Tim & Eric as North Hollywood roomies, just one of many sets of characters on “Bedtime Stories.”
After so many format changes — from animation to faux-public access to shorts to feature films — why did you want to bring a Twilight Zone influence to your comedy?
We were coming off of making these shorts for HBO that told a little bit longer of a story, and had made the Tim & Eric movie, which was fun and hard. We didn’t want to just come back and do more Awesome Show or another sketch show. The idea that we could do anything for 11 minutes was sort of our beginning. At Adult Swim they trust us and are interested in doing weird things and not sticking to traditional formats. So, out of that we thought, what if every episode was a ghost story? It’s sort of like if you took a sketch from Awesome Show like “Child Clown Outlet”: let’s really live in that world and create a dark, cinematic story you can enjoy watching but is still funny, fucked-up, and weird.
After we made a few of them, we realized it could go in a lot of different directions because it’s sort of a loose umbrella that holds a lot of ideas and styles. We were inspired by Louie, where you can have multiple episodes that connect, or you can have characters that come back that you’ve seen before. If we make a second season [of Bedtime Stories], you’ll see just like everything else we’ve done, it builds on itself and becomes its own universe. You kind of have to start making something before you can really know what it is.
Do you ever feel like you’ve explored the depths of Eric, and in this case, John’s humor? Do they still surprise you with the twisted shit they come up with?
We rehearsed a bit for the tour today, and we were like three fifth graders in the back of church crying-laughing at each other. We were trying something for the first time and haven’t run it into the ground yet, as we will as we go through the tour and it becomes disgusting to us. At this point when we’re improvising — and we’re just dying. Everything John does in character as Brule is unbelievable and hilarious, so I don’t know about having explored every level of it, but still very amused by the two of them.
A few years ago, you had this online gag where you pretended you were the new Editor-in-Chief of Rolling Stone. Down to the shoddily Photoshopped covers featuring B-team classic rockers, it was truly inspired — but also kind of random. What prompted you to do that?
I think Eric may have been doing a few days on The Office. It was just one of those weird weeks where we just had nothing going on, or I didn’t feel like doing the stuff we had to do. I think it began with a tweet saying, “I am the new editor at Rolling Stone.” That was as far as I’d thought about it, but it was one of those things where it immediately got a lot of favorites and retweets. It seemed to strike a chord, and it just kind of inspired me to go with it for the next week or so. Rolling Stone have never been big supporters of us either, I should say.
I used to love and subscribe to Rolling Stone in high school, and it definitely shaped the way I think about things. But for years now, it has felt like a trashy, shitty magazine that still has this amazing reputation — sort of like Saturday Night Live, where when you actually look at what it’s producing, it’s pretty poor. So, it was a fun little target to play around with, and nobody gives enough of a shit to do it. I’m also a fan of classic rock and what’s funny about classic rock, and it was fun making those covers. Can you imagine if Micky Dolenz [from The Monkees] was on the cover of Rolling Stone now? Yet, at the same time, it wouldn’t be that crazy to think about Mick Jagger on the cover of Rolling Stone. There are these weird lines: it would be hilarious if Jeff Lynne [from ELO] was on the cover of Rolling Stone tomorrow, but it would make sense if Tom Petty was. But what’s the difference between these two things?
A lot of people believed it and still believe it. Sometimes I get PR requests from amateur rappers who Google “Editor-in-Chief of Rolling Stone” and my name comes up.
Has social media has changed the way you workshop a joke? Like you were saying, you created this whole world while riffing on Twitter and seeing that people liked it.
I tried to tone back using Twitter and responding to people because it can just get very out of hand very quickly. I’m trying to decide what I’m going to do about this show. I don’t really want to hear from everybody, you know? Especially the people who want to tell me what they think, because those people generally have negative things to say. It does actually affect me, and I know it’s stupid that it does. I’m thinking of not checking in so much. It’s very addicting, and it is nice to be able to communicate with people directly. It’s a great outlet for ideas that only work in that way, just jokes or stupid things you think about, but not really when you’re premiering new stuff.