Tim and Eric (and Will Forte)’s Zero-Dollar Interview
ABOVE: WILL FORTE, ERIC WAREHEIM, AND TIM HEIDECKER
Visionary comedians Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim stormed Sundance this year with their debut feature Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, an absurdly funny film made on a low budget, and also co-starred in The Comedy, a drama. Billion Dollar Movie has a plot not too unlike the recent Muppet film. Both are adapted from TV shows and have Scrooge-like villains, musical numbers, a whole lot of cameos, and a rag-tag team of protagonists needing to make a quick fortune and attempting to do so by reviving a dilapidated place. However, Tim and Eric’s mayhem features way more diarrhea, blood, and prosthetic genitalia. On a very snowy morning after their late night premiere and an even later party, we met up with the duo as well as co-star and SNL hero Will Forte at the Vevo PowerStation and Sorel Suite, a gifting and party lounge on Park City’s Main Street.
DEENAH VOLLMER: Some have said that you have taken comedy to the limit of where comedy can go.
TIM HEIDECKER: That’s true, we have. That limit exists, it’s been discovered. We’ve taken it there.
VOLLMER: So where can you go from here?
ERIC WAREHEIM: We are going to take it beyond that limit. Just flip it inside out. It’s this ever-expanding universe of comedy and we’re just going to keep on trucking. I see some of my things I say as quotes later, so I say things like “keep on trucking,” you know, bold sentences.
HEIDECKER: Those are notable quotables. We call them “notable quotables.”
VOLLMER: In both the show and the movie, you tend to cast folks with incredible-looking faces, often with a sad, or contemplative quality to them. Is your casting process rigorous? Do you tend to cast people based on their looks?
WAREHEIM: Yes, it’s fairly yes for both those questions. We spend a lot of time getting the right people. It’s usually about how their face looks and not so much about their skill level in terms of acting chops.
WILL FORTE: Thanks a lot.
HEIDECKER: Except for the fine cameos who are professional comedians.
FORTE: My face’s thanks remains.
HEIDECKER: You’re all about the face.
VOLLMER: [to Forte] What was it like working with these guys?
FORTE: It’s always amazing. You get to do things you don’t get a chance to do anywhere else. They sometimes look at the script as a jumping off point. They let you go a little bit and explore things and then they’ll rein you in, and say, “Oh, this is really good, and try this and this.” It’s very fun and it’s a very unique way to work. I’ve had so much fun on the TV show with them, and when I found out I got to be in the movie too, I was really excited.
VOLLMER: Do you guys think that your work is at all political?
HEIDECKER: Not overtly, no. But I think it’s kind of an indictment of the society we’ve created.
FORTE: What? What was the question? Why are we indicting society?
HEIDECKER: We’ve created a horrible, horrible society.
FORTE: You did?
HEIDECKER: No, we did. We’re indicting it. It’s an active process. We’re still indicting it as we speak. And we are a part of it.
FORTE: I didn’t hear the first part.
HEIDECKER: That’s okay, it wasn’t a question directed at you so you don’t have to worry about it.
FORTE: Eric and I had a sidebar. I was also still thinking about notable quotable.
WAREHEIM: I was just staring at Will, thinking about getting some sushi when we get back to LA.
FORTE: I went to get sushi in New York.
WAREHEIM: How does it compare?
FORTE: Not as good. Sorry.
VOLLMER: What do you guys think of the Stop Online Piracy Act?
HEIDECKER: It’s horrible, it’s a horribly written bill. I think pretty much everyone agrees on that.
FORTE: I don’t know much about the bill. What’s the bad stuff in it? Cause I feel like online piracy is probably a bad thing, right.
HEIDECKER: That’s the confusing thing. Online piracy needs to be dealt with itself, because people are just wholesale stealing people’s work and not paying for it. It’s very hard to figure out a way to fix it. The way that they go about trying to fix it is very dangerous, and used in the wrong hands can cause for many unintended consequences, like shutting down entire websites because you’ve posted a picture of Mr. Belvedere. That power in the wrong hands can be very scary.
WAREHEIM: We’ve taken this problem into our own hands on a personal level and we’ve just released a Tim and Eric Billion Dollar pledge video. We’re asking all our fans to sign a pledge that you can download from our website, facebook.com/zittwins. It says “I will not illegally download Tim and Eric’s movie, I will spread the word, I will have my dad watch with me.” And you can sign it and put it up and we’re going to actually have videos of people doing that next week.
VOLLMER: Wow, cool. Because your movie is going to be released on Video On Demand?
WAREHEIM: Right, a whole month of Video On Demand. Our fans are very web savvy people, so we’re just trying to reach out.
HEIDECKER: It’s an ethical choice you make. Technology exists for you to do whatever you want, but to make the ethical choice whether you pay a very minimal amount of money for something that took a lot of hard work to make, or feel like you’re entitled to it for some weird reason. It’s a choice, everything in life is a choice. I could go and bonk this over your head and kill you dead. But I won’t. It’s just a choice.
