Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim previously starred in the Cartoon Network series “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” Viewers who walked out of the Sundance screening of the pair’s first movie, “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie,” likely wouldn’t describe it with words like “awesome” and “great.”
Heidecker says he and Wareheim “don’t really give a [bleep].”
“A lot of the people that so-called [makes air quotes] ‘walked out’—They actually did walk out, I don’t know why I had quotes around that—these are older, rich people that are there to see very sophisticated documentaries and foreign films and stuff,” says Heidecker, 36. “It’s just not a movie for them. But our audiences seem to love it and a lot of people that have never seen us before seem to be enjoying it.”
Adds Wareheim, 35: “The programmers at Sundance put our movie in there to cause this kind of controversy. They want to screw things up; they’re kind of sick of the norm there.”
“Billion Dollar Movie” isn’t the norm in any movie theater. Heidecker and Wareheim (who both directed and co-wrote the script) star as fictionalized versions of themselves. They waste $1 billion making a movie and then try to earn back the money by taking over a dilapidated, wolf-infested mall from its sleazy previous owner (Will Ferrell). Absurd gags ensue involving everything from “Top Gun” to used toilet paper to a grown man abandoned in the mall as a child (John C. Reilly).
At the James Hotel, the funnymen considered how many people share their unusual sense of humor, Oscars they’ve already won and unconventional ways they maintain a friendship that began nearly two decades ago at Temple University.
You guys have such a clear vision of doing what you want to do. What percentage of people do you think share your sense of humor?
EW: Seventeen percent of the population. We actually tested that for the movie instead of doing focus research.
TH: There’s a simple dip test you can do. You put a string down your throat and you take out the string and you mix it with a little bit of a hydrogen peroxide and if it turns blue, you’ve got our sensibility.
How many people did you submit to that test?
TH: One in every two males on the planet. So 50 percent of the population of the male population. And one in every four females.
EW: It was a very thorough test.
And it came out to 17 percent?
TH: That’s a huge percentage.
EW: That’s a lot of people.
TH: That’s a big number. We were thinking it was going to be like six or seven. So when 17 percent popped up on the computer model, I freaked.
Is there a line between absurdity and stupidity? If so, how do you identify that?
TH: That’s funny, that’s like a “Spinal Tap” line. I can’t remember it.
EW: There’s all different levels of jokes that we like. Some are Meta jokes, some are real physical gags.
TH: There’s definitely an active ongoing discussion and debate amongst us and the people we work with where it’s often, “That’s just too stupid. That’s just too much. It’s too much.”
What’s something that almost went into the movie that you ultimately decided was too stupid?
TH: Well, I can’t think of one for the movie but we were just doing Dr. Steve Brule’s “Check It Out!” show [starring John C. Reilly], and there’s an image of a person farting into a hat.
TH: Now, the graphic is a rear end and a hat, and the original graphic had like a poof smoke, and ... it was determined that the poof smoke was too much; that was too silly. So you take that out, you’re left still with the ass, still with the hat.
EW: Still with the concept of passing gas into a hat.
TH: But the poof goes.
EW: It makes it more real and serious.
Yet filling a tub full of poop in “Billion Dollar Movie,” that passed the test. Why?
EW: Well, yeah, it if was solid logs that would have been way too silly. But a nice stream, that’s more real. If you eat soft meats all day.
TH: Yeah, if you take it in the context of the body of our work, you’ll see that there’s a reverence and respect for diarrhea. It’s a continuity to our earlier work. It goes beyond the actual substance of diarrhea. It goes to a much bigger issue.
EW: People at RedEye know everyone’s got the D.
TH: Especially after eating some of that deep dish [pizza].
How strategic is it that the movie is coming out the week after the Oscars?
TH: [Laughs.] I think not strategic at all.
EW: We’re excited for next year’s noms.
You’re trying to be first out of the gate?
TH: Yeah. We picked up a couple of preliminary Oscars a couple of weeks ago.
Oh really. For what?
TH: Most Handsome Duo in a Film.
EW: Tallest Actor.
TH: Most Creative Personality, which was a great honor to get … I got the Tim Allen Award for Success in Film.
EW: I got the Best Off-Screen Beard. It’s like what you do in your private life, your look.
TH: So we’re proud of all those awards.
Why can’t malls have wolves? Where are they supposed to shop?
TH: I don’t have an answer for joke questions. No. That seems like you can share that with your friends or family if you like, but not with us. Because we don’t take that kind of [bleep]!
You don’t like jokes?
TH: [Laughs.] No. We gave so much already.
EW: We gave the jokes.
TH: In the film. You can go to the film and see it.
What’s something you guys have done over the years to maintain the closeness between you?
TH: We only speak to each other on camera. So you’ll see when the camera goes off, I’ll go in a separate room. We will not discuss anything with each other. That’s been going on for 15 years now.
So any time you even want to call the other one—
EW: Oh, ho, no!
TH: You gotta say, “Rolling!”
EW: Can you imagine me calling Tim Heidecker?
TH: It really wouldn’t work out.
EW: First of all, I don’t even have his phone number. Second of all, what would I say?
What’s something you want to do next once the hubbub about the movie dies down?
TH: I’m working on a series of detective novels. I have an order of 35 books that I have to write.
Are they all due at the same time?
TH: It’s called the Inspector Trist series and it’s just about this inspector who investigates murders in the south. And I have no idea what I’m doing but I’ve gotta write a lot of ‘em.
What are you going to do, Eric?
EW: I’m going to Brazil; they have this special surgery where you can drill a hole into your brain to release some pressure.
TH: Oh, you’re doing that?
TH: Don’t do it.
EW: Why not?
TH: A friend of mine did it and he’s like [mentally challenged] now. He can’t eat or talk or anything.
EW: I wish you would have told me that before.
TH: I am telling you now, I didn’t know you were going.
What makes you laugh the most in the movie?
EW: It’s when I propose to Katie because I am in love with Katie in real life as well, that’s why we wrote that.
With the character?
EW: I’ll always be in love with her.
TH: He’s got mental problems.
EW: That’s why I was going to Brazil to drill, but now since I can’t do that …
TH: Electro shock therapy should help. And we’re working on that.
On Chicago: “It might rate as the No. 1 spot in the country, if not the globe. I’ve never said that before about any other city.” (TH)
“We feel like this is our second home. Whenever we come here, this is the first city we sell out for our live shows, and last night we had a screening of our movie and that sold out pretty fast. People here are just very warm and loving and respectful of the art.” (EW)
On if their audience is mostly stoners: “We have a lot of fans. Some of ‘em smoke weed; some of ‘em don’t. My dad likes our work. He is not a stoner.” (EW)
A guilty pleasure movie they love: “I Am Sam” (TH); “Jerry Maguire” (EW)
A not-currently-popular band they love: The Troggs (TH); Hoobastank (EW)
Favorite Hoobastank song: “Who’s Hoobastank?” (EW); (singing together) “Who, who, who’s Hoobastank?”
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the U