Tim Heidecker: Cruelty and Humor in The Comedy
Everyone knows Tim Heidecker as half of the comedy team Tim and Eric. The team is best known for creating and starring in “The Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” and “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie.” He recently stopped by the SiriusXM studios to talk about his latest movie,”The Comedy”. Excerpts of the interview appear below.
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Ron Bennington: I’ve seen this film twice now. And don’t know yet how I feel about it.
Tim Heidecker: Wow. Finally. Because I get some many people that interview me…I don’t know if I believe them or not, but they’re like – it was great. I’m like – really? Everybody loves it.
Ron Bennington: I don’t know – I mean, great – I guess you could say it’s terrific in the fact that if you watch this film with someone, you could spend the next couple hours debating the pros and cons of it.
Tim Heidecker: Right.
Tim Talks about Making a Movie that Challenges the Audience
Ron Bennington: But what I do like about it – is in the thing of an independent film, it’s not A – B – C… …You have to work a little bit on this film.
Tim Heidecker: That’s right. Yeah, the director – I didn’t direct this movie or write it. I’m happy to be in it. I’m happy to talk about it. I like it, personally. But yes, I agree that it’s not a movie that hands the audience anything on a silver platter. It’s not intended necessarily to make you feel good. It’s not intended to affirm anything that you believe in or anything. It’s a challenging – definitely a challenging movie, but I think rewarding.
Ron Bennington: It’s about these people that are somewhat disconnected from their feelings. Irony taken so far that what meaning is left anymore.
Tim Heidecker: Right.
Ron Bennington: But I also think it’s like an age thing where if the characters, specifically your character, were 10 years younger – it may play as a funny comedy. You know what I mean?
Tim Heidecker: (laughs) That’s true. In fact, that was one of the original ideas – that the director came to me and said – I want to make a movie about these guys that are in their mid-thirties that should have probably moved on with their lives, but are still living in Brooklyn, drinking every night, partying – just haven’t really settled into a life.
Young People Have a Cruel Sense of Humor
Ron Bennington: And also the way that he uses everybody that he meets as a punchline. The thing about that too is this is an Adam Sandler – Will Ferrell type thing in real life. The way that everyone would not be thinking Adam Sandler is adorable if you had to fucking deal with him.
Tim Heidecker: (laughs) Right. It’s true. I like that. I think it’s like – yeah, there’s a lot of people that – I relate to the character in some ways. I don’t ever go that far with that in my life. And I’m not that cruel and mean in real life. Part of it is because I’ve gotten a career – I’ve gotten to be able to do this as a living. And I think there’s a lot of people out there that have that sensibility or have that sort of nasty sense of humor that don’t do it as a living – they just take it out on the people around them.
Ron Bennington: It’s just poor behavior if you don’t. But also, I thought about myself when I watched this – if I was much younger I might have loved it. You know when I saw like… I’m just trying to think anti-social movies like if you think of a “Five Easy Pieces” or…
Tim Heidecker: “Taxi Driver”
Ron Bennington: “Taxi Driver”. All that stuff that you caught as a kid and you’re like – this is great. But if you were fully an adult, you’re like – these guys are fucked up.
Tim Heidecker: (laughs) Yeah, I think you might be right that there might be a younger audience watching this movie that in a dangerous way could be sort of looking up to that behavior here. In the same way like “Clockwork Orange’ too.
Ron Bennington: Exactly.
Tim Heidecker: You know “Clockwork Orange”. I always describe it as it’s like if the Romney kids were in “Clockwork Orange”.
Ron Bennington: Yeah. And “Clockwork Orange” of course, I first saw that when I was like when I was a teenager and read the book then too. And I’m like – this is fucking great. This shows society I’m not joining in. But I think once you hit adulthood, you’re like…
Tim Heidecker: You understand it. So, you don’t need to be told that over and over again through films and books and stuff.
Ron Bennington: But at the same time, I do think that if you watch this film, you will see bad behavior. I think the stuff that offends you most is the stuff that maybe you’ve done before. So the things that would have offended me most is anything that was like against poor people or minorities because I may have been – you know, when I was younger – not understanding everybody didn’t have it as easy as me.
Tim Heidecker: Right. Also, sometimes you used it not – your intention isn’t to hurt people. Your intention is to make your friend laugh. Your intention is to make yourself laugh or experiment with social constraints or social politics and stuff, so yeah, I don’t think…most of the time, you must be like me – you get into a thing with a waitress where you’re making fake orders or just sending your food back. (laughs) And you’re more – you’ve got nothing against her – you’re just like – you’re just amusing yourself.
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Tim Talks About Why “The Comedy” is Not a Comedy
Ron Bennington: Well, your character actually to me, it’s like if Tom Green didn’t have a film crew, following him around.
Tim Heidecker: (laughs) Right. Yeah.
Ron Bennington: Everybody is Tom Green’s parents in this and have to put up with his shit. But there’s amazingly funny things that I think that he does that’s just a step out of what people would do.
Tim Heidecker: Right. Yeah. And it’s the tone the director sets that makes it probably less of a comedy. You know it’s not a comedy. It’s not treated as a comedy, but the character is humorous. He’s got a wit to him that’s there.
Ron Bennington: Well, calling it “The Comedy”, I think….
