It is no exaggeration to say that the comedy duo of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim has produced some of the most gut-wrenchingly funny and disturbing television in the history of the medium.
After meeting in film school at Temple University in the ’90s, Tim and Eric found a home at Adult Swim in the mid 2000s, where they released a string of innovative, 11-minute shows, including the animated “Tom Goes to the Mayor” and the absurdist sketch comedy “Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!”
In the first season of their latest show, “Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories,” the pair crafted ten diverse and darkly hilarious short films. One episode featured Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”) as a doctor specializing in toe removal, and another found Jason Schwartzman (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) confronting a demented billboard ad that comically distorted the actor’s face.
Eric Wareheim talked to Business Insider about the “creepier” second season of “Bedtime Stories” and the process of making a 10-year anniversary episode of “Awesome Show,” which premiered in August. We also touched on his burgeoning wine business, his experience acting on Netflix’s “Master of None,” and the two feature films he’s writing.
Season two of “Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories” premieres Sunday at midnight EST on Adult Swim.
John Lynch: The “Awesome Show” anniversary episode was fantastic. As you’re switching between sketch comedy and the cinematic structure of “Bedtime Stories,” do you find it’s easier to be in one of those modes than the other at this point?
Adult SwimEric Wareheim: Yeah, we hadn’t done the sketch show for a while. We’d been in story mode, doing “Bedtime Stories,” and I was doing “Master of None.” As soon as we got back to sketch mode, we spent a week doing “Awesome Show” and had so much fun because it’s such a different energy. It’s really quick, you get to be really crazy, and you don’t have to develop characters. It was easy to switch back, and we had a blast doing it. We were pretty much just crying on set every day, crying from laughing. A lot more laughter when you’re making sketch comedy. You get to the joke really quick.
Lynch: Do you feel it’s more rewarding, in a way, to find humor within the structure of “Bedtime Stories?”
Wareheim: They’re both equally rewarding. I can’t say one is better than the other. But as former film students, making “Bedtime Stories” is satisfying in the way that it looks like a film, sounds like a film, and there are really great actors involved. Sometimes “Bedtime Stories” feels almost like a trick, where you get settled in like, “Oh, I’m watching something pleasant here,” and then you’re like, “Oh, my God. This is happening?” But with “Awesome Show,” the video element just looks so wild that you know something wild is going to happen. With “Bedtime Stories,” you’re tricked into feeling like you’ve seen it before, if you’ve seen movies and dramatic TV.
Lynch: Would you say that this season is darker than season one? I’ve only seen the trailer, but that was the impression I got, that it’s more … Cronenberg.
Wareheim: Yeah, it’s more kind of … Lars Von Trier. More reflective of our culture and society right now. Things are getting crazy. Things are getting nightmarish, and that’s reflected in our show. As two guys getting older, dealing with these heavy issues, we’ve kind of naturally put that into our stories. And yes, the new season is darker, creepier, but also pretty funny.
Lynch: How did you approach this season of “Bedtime Stories” differently than the first one? Were there things you brought over from it?
Wareheim: Well, yes, we brought in the same style, the same soundscapes, same score, same kind of energy. But we learned a lot from season one. We know what works now, and we feel that season two is a whole new world that we’re super excited about.
Lynch: I think your fans really like the versatility of your sensibilities. Do you have any sense of whether diehard fans of “Awesome Show” appreciate “Bedtime Stories” to the same degree?
Wareheim: You know, we’ve been walking our fans through our library since “Tom Goes to the Mayor,” which is very different than “Awesome Show,” and “Bedtime Stories” is very different than “Awesome Show” as well. But they all have these similar themes, and I feel like if you’re on board with a couple of these themes, and you’re a fan, you can go with us to other places. And that’s the hope of anyone’s career is to have it be dynamic and not staying the same. I’m glad we took seven years off and didn’t make “Awesome Show.” We came back, and I feel like this special is one of the strongest “Awesome Shows” we’ve made.
Lynch: The post-production editing that’s so prominent on “Awesome Show” and “Tom Goes to the Mayor,” it’s used to a lesser degree on “Bedtime Stories.” Do you feel like you’ve exhausted that tool in a way?
Wareheim: No, I don’t. I feel like with the “Awesome Show” special we tried to do some new things, which I was totally surprised at from our editors, to go to new places. We’ve seen a lot of people try to recreate what we do, and no one’s really done it quite yet. I wish people would take our editing style and take it to the next level, but I don’t think we’re done with it yet. There are more places to go.
Lynch: Your style is definitely trending toward being more cinematic, and you’ve done a feature film in the past. Do you see another feature on your horizon?
Wareheim: Yes. I’m writing two feature films right now. It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to me. I went to film school because I wanted to be a filmmaker. Tim and I made a film, and it was really hard, but this is my personal passion. They’re going to be a combination of drama and comedy, in a very dark, dark way. We’ve been making so much sh-t, so we’re going to take a couple months the rest of this year to do some writing.
Lynch: When you’re in that film mindset, do ideas germinate in the same way that a “Bedtime Stories” episode does, and then you build on it?
Wareheim: Yeah. It all comes from experiential things. For example, when I was in New York shooting “Master of None,” I encountered a lot of wild, amazing things, and I’m turning those things into a feature. And it’s just like “Bedtime Stories” is based off of our real fears or real things that have happened to us, and then we exaggerate them for dramatic effect. That’s where everything comes from.
Lynch: Definitely. My phone was a breaking up a bit at the end there. Sometimes these phone interviews feel like I’m Ed Begley in the “Cinco-Fone” sketch from “Awesome Show.”
Wareheim: [a weary laugh] Yeah. Definitely, a Cinco communication system.
Wareheim: Sh-t. I can’t think off the top of my head really. I don’t watch that much comedy, and I don’t watch that many music videos. Not to be all high falutin about it, but I like to keep my voice pretty pure and try not to follow the trends and stuff like that. I’m sure there are some great music videos out there.
Lynch: I understand you also have a wine company that you’re looking to build. What’s been the operation behind that, and how do you approach it?
Wareheim: Well, if you’ve been following my Instagram for the last five years, you know I’m a real fan of food and travel and culture, and wine is like the base of a lot of culture I feel. I’ve learned so much about different places through wine, and I wanted to do something amazing in America and do it naturally. There’s a new kind of wine making, it’s not new, but it’s a style that’s just becoming popular called natural winemaking. And I wanted to be a part of it, and I want to give back to the world. One of the wines is actually a Dr. Steve Brule Sweetberry wine, if you know that sketch. That was sort of the start of this business, but I have a winemaker Joel Burt, who’s a genius, and we said to ourselves, “Let’s make good wine. Let’s not make it a joke.” And that’s what happened. Now we have a whole line of wines coming out in the fall that are incredible.