Strange times call for strange humor. Fortunately for us, we have alt-comedy savants Tim and Eric (Heidecker and Wareheim, respectively), whose humor is nothing if not strange. On Sunday night, the duo released the first episode of their new Adult Swim sitcom, Beef House, a week ahead of schedule. Like the best of every Tim and Eric show, it’s unclassifiable, weird, and hilarious.
When I ask them if they like sitcoms, Tim responds quickly with a hard no. But Tim and Eric have always mined comedy gold out of rigid formats, whether it’s commercials (here they are, selling "prices") or holiday specials (here they are again, celebrating "Chrimbus"). Beef House is no different. It follows five men (the Beef Boys) and one of their wives (played by Jamie-Lynn Sigler of The Sopranos), living under one roof, getting into domestic squabbles and wacky antics as a result of their bizarre cohabitation. That may sound like the premise for any sitcom from the past 20 years, but Tim and Eric push it to surreal extremes: An old Army buddy moves into the living room, disrupting an Easter fashion show; a global prune shortage causes constipation and threatens to ruin a hot-tub date.
Between wrapping their global comedy tour and the launch of Beef House, Tim and Eric caught up with GQ about the things that have been making them laugh lately. During our current coronavirus lockdown, the two say, they've been turning to old favorites and new talents to find levity in uncertain times—including some ’80s nostalgia, the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and a particular sketch they can’t believe they made.
Tim: This week I’ve been turning to comedy to break up the depressing news coverage. I went back to some old favorites and watched some old Albert Brooks movies that I hadn’t seen in a while. I’ve been watching him since I was a kid. The one I watched last night, Real Life, is a winner. It’s really funny and very ahead of its time.
I don’t know if Real Life is my favorite—it does feel a little like a sketch that got stretched into a feature. But Defending Your Life and Lost in America, they’re just perfect movies in my opinion. I relate to his work a lot, even though it may not look that way. He plays a very unlikeable character in a lot of his movies—he’s really kind of a bad guy, but he’s funny and you kind of like him anyway. A lot of the characters we do are not good people, necessarily. They don’t make the right choices. In Real Life he’s just very selfish—he’s all about trying to make this movie no matter what the consequences are and he’s very narcissistic, but it’s just filled with great comedy.
It also feels like simpler times. It feels good to look back at things that were shot in the '80s, leaving messages on old answering machines that had to be rewinded. So yeah, he’s been keeping me company at night.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Eric: Speaking of unlikeable characters that make you laugh, I’ve been enjoying Curb Your Enthusiasm. Tim and I were watching it on tour, as were all of our peers and friends, and we were all freaking out about how good this particular season is. You feel like Larry David just ramped it up to a Three Stooges level. And it’s also nonstop. A lot of the Tim and Eric library is nonstop silly, but this is on a different kind of level that’s almost slapstick. Almost every shot has something funny. You can tell that they’re having so much fun on set. That’s what makes me laugh, knowing that they’re having a great time doing it too.
As a side note, one of my top Hollywood moments ever was auditioning for Larry David for his movie Clear History. It was a very weird situation. I came in, they gave me just a little note of what I was supposed to do, which was “You’re next to Larry David, he’s wearing the same shirt you wore yesterday.” And that was it. I got into this room and started improvising with him, and I started making fun of him because the shirt was dirty, and he cracked up. I wanted to pull a George Costanza and just walk out, leave on a high note. I did not get that part, but it was an amazing experience.
Vic Berger x Jim Bakker
Tim: My buddy Vic Berger just launched his latest Jim Bakker video. Jim Bakker is a televangelist who’s just a huckster selling prepper food to elderly people. When Eric and I were young, he was on TV. He was the biggest thing in the world, and then he went to jail for tax evasion or some kind of fraud. He came out and he looks so different: He’s got this beard, he’s bald. He looks almost like he’s in disguise, like he doesn’t want to be recognized as that Jim Bakker.
All of Vic’s work is great, but he’s latched onto this way of editing these Jim Bakker videos that’s very surreal. It’s not a passive viewing experience—you’re kind of filled with terror and anxiety, but also you’re laughing and you don’t really know why you’re laughing. There’s just a rolling insanity that’s happening that’s really beautiful and special.