WAREHEIM: It’s too early for that kind of joke.
VOLLMER: One of the many qualities that makes the Tim and Eric show so great and which also translated onto the big screen was the attention to subtle sound effects, particularly the addition of squishing sound effects that sometimes occur when characters touch each other or themselves.
WAREHEIM: I think we’re very in tune with our bodies, and I think if you watch the movie you’ll see that. Three’s a lot of squishy sounds. Our editors will often take sounds or pitch them up or down to make them even more disgusting.
VOLLMER: Of course the show and the movie have a lot of commonalities, but the lack of focus on some of the series regulars like David Liebe Hart and James Quall was noticeable, although their cameos were great. Was their lack of involvement a conscious decision on your part, to shy away from the series?
WAREHEIM: We originally had David Liebe Hart and James Quall as these detectives who were trying to track us down, but that was kind of similar to our TV show, and we felt we needed a more real element. That’s why we put Robert Loggia and William Atherton to search for us, to have a little bit of a straight man quality.
HEIDECKER: We also had a David Liebe Hart song that we recorded and shot, and the tone of those thing that didn’t fit in the movie. Making a comment about him not being in the movie while he’s in the movie at the end felt like it was enough to show respect to him in the show. James makes a really nice little cameo in his little stand-up set, which is about the same amount of time we’d spend on him in the show usually. I think they are fairly represented.
VOLLMER: You guys do bloodbath scenes really well. Even when they are presented in a comedic kind of way, they’ve been fast, brutal, and full of mayhem. Were you tempted at any point while writing the script to kill of one of your own characters, as you had in the past? Is it satisfying at all to watch yourself get shoot up on screen?
HEIDECKER: Yeah, that would have been a good idea, but we didn’t.
WAREHEIM: We have to set us up for the sequel. We could aptly kill Forte off, with a knife to the neck.
HEIDECKER: The good thing about him is he’s an octuplet.
WAREHEIM: Right, we could do seven more movies.
VOLLMER: Do you like to see yourself get shot up on screen?
FORTE: Absolutely. It’s really fun to see yourself – my only thing, I wish my head had come off.
WAREHEIM: It looked good, though.
HEIDECKER: Will’s physical comedy is amazing. When he gets shot, his body moves like a rubber band. Almost like a cartoon character. It’s really funny.
WAREHEIM: I remember on set, Will and I were looking at these knives. Our special-effects team is low budget, like the movie. Will and I are just touching the knives like, okay, this is definitely not a real knife. Just triple-checking.
FORTE: Oh yeah, it’s so scary. You know, it doesn’t happen really often. Everyone on the set is really good at what they do. But we’re rushing around, who knows. When you’re dealing with a knife, or a gun scene, all it takes is one mistake.
WAREHEIM: Dude, it’s scary to be shot at with those blanks that they use. It’s really scary.
FORTE: A lot of those guns will spit out shells out the side. I remember doing MacGruber, and the guy would say–
HEIDECKER: Okay, here it comes, can’t you just do one interview without talking about MacGruber?
FORTE: I can’t, I can’t.
HEIDECKER: Fine. Go ahead, let’s just make a note of it.
FORTE: M-A-C-G-R-U-B-E-R. Okay, never mind. But this guy was saying like, I don’t think he should walk as close to him because these things spit out and I can’t guarantee it won’t take his eye out, and the director, my very good friend, said, “Well I mean, what are the chances really?” “Very low, but there is a chance.” And we did it and nothing happened, but it was scary.
VOLLMER: Were your knives sharp?
FORTE: No, they were professionally dulled.
HEIDECKER: And it kind of looks that way in the film.
WAREHEIM: Like a thick plastic knife with a bad paint job.
FORTE: The scariest ones are the ones that are supposed to retract, and just push into itself when stabbed. Like, what if somebody fucks up that one. That’s the one I get really scared about. What if it gets stuck?
WAREHEIM: Will Ferrell’s worked with guns on set a lot. When the prop guy gave him a gun, Will manually looks at all the chambers before he’ll even start working with it. It’s protocol you have to go through before working with any kind of fake stuff on set. It’s really boring.
VOLLMER: Is there protocol for a prosthetic boner?
WAREHEIM: The masturbation scene?
VOLLMER: The Prince Albert piercing.
WAREHEIM: That’s me fully flaccid, so I don’t know what kind of cocks you’re used to. That was fully flaccid, when it gets hard it kind of shrinks down into a three-inch thing.
VOLLMER: Did you have trouble pulling off that scene? Did anyone tell you take it out?
WAREHEIM: Luckily it got through with an R rating. My mom told me to take it out. My dad told me to take it out. Will told me to take it out. He doesn’t feel like that should be a part of the whole thing.
FORTE: I don’t want to share that with people. That’s my private thing with Eric.
TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE DEBUTS ON VIDEO ON DEMAND FRIDAY AND IN THEATERS MARCH 2.