of people are able to experience it, and it’ll only be in 26 cities, so there are tons of places where you can’t see it ever on the big screen. People are talking about it, and at least with our fans they’re talking about it and it’s working. So we changed our attitude towards on–demand, and we’re embracing it and excited to see how it does. After our first week of downloads, we were pretty impressed.
Street: And you think a lot of these fans will download it, then go see it in the theatre?
EW: Yeah, like on Twitter we’ve been conducting focus groups, asking what they’re going to do. People have replied, saying they’re throwing parties, then seeing it in theatre, you know. One thing we’re trying to talk about is the pirating thing. One of our thoughts is that, if you put it on the internet instead of in theatres, then our fans who are college kids without money will just steal it. So we went out there and did this celebrity pledge thing, “I pledge to not steal this, if I do I’ll turn you in,” just a funny way of opening the discussion. The fact is that we don’t make this money back, this billion dollars, we’re not going to make another movie. People would write us, saying they’d never paid for an album or movie in their life, but that they bought this.
Street: How do you react to all the claims about drug use, and is it a good thing or a bad thing?
EW: I don’t think it matters, but we take slight offense to that, because our jokes are very calculated.
Street: But you’ve heard that often.
EW: Sure like, “Are you guys on shrooms?” But when we don’t do anything when we’re producing, making, or even viewing our show. But we do understand that our humor is kind of wild and why people would think that, but all of our material does come from some place with real grounding. Sometimes it’ll just be a word that we use that sounds like a hallucination, but it’s never about the drugs.
Street: You hate to put a tag on something. Some people have said it’s stream of consciousness, would that be it?
EW: It’s hard, we don’t have a name for it, to be honest with you. It’s just Tim and Eric, we have our own name. I mean, to be honest with you, it’s funny to hear that. A lot of my friends work in the ad world, and they tell us that a lot of people use our name to describe a commercial, like Tim and Eric style, with weird edits, people who shouldn’t be on camera that are on camera, and I guess it’s a bit wild.
Street: The editing is probably one of the tightest parts of your show and the film. Do you personally help out, or do you just have the best editors in the biz?
EW: We have the best editors. Originally after Temple I had started doing videos, like Batmitzvahs, wedding videos, all in this area. I’m waiting for someone to realize that I’m their Batmitzvah photographer, cause at the time I had a lot of high–end clients. I sort of fell into that world, because there is money in photography and videos. Anyways, during that I was doing pretty cheesy editing, with stupid wipes, like hearts floating over, and we took that style and made our new stuff. Our editors saw that purposefully shitty style and took it and went with it, added their own awesomeness to it. But when we went to Hollywood, we only hired kids who were just out of art school, rather than Hollywood editors, because we knew we wanted their timing to be off (borderline what Tim and I did in the beginning), instead of this calculated thing that worked.
Street: As far as casting went, where did you go for all of the outsiders?
EW: We took a lot of them from our old TV show. We kind of dredged the bottom of the barrel casting in LA, because everyone in Hollywood has a head shot. There’s websites where you can go and find these interesting faces, or people that look unique. We’ve always wanted our shows and movie to be populated by real people, comedians that were funnier and had an interesting kind of look. Just the guys that we worked with from the show were all in the movie as well, they knew the style. We approved every extra in the movie, there’s no set of mass extras; we actually care about all the actors.
Street: Do you guys ever listen to critics?
EW: Yeah, we care about that a lot, but at the same time we know that anything we do will always be a very polarizing situation. People will love it, hate it, or just not understand it. There’s very few people who just think “oh, it’s okay!” and we’re fine with that, because we’re making something that’s pretty on edge, and we know that we won’t ever have a huge, mainstream appeal.
Street: Is it ever humorous when a big name critic takes your film seriously enough to write at length?
EW: We love it, we’ve had pretty good press before. Our biggest hit was on the front of the entertainment section of the NYT a couple years ago, and it was a really good article with a really good review. They really analyzed it appropriately and had good things to say about it. At Sundance we showed the movie, and it had very good and bad reviews. We read a couple of them, but not all. We mainly care about what our fans think, and we use that information to make us better or fuck with them more.
Street: What’s next in the pipeline?
