Talking to Tim Heidecker About ‘Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories’ and Future Projects
It’s been three years since comedy duo Tim & Eric’s last TV show, Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show Great Job!, ended its run, but they’re back tomorrow night with the pilot for their new Adult Swim series, Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories. It’s a Twilight Zone-esque anthology series, with the first episode involving Tim, Eric, and guest star Zach Galifianakis living in a haunted house to receive their grandfather’s inheritance.
Bedtime Stories is just one of many projects Tim Heidecker has in the works. He’s also releasing a soft-rock album with his band Heidecker & Wood, playing a recurring role on the current season of Eastbound & Down, and serving as a partner in the YouTube channel JASH alongside Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Reggie Watts, and partner in crime Eric Wareheim. Perhaps most impressively, Heidecker heads up, with Wareheim and Dave Kneebone, the production company Abso Lutely, responsible for making a rapidly-expanding number of comedy nerd favorites like Nathan for You, Comedy Bang! Bang!, The Eric Andre Show, and more.
I recently had the chance to talk to Heidecker about Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories, why he’s hands-off as a producer, and whether or not we can expect to see a new Tim & Eric movie sometime soon.
So, tell me a little bit about Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories.
It’s weird because we made the pilot this year. The pilot’s gonna air as a Halloween special, but we haven’t started the rest of the show yet. We’re not gonna start that until later in the year. The idea basically is it’s our version of The Twilight Zone, where it’s just a different story every episode, basically, from the minds of Tim & Eric. Funny but dark. Exploring dfferent genres and different tropes.
Is Zach Galifianakis in every episode, or is he just in the pilot?
He’s just in the pilot.
Was this an idea you guys have had for a while?
Yeah, we felt like we had done the sketch show and we had done these shorts for Funny or Die. We’d done a couple that we were really proud of — “The Terrys” and “Father and Son” — and they were these kind of prototypical short films. When it came to like, “What do we want to do next?” We didn’t want to do another sketch show, and we wanted to play around with a more cinematic style. Adult Swim is the perfect place where you can kind of do whatever you want, and you don’t have to have a lot of boundaries. There really hasn’t been a show in a while that’s an anthology show where you get a different story every week, so we thought we’d try to do it.
Have you guys started writing the season yet?
We’ve been writing for a while, not officially. We’ve started just collecting all our ideas and knowing what we want to do. We’re gonna do another season of Steve Brule, then we’ll start getting into Bedtime Stories.
Eric mentioned in an interview you guys are doing a mini-movie called Tim & Eric Go to the Moon for Adult Swim?
Well, we’re not sure about that. We wrote this thing, and it was one of these ideas that could be a movie; it could be a TV show; it could be anything. We wrote it as kind of this miniseries, and now we’re not sure — it’s one of these things that’s gonna take a lot of money to produce because it’s a big science fiction adventure. [Laughs]. So, we’re not sure. That might land as a big episode of Bedtime Stories, or it might be it’s own thing. Who knows? We’re not sure.
For Bedtime Stories, are you guys open to doing whatever story you want, or does it have to be sort of horror-y?
Yeah, in our minds, it’s gonna be whatever we want. I think, like every show we do, we can’t really know too much about what the show is until you start making it. We figured that out on everything we’ve done. It’s like, we have an idea, but it needs to figure itself out by making it.
Are you planning on using a lot of the same cast from Awesome Show for this?
Well, I think it’s gonna be a little slanted more towards decent acting and actual actors and not so much about the joke being that it’s bad. I think the emphasis is gonna be a little more on telling funny stories or weird stories, telling things that’s not just complete madness. It’s got some kind of satisfaction to it.
What’s your guys’ writing process like these days? Is it you two both in the room with a computer, or do you just pass drafts back and forth?
We’ll throw ideas to each other. If it’s my idea, we’ll talk it out and kind of agree on a general outline or general premise of the thing, then I’ll go and write it, and Eric will go and rewrite it or edit it. Then, we’ll just kind of kick it back and forth. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to sit in the same room and sit across from each other typing — you know, one types a word, the other one types the next word. So, if Eric brings an idea and I like it, he’ll go off and do the work.
Do you guys have any new projects for JASH coming up?
Yeah, we’ve got a few. We’re gonna do this series called “Dr. Wareheim.” It’s just me going in with various medical issues, and Eric prescribing me really disgusting things to do. We like doing these things that are a series that we can do a bunch of at the same time. It’s effective and fun to play with repetition.
Do you guys have plans to collaborate on videos with the other JASH comedians? I think there was talk of that originally.
