Aided by several Coke Zeros, Tim Heidecker has spent the past half-hour attempting to answer Eric Wareheim’s questions with impressive three-syllable belches, the premise of a fictional talk show called “Burps.” But each time their eyes meet as they raise their mugs for more carbonated fuel, Heidecker and Wareheim can’t stop laughing. “This might be the best thing we’ve ever done,” sobs Wareheim, mopping away tears.
“A lot of ideas start as simple parody, because we are consumers of media just like anyone else — we watch all kinds of crap,” says Heidecker. “But it’s our job to camouflage that parody in another idea.” Those ideas got the attention of their idol, Mr. Show creator Bob Odenkirk, who encouraged them to come to L.A. four years ago, where their animated series Tom Goes to the Mayor and the live-action Awesome Show were bought by Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Actors like John C. Reilly, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Rainn Wilson — even Odenkirk himself — began beating down the door for roles. They also put on a live touring show twice a year, and this spring saw the premiere of Steven and Stephen, an animated show on ComedyCentral.com about Siamese twins joined at the penis.
“Our comedy is like a series of calculated disasters,” says Wareheim. “It’s written to fall apart, but we try to play it as naturally as possible.”
A few hours after the burping episode, production on season three of the Awesome Showhas given way to that of Tim and Eric Nite Live, a weekly Internet show that can be seen on SuperDeluxe.com. The calculated disaster of the evening is, ironically, Odenkirk — playing himself — visiting the set to give a presentation on why Nite Live is so bad. Adding to the surreality, he brings Yo La Tengo band members Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley to watch the show. The musicians are then written into the opening, which features cast members singing while slathered in Hershey’s syrup. Within 20 minutes, most of the actors are also covered in birthday cake, a full Diet Sprite has been lobbed toward the camera and a shouting match between Heidecker and Wareheim that feels uncomfortably real has the studio on edge. They wouldn’t have it any other way.