Eric: There’s a moment in there, Tim, that I’m sure got you, too, where the bald guy is eating his rations out of a bag, and it cuts back to Jim Bakker but you still hear him eating. Vic takes audio samples and loops them, so this guy is just chomping away during another scene.
Tim: He makes this juxtaposition where Jim Bakker is talking about the end of the world where this guy is chomping away, eating out of this bag like a horse. It’s a distortion of what the reality is, but it’s more accurate than the original clip.
All Gas, No Brakes
Eric: There’s this guy, Andrew Callaghan, who does a show called All Gas No Brakes. He has an Instagram and a YouTube account that he’s been doing for a couple years now. He’s only 22 years old. Tim and I are working with him to try to develop a show from what he does online. He goes around to all of these really bonkers conventions, like a gem and mineral-stone show or a border-patrol show, and he interviews them like a real person, and he gets the wildest characters. You get to see this insane cross-section of America. He’s pretty deadpan, which is not normal for the younger generation of comedians, to be quiet about it and let the characters kind of go crazy. It has a little bit of Eric Andre, a little bit of Nathan Fielder, but it’s a new generation.
It makes me feel a little calm nowadays, because everything is so wild. It’s so easy to get in your own head and get kind of personal about it, like, “I can’t believe this is happening to me, these struggles, these stresses, these weird things.” Then you watch his show and it’s just hundreds of different people that have their own wild adventures that are happening in their brain, whether they’re stable or not. It grounds me to be like, “Oh, yeah, everyone has a thing that they’re dealing with right now." It’s very funny, but it’s always comforting.
Good Morning Tri-State
Tim: Mark Proksch and Jason Woliner made this pilot a few years ago called Good Morning Tri-State. It never went to series. I don’t think it ever aired, but they put it up on Vimeo. It is one of the hardest laughs I’ve had in a long time. They basically made this local news show, like a local version of the Today Show. They structured it so Mark Proksch, this deadpan, Midwestern guy, was at the center, but they cast real news people to play all the other parts, and it’s sort of like this hidden camera kind of thing where no one is in on it except for Mark and the people making it. It’s insane. There are so many big, big moments, big jokes that they went for that pay off. And I also watch it going, “Of course this could not exist as a real show.” It would be hard to make another one because you’d start burning through people to be part of it. But it’s really funny, really special, and it’s online to watch for free.
Look Around You
Eric: Look Around You was originally a BBC show that aired on Adult Swim. These guys Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper do a lot of stuff in the U.K. They did this '70s science show. You really lose yourself in it. It’s shot really well, it’s really silly, but very dry. I’ve been finding myself watching that before I go to bed for something nice and mild.
Tim: What’s the song I love so much?
Tim: It was a competition on the show where people had to predict what the music of the future would sound like, and this guy performs this song.
Eric: It’s not futuristic at all, it’s just weird chord progressions.
“Divorce” - Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!
Tim: Some of our own stuff I find online, I’m just like, “Man that was insane, I can’t believe we made that.” There’s one sketch that came up, it’s called “Divorce,” from Awesome Show. It’s this family sitting around a kitchen table and they’re having a heart to heart, the dad is basically telling the family that mom and dad are getting a divorce. Then this kid, the younger of the two, starts burping his answers. The sketch just totally changes tone, and I was watching it wondering how we did it. The truth is just that the kid could burp words, but we didn’t know it until we shot. He started doing it and we just ran with it. There’s this great shot where the girl’s head is down, and you can tell she is just crying laughing. It’s a great combination of dark subject matter with a really absurd, silly twist. Then at the very end of it, there’s this punchline. We don’t think of ourselves as having punchlines, but the dad just turns to the camera and says “Get out of here!” Like, to us. It was super creepy.
Eric: I rewatched it after you were talking about it and I couldn’t believe that the mom was cheating on the husband with the burglar. She explains it to the kids, “Mummum’s with the burglar now.”
Tim: There are so many sketches we did, little things that I think are our personal favorites that don’t get shared as much, especially towards the end of the show when we were really loose and felt free to do whatever we wanted. “Divorce” was one of them.
Ahead of his inventive new HBO special, The Golden One, the 30-year-old stand-up talks farts, friends, and Instagram filters.
Originally Appeared on GQ