I think if the idea is right. The whole thing with JASH was like, everywhere else you see on the internet, there’s this pressure for quantity. “Oh, we have to have a new video all the time.” We wanted a place where if we’re gonna do something, we’re gonna try to make it good. We’re not gonna be pressured to make stuff all the time. Whatever feels right, whatever feels natural. I love Michael Cera and all those guys, and if there’s an idea that makes sense that we do together, then that’s what we’ll be able to do. But the original idea wasn’t to create like a new sketch group, Tim & Eric & Sarah & Cera & Reggie. We have similar interests; we have similar friends; we feel like our styles gel well together. You know, if you’re watching a Sarah Silverman video, you might be interested in watching a Reggie Watts video, but those two don’t have to necessarily make something together unless it’s natural.
So with JASH, you guys never wanted to pump out constant videos like Funny or Die or other places?
Yeah, I think that just eventually affects the quality.
How big of a hand do you have in the day-to-day on different Abso Lutely shows?
We try to stay out of it as much as possible. We started this company six years ago or so to produce our own stuff. That came out of some bad experiences with producers and really trying to keep the quality and the integrity of the way we work consistent. Eric and I came from making stuff in our bedroom, in Eric’s office, and really off-the-grid kind of stuff, so when we built our company, we just brought in young creative people who hadn’t been spoiled by the system yet. You know, they’re just younger guys and girls who are just different and wanted to do different stuff and were excited about the work.
We had this company; we had great editors; we had great art people; we had great people who knew how to run the business; and we have taste. I can’t remember what show we did first — I guess Jon Benjamin [Has a Van] or something. It just made sense that when somebody like Jon Benjamin wants to make a show, he’s gonna be much happier here amongst the people that we’ve cultivated and developed than some anonymous Comedy Central studio set-up where they’re just a lot bean counters and union people.
The last thing I want to do is go in and tell Eric Andre what he should be doing with his show ’cause I didn’t have to deal with that from a producer. We got to be able to do what we wanted to do. So, we stay out of their way. We’re here if they come to us with a question or if they’re not sure how to handle the network or the politics of certain things, we can be there for that. And they often come to us with “Can you look at this cut?” Derrick Beckles’s show [Hot Package], we were a little more involved with that because we helped him structure and write some stuff, but generally I don’t want to get involved with messing with people’s creative. I don’t have the time either or the interest.
You almost have to pick people who are just capable of running their own show.
Yeah, there’s certainly some shows that come into us from our agent or from managers or something [where] we’re like, “I don’t know. That doesn’t really feel like our world. It doesn’t seem like that would fit.” And there’s only so many people and only so much time. It’s a small group of people we like to work with. We’re at a nice level right now.
But it does seem like the shows are expanding outside of your guys’ sensibility a little bit.
Well, yeah. I mean, Eric and I are super picky. There’s very few things that we like in the world, in general. [Laughs] We decided, we’re like, “Listen, our company’s not here to make clones of the things that we love more than anything in the world. We’re here to let people make their own shows.” Everything’s sort of in the universe, or in the galaxy, for us. We’re not making Law & Order episodes or anything. I would say more or less, I’m proud of everything our company’s made so far, even though [some of] it might not be my favorite cup of tea ever. And I think there’s gonna be stuff that I love more than Eric and Eric loves more than me. I’m not gonna be too judgmental of anybody’s shows ’cause I think everybody I know are just trying to make funny stuff.
Was there any model for running a production company like that for you guys? Because it seems like a pretty uncommon way to do things. A lot of producers are more hands-on.
There are similar companies, for sure, that operate like this, that we looked to when we were building it. We have a great producer who doesn’t get a lot of attention, Dave Kneebone, who runs these shows. He’s our partner in this. We just always looked at it like, “Hey, we’ve got all this great talent here. Let’s keep these editors working because next time Eric and I want to make a show, we don’t want them off on some other show.” Keep everybody together, that’s sort of the thought of it. And also knowing, “Who knows what’s gonna work?” and “Who knows what’s not gonna work?,” so let’s just try stuff and try to help people that we like and have good relationships with.
Do you and Eric have any plans to make another movie?<
Well, there’s nothing concrete. I think there’s projects out there that we’re interested in doing, ideas we have, but we’re focusing on this show which is gonna be kind of like making little movies each week. We don’t have to put all our eggs in one basket with an idea on a movie, which is gonna take two years of our lives. This is easier to go in and kind of jump in and jump out of ideas and make cool stuff.
Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories airs tomorrow night at midnight on Adult Swim.