Tim Heidecker: Well, first of all, no one’s done it before, so I think the director….
Ron Bennington: Which is bizarre, right? (Tim laughs)
Tim Heidecker: It’s like – hey! And that was the first pitch to me – was like I want to do a movie called “The Comedy”. It’s not going to be funny. It’s going to be very serious. Sign me up for that. That’s a great idea.
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Tim Talks About Criticism of the Movie
Ron Bennington: So, you say you go out – I know you’re doing Q&As on this, right? Do you meet people who just don’t get it at all?
Tim Heidecker: Yeah. There is a few people. I’d say most of the people do and appreciate it for what it is. They might have issues with it, but they acknowledge that it’s what it is. But there’s been a few, at Sundance, we screened it. And a guy at the end – older gentleman, he was in his 50s maybe, he said – my first question, he said – my question is to the director – why did you make this movie? Because I think it’s the biggest piece of trash I’ve ever seen in my life. And everybody kind of like held their breath. And Rick (Alverson) the director said it’s funny, I understand you feel that way. My father asked me a similar question. Now Rick was saying – like my father asked me why did I make this movie? But what this guy heard was – You’re old. My dad’s old. You didn’t like because you’re old. And that guy flipped. And he said – this isn’t about how old I am! That’s ageism! And he started like yelling at Rick. And Rick calmed him down and said – that’s not what I meant. And he went on and he explained the film – gave some reasons why he made the film that made sense that were very well said and the guy shut up. He didn’t know what to say. But it’s funny that the first reactions after this movie especially could change over time. I mean it’s the kind of movie that you should definitely give some pause to afterwards.
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What Do Hipsters Think of the Movie
Ron Bennington: Now what do you hear from hipsters?
Tim Heidecker: Well, the hipsters are great because they hate hipsters more than anybody. (laughs) At least I’m not like that guy. And sometimes, it’s confusing because there’s a style to it that sometimes – you get trapped in it. You’re like – well, I like wearing sweaters. Does that mean like I have to…that doesn’t mean that I share the same world perspective as the other people. So, my fans, like the Tim & Eric fans – my fans are probably, a lot of them, you could put in that category. And they’re very positive about it and probably…I’ve had a lot of people who have written to me and said – I feel like I need to shave my beard now. Or it’s made me kind of evaluate the way I act and the way I talk.
Ron Bennington: There is a history of calling people things that they don’t call themselves. Beatniks, now ever said that. No one ever said – I’m a hippy. And “hipster” gets thrown into that. And normally, I think that too is intimidated by people who can spend more time thinking about the arts. And you bring up the Tim and Eric fans, which if you’re going to do alternative comedy means you’re going to take it to some uncomfortable place – how far? Why not go out and find out where the line is?
Tim Heidecker: Yeah, yeah. We’ve always just made stuff that we wanted to make that we thought was funny and didn’t think about it too much beyond that. But it naturally becomes that. It’s very personal.
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Are There Limits to Comedy?
Ron Bennington: At a certain point, you have to really do say – is there a border? Or is there no borders? Is it okay to go to a funeral and act like an asshole?
Tim Heidecker: Yeah. I mean in our own lives as I get older – as I sort of become more of a…settled down, yeah, the borders become much smaller in my own life. But the art that you make should always be kind of exploring.
Ron Bennington: Well, the other thing though I think that you kind of get into as an artist, is where you know – I don’t have to be completely outrageous and shocking to be entertaining – to be funny – to bring something up.
Tim Heidecker: Yes. You’ve got to craft it more and kind of work on it harder.
Ron Bennington: Yeah. Then you go – alright, it’s much easier not to make prank phone calls. (Tim laughs) When you’re a kid, you’re like – nothing could be funnier than interrupting someone else’s life.
Tim Heidecker: Yeah. The only time I do prank phone calls now – are when they call me.
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How to See “The Comedy”
Ron Bennington: Well, the movie is called “The Comedy”. You can see it in New York tomorrow. It’s playing in L.A. already. But also On Demand for all the people in the middle of the country…
Tim Heidecker: The 99%.
Ron Bennington: Yeah, the 99% who don’t have the cool movie theater that can show independent films – which by the way, I do think is excellent because I’ve lived in the suburbs before.
Tim Heidecker: Sure. I do it all the time. I think it’s great. If you have a good TV and sound system – listen, I’d rather watch something in my home than go to the movie theater and have a person texting in front of me and farting and stuff, so…no, I like going to see movies in the theater too, but it’s nice to have the option.
Ron Bennington: Well, you’ve set a bar for yourself with this one now. Now, everyone’s going to be saying…
Tim Heidecker: What’s next?
Ron Bennington: Yeah, what’s next?
Tim Heidecker: Probably something worse. (laughs)
Ron Bennington: Thank you so much for coming in, dude. It’s good to see you. And best of luck with everything. “The Comedy”, check it out.
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Follow Tim on twitter @timheidecker and visit his website timheidecker.com.
You can hear this interview in its entirety exclusively on SiriusXM satellite radio. Not yet a subscriber? Click here for a free trial subscription.
You can learn more about Ron Bennington’s two interview shows, Unmasked and Ron Bennington Interviews at RonBenningtonInterviews.com.