EW: We want to make Tim and Eric’s Trillion Dollar Movie, just the next movie, whether it’s a sequel, prequel, something in the same vein as this.
Street: So a new mall?
EW: Different mall, yeah, or maybe our own prison. We have six episodes of Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule, our spin–off show with John C. Reilly coming out in March, so we’re still editing that. We have a new Tim and Eric TV show in development, a new thing that we’re kind of shopping around for, but it’ll be the new Tim and Eric show. Not the Awesome Show, but we’re taking our time with it, making sure it’s really good.
Street: You mentioned the reaction at Sundance. You guys gave a pretty interesting Q&A after that. Were you guys in character during that?
EW: The Q&As that we do are sort of like a comedy show. Someone says something, we just tell them to shut up, make fun of their hat, just keep it light. But when people just have dumb remarks, we’re just like, “Screw you,” and move on. Even the Q&A, the promo videos, they’re all part of the experience of the movie. When we went to Sundance we claimed our film got Rango’d. We put out all these videos, saying how Rango got intercut with our movie as promotion to help sell more DVDs. We were really serious about it, and we did all these videos, all these morning press shows and talk shows, talking about how we were Rango’d and we wanted people to call Robert Redford and ask him to take Rango out. So those jokes, as well as the Q&A, were part of our whole experience. It sort of depends on our mood as well, whether or not we give real answers. But Sundance was interesting, because not everyone knew Tim and Eric, only about 50% of the audience.
Street: In the film you give a media presentation to an audience and they sort of react astonished as well, just like the Sundance viewers. Had they seen it before, or were they going in blind?
EW: They all went in blind. They were actually Palm Springs extras, and we didn’t tell them much. They knew they were in a movie, but they did not know what would happen in the scene, so we just used a lot of real reactions from them.
Street: To go back to Sundance for a second, you guys were in another film that got a lot of good press.
EW: Yes, the Comedy, it’s amazing and I hope it gets distribution. It’s a drama, starring Tim, and it’s really, really messed up. It’s really powerful and emotional, leaves you hurting, and that’s the kind of stuff we like doing. An interesting, depressing kind of movie.
Street: How was it working with James Murphy on that?
EW: He’s a cool guy, a really awesome guy, and he wrote me an e–mail when got approached for the movie, asked what is this? I told him to watch Rick Albertson’s last movie, called New Jerusalem, another weird movie that we saw and said “Holy Shit!” He watched it and said it was cool, and so we did the Comedy, which was almost fully improvised, with a lot of us hanging out in Brooklyn, having a dialogue. I don’t know if he’ll do another movie.
Street: Tim has acted in a few mainstream streams, and you’re a music video director. Will you always have room for the comedy aspect?
EW: The Tim and Eric thing takes precedence right now, but we both have different aspirations that we love, for me it’s making music, I’ve done music videos and other stuff, it keeps you kind of balanced. If we kept doing Tim and Eric we’d probably lose our minds. Since we met in Philly, I think we’ve spent every day for fifteen years together, so I think it’s healthy to have a couple different outlets.
Street: In the film, you’re playing a character, right? Is the character saying something about a certain kind of person?
EW: Yes, I think the Tim and Eric characters are very similar to a lot of the characters we’ve done before. It’s basically two idiots that think they know what they’re doing, and they’re competitive, but friends, and try to get ahead without any real work or skills. I think that kind of partnership is seen a lot in LA, with those guys that have websites like xcool.com, but what do you even do? Who are you? It’s like those guys that are lovable, reprehensible, but still interesting. It’s got that classic structure with Tim trying to get my girl, they’re just two guys.
Street: So they’re characters you made while you were out there?
EW: I think even back in Temple, one of the earliest videos we’ve done is called Lobsters in Film, and we shot it at Temple — it was our Eff You assignment, but we got an A on it. It’s almost the same thing as the film, these two guys that don’t know what they’re doing, kind of afraid to be on camera, these two buddies. We kind of clicked into those two guys right away.
Street: When you started with film at Temple, did you initially have an interest in comedy?
