Around 11:34 last Friday, my phone rang, and on the other end of the line was what sounded like a 20-year old modem screaming at me with the type of digital candor only available to machines. "Excuse me?" I said. The sound repeated itself. And that was the beginning of my weird conversation with Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, the two men behind Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! which airs on Adult Swim.
For anyone not familiar with the Awesome Show! it's a difficult one to describe. It has a flair for the absurd and a penchant for diarrhea jokes, but it's grounded in a reality that feels just as natural as any other show on television -- if not more. First glances might reveal weird public access style creepiness, but beneath all the fluff, there is something deeper, truly.
"We tap into the part of the brain called the 'glorb.' It's the part where comedy meets creativity," explains Eric, in reply to some nonsensical question about their creation process. They might have said "gorb," I don't know -- they're tapping into something, though, and they didn't learn how to do it themselves; it took training and practice. It took a trainer, too, someone they refer to as Sensei Gary.
"Sensei Gary taught us to open our minds," Eric tells me, without prompt. "We start each season in a centered space, and Gary comes in and sets the mood. We come into the production very late in the game." The production, at least in this particular version of the truth, happens on Sensei Gary's time; he is, if I understand this all correctly, the driving force behind Tim and Eric's creative powers. While many artists around the world and throughout time have latched onto the idea of a muse, Tim and Eric instead tried experimenting with different creative techniques, after they ran into some struggles.
"It's like you have no gas in the tank," Tim says, stuttering a little. "The gas is the fuel that gets you where you want to go, and when the tank is empty the car ain't going anywhere. We were on 'E,' and so we went to Sensei Gary and he put it all on the table for us. He was our magic gas station."
But the duo experimented before settling on Gary: "We tried improv classes," Tim starts.
"I tried homosexuality," Eric cuts in.
"How'd that work out then?" I ask.
"Not so good."
None of this actually has anything to do with what I asked, but what I asked isn't really important. Because for Tim and Eric, the performance doesn't stop on the stage -- it's life, it's reality. It's the truth as they see it. The same can be said about their show. It might seem like a random bit of absurd comedy, but although their antics are wacky, they're honest. More honest than an episode of Law & Order, anyway. Sometimes, when you peer behind the curtain, you just find yourself looking at another curtain.
"It comes down to us doing sensory preparation before the beginning of every season. When the creativity presents itself, we accept it," says Tim.
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"The glorb," Eric butts in.
In our time together I wasn't ever able to truly understand the glorb. I got that it was where comedy met creativity, but neither Tim nor Eric had a satisfactory answer for how one taps it. Regardless of what version of the truth I was getting, there is one thing we can all learn from them: tapping into one's creative potential can be a pain in the ass. And may require a Sensei. Or experiments in homosexuality.
Tim and Eric will be in town on November 9 at the Ogden Theater to perform Tim and Eric Awesome Tour Great Job! Chrimbus Spectacular 2010. They promise it'll be a good time. "As long as the man that kept talking to us at our last show in Denver isn't there."