Tim Heidecker talks about his dramatic role in “The Comedy”

Tim Heidecker is half the comedy duo, along with Eric Eric Wareheim, that is Tim and Eric. They have worked together on numerous TV series on Adult Swim like “Tom Goes to Mayor” and “Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!” and films like “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie”. Tim is starring in the film “The Comedy”, which is actually sits more in the dramatic genre. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Tim about his dramatic turn in this film and also what we can expect next from him and Eric Wareheim.

Mike Gencarelli: What made you want to approach this dramatic role in “The Comedy”?
Tim Heidecker: Well, I liked the director Rick (Alverson) and I liked his work. We had a long conversation about the movie and what he wanted to do and I really liked his approach.  It just sounded like a cool and fun project to do.

MG: How did you get yourself into the character of Swanson?
TH: We worked developing the character starting from myself…and then worked from that. We sort of dressed me up like a hipster and turned off all the regulators my brain that keep me from saying nasty things. We treated it with a more classic Hollywood filmmaking sensibility. We wanted to focus more on the technical and no so dramatic, theatrical or method style of filmmaking.

MG: You are no stranger to offensive comedy, were you ever concerned about letting too much comedy through your performance?
TH: I think because the film itself is so severe, dramatic, quiet and serious. We all felt that any moments of humor will act as relief and create a nice balance. We wanted to tap into the natural sense of humor that I have and try and use that in a different kind of way.

MG: The film is still quite edgy; do you think that fans of Tim & Eric are going to dig this?
TH: I think our audience in general is a really smart, creative, artistic sensibility type of audience. The reaction from the the core audience so far has just been super positive and encouraging. They are grown-up and they can understand that we can work outside of a certain box. Frankly, it was interesting to see if we could challenge our audience to give them something different to watch.

MG: In this overall experience, what would you say was your most challenging aspect?
TH: It was a pretty pleasant experience, believe it or not. The crew made it very easy. The director and I got along very well. I think just relaxing…was my main challenge. With Tim and Eric and most of the other stuff I have done, there is a real sense of instinct to overdo things in a comedic way and be ironic on camera. The challenge was to play things in a more naturalistic and quiet way. I focused a lot on patience and keeping it small, which is something that I am not used to doing.

MG: Was all the dialogue in the film improv?
TH: Yeah, it was all improvised dialogue. There was a written conceptual aspect in the script. Like “This is where Swanson goes into a bar and becomes provocative”. What comes out of my mouth is all improvised for the most part. That is just is the way that I am comfortable working. When you are shooting quickly, using mostly master shots and with long takes, it makes for a more relaxed and comfortable environment to get natural performances.

MG: Do you see yourself pursuing more dramatic work over comedy?
TH: I am grateful for any opportunities that are presented to me. I don’t have a lot of control over that. If things are offered to me, I consider them based on quality and project that interest me. But like I said I usually don’t have a lot of control [laughs].

MG: You have worked for yourself mostly in the past, how was it taking direction from Rick Alverson?
TH: It was a relief actually for the most part. For me, I enjoyed not worrying about that end of it. I trusted Rick and the only way I thought it would work is if I let go and let him lead. After a few days, I think Rick and I were on the same page and enjoyed collaborating. I think it was helpful for him having a guy that used to come from behind the camera all the time, since I understand what he was going through. Overall, it was just a really pleasant collaboration.

MG: Tell us about you have planned next?
TH: Eric and I are currently sitting around writing a mini-series idea for Adult Swim. We are still working out the details for it. But we want to comeback and return to TV next year for sure. So far we have some great new material in the works.


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Rick Alverson talks about directing Tim Heidecker in “The Comedy”

Rick Alverson is the director of the film “The Comedy”.  The film stars Tim Heidecker, known best for “Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!” & “Tom Goes to Mayor”, taking on his first dramatic role. Rick took out some time to chat with Media Mikes about the film and its serious underlying themes.

Mike Gencarelli: Your new film is called “The Comedy” but tell us about the serious themes underlying in the film?
Rick Alverson: The initial plan was to make a film about desensitization. It was a movie about the desire for an idiosyncratic and creative interaction with language and people. An idea of flirtation with the world, antagonism, desire to both connect and potentially irate or change or alter the world or be altered by it. There is a lot of underlying interest in inertness and mortality. Yeah, it is all there [laughs].

MG: How did you end up working with Tim Heidecker with his first dramatic role?
RA: Tim has a very unique set of skills. He has this capacity for a very particular kind of social engagement that I knew would, and did, work very well for the role. He was kind enough to come in, since we did not know each other prior. He saw my previous film “New Jerusalem” and him and Eric were interested in my work after that. We managed to portray Swanson in a way that is very volatile and most importantly ambiguous. It lightly straddles the line between the passive and the antagonistic and between humor and pathos, I suppose.

MG: The film still has some unsettling moments, were you concerned about offending?
RA: Well, that was impulse of the project. It is about the desire of an individual to push envelopes and to activate, whether it is disgust, it is pity or anything. There is a perfect parallel between the way the movie should act on an audience and the way the character acts on the other characters in the film. There is a symbiotic nature between the form and the content that way. It is strange to me how some individuals have been repelled by the movie, which actually isn’t a bad response. I would think to be repulsed by something would mean that it is serving a kind of larger purpose. I think, as American mainstream film-goers  we are used to being playcated and self-affirmed by our entertainment. We would our entertainment to do a very specific thing. We have been conditioned for that. Literally when that entertainment fucks with us, we get angry. This is a very gulf between what some people describe as the institutions of fine art and the mass-marketable, consumable enterprise of commodity entertainment. People go into museums to be perplexed. People go to theaters to be massaged. I think that needs to be shaken up a bit.

MG: This film kind of sticks with you after viewing; was that your intention?
RA: That is what I got to see movies for. If I am going to spend my time and money in something it should change me. It is worth you money that way. It is funny how people go into movies that advertise recreational escape and expect to have a good time.

MG: Tell us about the production; what was your most challenging aspect?
RA: Well, working against New York City. I mean with trying to work with a landscape that is so emblazed and cauterized in our mind as this particular place. I had to figure out how to literally film in that place and do it justice and respect, while at the same time not to be redundant. That was quite a challenge. I think the other challenge – probably the biggest challenge was finding those particular notes and walking that tight rope between the engagement of the thing and the dystopian kind of awfulness of the things, like the antagonism, cruelty, disrespect and obscenity. How do you do two or three things at once while making it palatable to the characters and also palatable to the audiences if the film was couched as a comedy entirely. Also how to also show some real distance where we recognize that as uncomfortable facts. I don’t know but it is a real tight rope to walk. People love to go to movies and to hate the bad guys and love the good guys. I think that it doesn’t help anyone outside the theater and we should likely be the other way around sometimes.

MG: Tell us about what you have planned next after “The Comedy”?
RA: I am making a movie called “Clement” that takes place in 1868. It deals with the early clan and freedmen communities in rural Virginia. It is kind of an anti-epic cruelty tale. It is something that looks at the literal root causes of the dystopian world that we see in “The Comedy”.


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