EW: Yes we did, but Temple did not encourage comedy. For example, in both of our senior theses we had comedy ideas, but they just said, “Well, why don’t you make it a serious documentary?” That’s how it went down, and it was like, come on, everyone else is making those. At the same time though, they were supportive, and I don’t want to bash them. One of our early professors, Dave Perry, was this off¬-the-wall creative guy. At first though, comedy wasn’t even an option. Early on I wanted to be like Stanley Kubrick, and I loved how he used Peter Sellers in his work.
Street: You used to take part in the DIY punk scene in Philly, right?
EW: Definitely, I was playing in bands even before college, and the punk rock scene, the DIY scene, were big. There’s a church down here, great venue. That community of making stuff yourself, promoting your own stuff, putting on your own show, went into the early Tim and Eric stuff, we made our own website, and when we were first in Philly we made these DVDs with our stuff on it, and that’s how we got discovered. I was making the DVDs myself, printing the labels, and that’s where it all came from, this kind of DIY atmosphere. I give so much credit to that world of not having money and figuring it out. A lot of people will now just send out a YouTube link, but back then it was much harder to share and took a lot more work to make a nice presentation.
Street: What was the ignition to your career?
EW: After college, Tim moved to New York and I lived in Philly. On the weekends we would shoot stuff using my Batmitzvah material, and they were not comedy, they were mainly experimental. We had this one video called “Humpers,” which was our famous Philadelphia thing, where Tim and I went through Philly humping all the famous landmarks. It really meant nothing. Then, a couple of those were at the Philly Film Festival, and people realized we had a thing going on and told us to take it seriously, so we made some DVDs. Tim was in this shithole job at New York and was saying he had to get out, so we made the DVDs, sent them out, and luckily got discovered.
Street: A lot of your comedy relies on repetition and awkward moments just to make the audience uncomfortable, could you speak to that?
EW: Yeah, just look at “Humpers,” it’s five minutes of one motion, over and over and over again.
Street: So that’s a conscious goal? Do you think it has merit?
EW: I think it has merit, but I think it’s more about what surrounds the joke, rather than the actual punch line. We love the awkward pauses, we love what happens after the laugh, we love when you’re forced to look at something that you’re not supposed to look at, over and over, a stutter in the editing, all of those things that trigger weird responses. We’re kind of into that stuff, but it hasn’t been in larger movies, so I think that’s instrumental, that rhythm, even in the first scene when Chef Goldblum comes out. It was just three takes, but it blasts, and a lot of people don’t know why they’re laughing, but realize there’s something about it that’s funny.
Street: What do you say to the people who look at this movie and see some of the more extreme scenes towards the end and don’t get anything out of it?
EW: I think if you make it that far into it, and don’t get turned off by the penis piercing or the masturbation — it’s funny, at Sundance there would be three walk out periods: the piercing, the masturbation, and Shrim. Whole rows would just get up and leave; it was very funny. We look at it as very childish, think of as the ultimate brown joke. We like the movie because it was more freeing, whereas Cartoon Network is highly censored, you know? We just kind of went for it, and it’s part of the experience. When we watch it live with 400 people at these screenings, the moans that happen are hilarious. It’s like a roller coaster with these real screams, or a horror movie. We like to create a dynamic experience.
Street: When you first started working with these bigger names, was it intimdating?
EW: Yes. Our first experience was with Jack Black, and we were recording with him at my apartment because we didn’t have a studio set up. He came into my house, my girlfriend was there, and made this makeshift studio in my office. Right when he was about to record all of these helicopters started buzzing, cause Tom Cruise was carrying the Olympic Torch downtown, and Jack Black just said, “Fuckin’ Tom Cruise is delaying my life here!” That was just a crazy moment where we were nervous. Right around that time Jeff Goldblum got our DVD, and he called us on my cellphone, and I was just like, “Baby, fuckin’ Jeff Goldblum is on my cellphone!”
Street: How does the collaboration work?
EW: It’s pretty 50/50. We pass the script back and forth, take different scenes. We’re on top of it, Tim will take this actor, I’ll work with the lighting, it’s very free form. Luckily we both think kind of similarly, we even work in the editing room together. But at the same time we have strengths and weaknesses.
Street: You’re like the Coen Brothers, but not related
Street: Are there any tenets to Shrim?
EW: No, it’s just based on all that bullshit. In LA you can see all that hippy–dippy bullshit a lot.