Tim and Eric & Dr. Steve Brule: Leave your ball gags at home

By Justin Penney
Tim and Eric photos (top): Justina Mintz Dr. Steve Brule photo (bottom): Clark Reinking

Tim and Eric photos (top): Justina Mintz
Dr. Steve Brule photo (bottom): Clark Reinking

VANCOUVER — Eric Wareheim is exhausted right now… or he thinks he’s supposed to be but his self-prescribed mix of wine and herbal melatonin pills is effectively mitigating the effects of jet lag. This phone interview almost didn’t happen but through the sheer will of an international team of minders and publicists we have managed, after two false starts, to secure a connection and I am listening to the sleepy monotone of one of modern comedy’s most progressive human beings.

You might know Wareheim and longtime collaborator Tim Heidecker from the cult favourite Adult Swim sketch TV series Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! If that doesn’t sound familiar, you’ve most likely seen the Old Spice ads featuring ex-NFL player Terry Crews, which were directed by the duo and showcased their unmistakable brand of subversive, non-sequitur humour to its broadest audience to date. The pair’s 2012 feature Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie was critically panned, but secured a devoted following of stoners around the globe. Wareheim has also directed dozens of unforgettable music videos for the likes of MGMT, Ben Folds and Major Lazer, but right now he is on the phone with me and barely hanging on to his sanity after a long day of editing his new TV series with Heidecker, Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories while fighting the after effects of intercontinental air travel.

“I thought I was going to kill myself… it’s too long” he says shakily, recalling the paranoia induced by interminable overseas flights. Wareheim was just in Tokyo for a week of vacation, taking in the sights and gathering creative inspiration.

“There’s this discount store called Don Quixote that has this breathing device that looks like a ball gag, but for children. You put it in your mouth and it helps you breathe, like it strengthens your lungs but it just looks like a weird sexual device. And you know all the imagery in Tokyo is just cute young kids; just a lot of disturbing images that reminded me of Cinco Products, which is a company from our old TV show.

“I also like the ramen vending machines. Like you pay outside, click a button and you get your food. When I eat, I like to eat and run. I hate waiting for the check, so that technology was really fucking cool to be like, ‘Adios!’ and you’re out.”

The most puzzling anecdote about his trip to Tokyo is Wareheim’s tale about visiting an underground Tokyo Strip club. “You don’t tip in Japan, like you don’t make it rain… which is a bummer because that’s very fun. All Japanese businessmen go to this thing and they play tambourine… they bring their own tambourine to the strip club! They all play in unison, it’s so surreal, and when the girl is done… everyone lines up on the side of the stage and pays $10 and the girl gives you a Polaroid camera and you get to pose her in whatever pose you want, and it’s usually just… cutesy poses and they take shots and shots with the Polaroid. Every corner there is just crazy inspiration.”

Breathing aides/ball gags are optional, but fans are encouraged to bring their own tambourines or other percussive elements to the Vogue Theatre on Sunday September 7th, because that’s when Wareheim, Heidecker, and John C. Reilly come to Vancouver with the Tim and Eric & Dr. Steve Brule 2014 Tour. The live show features all new material including lots of song and dance and a show-stopping musical number. “Bring tambourines!” commands Wareheim. “Bring a shaker! But if you try to do a tambourine when it’s not a musical number you will be called out and asked to leave immediately.”

The tour will feature some characters from previous Tim and Eric projects but the jokes, songs, and sketches are all brand new and will push the boundaries of the duo’s trademark brand of insane comedy. Wareheim promises this tour will be “very different from any other stand-up comedy show you will ever see. Some parts will not be funny, just very scary.”

While Wareheim and Heidecker have toured as Tim and Eric many times in their decade-plus career, but this will be the co-headlining debut of Dr. Steve Brule a.k.a. John C. Reilly. The host of the popular Adult Swim series Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule has done some one-off live appearances but this will be the first tour for the well intentioned, yet impossibly deranged late-night TV host.

“He’s made appearances on our tours before and it’s just so… joyous… to see him perform live… his tour is somewhat educational, just like his show he’s out there to teach people things. He’s going to do interviews, he’ll interact with fans… it’s going to be a real treat.”

The live setting will likely strip Brule’s performance of the poorly tracked VHS aesthetic that is a visual trademark of Check It Out!, however the show is guaranteed to push the boundaries of acceptable taste. Past examples from the series include the desecration of a still-smoking charred corpse and a trip on an airplane that has Brule filling up barf bags at a stomach churning rate, all while trying to keep up pleasant conversations with his fellow passengers. Brule’s transportation plans for the tour are unknown at this point. “He definitely does not want to get on the tour bus with us,” Wareheim confirmed emphatically.

The tour starts in Montreal, with a stop in Toronto before the trio lands in Vancouver. It’s been four years since Wareheim and Heidecker have performed here, and they are excited to be north of the border where their twisted style of humour has been readily appreciated.

“We’ve always felt a connection to Canada. I think Canadians are a little fucked up, like a little bit more than Americans or English people from the U.K. They’re just a little perverted in a great way and we’ve always sort of bonded with that. I think we share some of the same sensibilities.”

When your work relies on constantly pushing boundaries, not every idea is going to be well received. When asked about the challenges of always pushing the limits of good taste, Wareheim recalls matter-of-factly. “I met with Kanye to make a video for his latest record and my treatment was too fucked up for him. It was a really, really out-there idea. PSY also pulled me in for an interview for his latest video with Snoop Dogg that came out and I cancelled on him because I had something else to do and he got so upset that he never called me back.”

Anyone familiar with his bizarre body of work will wonder about the truly horrific ideas that are left on Wareheim’s cutting room floor, or that don’t make past the “what if” stage. Whatever Tim and Eric & Dr. Steve Brule have in store for the audience on the upcoming tour it is likely to provoke, has the potential to offend, and will most certainly entertain.

Prepare to laugh, cry, and probably vomit as Tim and Eric come to town with Dr. Steve Brule, September 7th at the Vogue Theatre.

BeatRoute August 2014 cover, BC edition. Illustration: Cody Fennell

BeatRoute August 2014 cover, BC edition.
Illustration: Cody Fennell

CORRECTION: The mentioned “I’m on a horse!” Old Spice commercial example was incorrectly referenced to Tim and Eric’s work with Terry Crews and has been erased. “I’m on a horse!” refers to an Old Spice commercial featuring Isaiah Mustafa that the duo did not direct.

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