BY MIKE THOMAS Staff Reporteremail@example.com February 23, 2012 6:46PM
In “Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie,” Heidecker (left) and Wareheim squander their filmmaking budget on ill-conceived Hollywood makeovers, completed with glowing teeth and tans.
Updated: February 26, 2012 3:03AM
After comedy auteur Eric Wareheim’s parents screened his debut film, “Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie,” he received the following email: “You did warn us. Thanks, Mom.”
“She didn’t write ‘Love, Mom,’ like she normally does,” the tall and bespectacled Wareheim deadpanned during a recent visit to Chicago with his longtime creative cohort, Tim Heidecker. “It was a very short email acknowledging the fact that she did view it.”
Was it the scene featuring painful-looking manipulation of a prosthetic phallus that threw her? Or maybe the one in which her boy is drenched in therapeutic (albeit fake) feces?
“All my parents want to do is be proud of me and be able to share [my work] with their friends,” Wareheim said, “and none of the work that we’ve done can they ever share with them. Ever. They’ve never been like, ‘Look at my son, he made a movie,’ because ‘my son’ masturbates next to his best friend.”
What he and Heidecker mostly do together in “Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” is haplessly operate a dilapidated mall upon answering a TV pitch from its proprietor, played by a wild-eyed and typically spastic Will Ferrell. He offers a highly dubious $1 billion to anyone who can turn the apocalyptic, wolf-stalked place around.
But seeing as Tim and Eric have nothing to lose — they’re on the run from a maniacal studio executive (imbued with Orc-like menace by an ancient-looking Robert Loggia), whose billion dollars they squandered on grotesque personal makeovers and a brainless production of the worst movie ever starring fake Johnny Depp — what the hell? Actor and native Chicagoan John C. Reilly, a Tim & Eric vet, plays Ferrell’s deranged and diseased son Taquito. He lives in the mall surrounded by squalor.
So what about Heidecker? Did he screen the flick (opening Friday) with his parents?
“No! No. They watched it with some friends who have a good sense of humor. I’m sure [my mom] had a couple glasses of wine to take the edge off a little bit.”
Like Wareheim, Heidecker is all about staying true to his artistic vision.
“We knew back when we met each other in college that we made stuff for us only,” Wareheim said. “And you sort of have to keep doing that and not really think about, ‘Are the masses going to get it? Are your parents going to understand it?’ People who do get it love it so much that they’re like, ‘These two guys think the same way I do?!’ It’s a small group, but to us that’s the key.”
As fans of the duo’s Cartoon Network/Adult Swim cult hits “Tom Goes to the Mayor” (an animated show that aired from 2004 to 2006) and the still-running, live-action “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” can attest, their often sexually tinged, scatological and dizzyingly odd humor is an acquired taste. Enjoy tickle-offs and pubescent tomatoes? Mini-Ted Danson and the rituals of Chrimbus? Then these are your guys.
“Luckily, there’s enough outlets and enough different kinds of people that we don’t need to be Kelly Clarkson or Justin Bieber to have a career, thank God,” Heidecker said. “We can kind of just do what we do. … We’re not going for big grand-slams.”
Their paltry $3 million budget for “Billion Dollar Movie” seems to confirm that. Produced in part by Funny or Die Productions (brainchild of Ferrell, iO Theater/Second City-trained movie director Adam McKay and writer/actor Chris Henchy, who helm the online comedy repository funnyordie.com), Wareheim and Heidecker’s first big-screen outing was a labor of love for which they drew showbiz-modest salaries up front. Depending on box office receipts, back-end bucks could pour in later — not that they’re counting on it.
One of the team’s early mentors, Naperville-bred comic actor and writer Bob Odenkirk (“Mr. Show,” “Breaking Bad”), has kept tabs on the fellows since they first mailed him a DVD of their college-hatched sketches. It was accompanied by a T-shirt bearing the image of Tim and Eric in business attire and shaking hands. And an itemized bill.
The latter, in particular, sparked laughter and convinced Odenkirk to watch something he otherwise would have thrown away. He phoned them soon thereafter and, before long, comedy careers were born.
“They don’t write comedy like they’re professors of pop culture or anything,” says Odenkirk, who did some voice-over work on “Billion Dollar Movie” and has contributed to other Tim & Eric projects. “They know where their voice is, and it’s an inspired voice. It’s not just some kind of intellectual exercise. … [It’s] an inspired point of view on the world and what makes them laugh.”
He compares their work to that of surrealist filmmaker David Lynch — not necessarily in substance but in tone, in its ability to make the intangible somehow tangible. As they “deconstruct culture and regurgitate it,” Odenkirk says, “you can’t put a finger on exactly what they’re doing, but especially if you’re young, you get it. You get how it’s funny, you get why it’s funny.”
Unlike, say, Wareheim’s mom, young people “smell the absurdity and fraudulence of a lot of media they consume, whether it’s TV shows or commercials or movies.”
Wareheim and Heidecker dismember them all and invent something comically Frankensteinian from the pieces/parts. “Billion Dollar Movie” is no exception.
“People are like, ‘So when are you guys going to sell out?’ ” Heidecker said. “And we’re like, ‘We’ve sold out in the sense that we’re doing what we want to do.’ ”
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