Tim Heidecker: The Coolest Dad Ever
In preparation for his second Heidecker & Wood album, the comedian talks about not doing cocaine—and some other stuff.
Tim Heidecker is one of those guys who's just always been around. Making a name in the alternative-comedy scene over the past decade, his work—Tim and Eric Awesome Show and Tom Goes to the Mayor—have been staples of late night Adult Swim, providing stoned college kids hilariously stupid things to laugh at when they should be writing that paper on Wittgenstein. He's also jumped in an important role on this season's Eastbound and Down, playing the lovably silly Gene.
In short, Tim Heidecker is one of those guys who seems like he always shows up, and then you're like, "Hey, I know that guy, but I can't remember his name," and then like 20 minutes later you remember his name.
But outside of goofy sketch comedy, Heidecker has also made his way into the music world. On November 12, he'll join multi-instrumentalist Davin Wood to release their second album, Some Things Never Stay the Same, under the banner Heidecker & Wood. The record, like their debut, dabbles into parody, spoofing the world of '70s-songwriters, performing songs in the vein of Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne, and Randy Newman. What's interesting is that while listening to these songs, you can't quite tell if this is coming in earnest or not. The catch? Heidecker doesn't actually know himself, either. Last month, I called Heidecker up to get to the bottom of this record full of spoofs-but-maybe-not-spoofs, and we ended up talking about cocaine and being a dad.
Noisey: Hey Tim.
Tim Heidecker: Hey. One second.
Sorry, I'm just choking on something. I'm good, I'm just choking to death. Well, I was. I was choking but now I'm not. [Laughs.]
What were you choking on?
Ice. So it's not very serious.
Oh, thank god. How are you doing today, what are you up to?
I'm good. I'm not doing very much. My wife and I just had a baby.
Thank you. Yeah. Six days ago.
Wow, you really did just have a baby.
Yeah. [Laughs] But it's great. It's like the best.
That's great. Boy or girl?
What is her name?
Her name is Amelia.
Ah, beautiful name. Is this your first child?
Yup. This is our first. And it's very—it's all very fun and exciting and insane [laughs]. It was a long time coming. We've been working at it, and you know, planning it and everything. It’s funny. You're 26. I'm 37, and now we're just around a bunch of people that are all getting into it or either having kids or wanting to have kids or thinking about it. Enjoy your life right now. You'll start—most people—I did—you know, you start feeling it. You're like, okay, time to do something else. It's time to be a dad. [Laughs]
Versus how many weekends in a row can I get lights out drunk. [Laughs]
Yeah. I started realizing it about five years ago. We went to the LA county fair. And it's cool, but you know, you start doing things that you should really be doing with your kids, you know? [Laughs] I feel like I had this weird feeling—playing kickball and doing all these things that kid things. It’s like, all right, I got to have a kid now because I'm reverting to things I did when I was a child.
You’re from Pennsylvania, so how do you feel about raising a kid in LA?
Good question. I feel good about it. I mean there is lots to do here. You know as things continue to go medium-ly well for me, it will be fine. It's kind of an expensive thing to do. [Laughs] But, yeah, there's certainly like—maybe we should get out and get into like a small town. But we've got a lot of friends who have kids here, so it's good. There's lots of ways to do it.
The idea of having a child is very scary to me—mainly because I have no money because I work in a creative industry. As a creative person, is that nerve-racking?
I mean, yes. I do feel good. But I also realize how like fickle this business is and how—wow, what am I going to be doing in ten years, right? For my career that seems like a long time away, but it's not. It's going to be here and it's going to be here quickly. But you know, I probably said that five years ago and I'm still doing it, so.
It seems like it’s been a priority in yours to stretch yourself in as many goofy ways as possible.
The worst thing you want to get is cynical and be like, "We know what the people want, let's just give them more of this." In everything, we've always been like conscious of not doing that. And to some degree, you know, sometimes doing something over and over again is fun and is satisfying and it's creating a platform to do different stuff. But, yeah, it's always like—I don't think it's like an intentional conscious thing of like I gotta do something different, it's just... yeah, it comes out of wanting to entertain myself, or do something fun for me.
So much comedy is angry these days.
Yeah, I mean a lot of comedy comes out of being frustrated with the world—and even a lot of our stuff does as well. But also just that comedy can also come from the silliness of things and its absurdity. We try not to be angry.
Let’s talk about the record. What are you trying to accomplish?
What am I trying to accomplish? I'm trying to entertain. I’m trying to make a record that's fun to listen to and that kind of works on a couple different levels. The record's sort of evocative of certain kinds of music that I like.
The first record was a little more of a parody or a goof of a certain kind of music—like the soft rock. And the lot of the joke was in the production and in sort of the straightforwardness of the music and the lyrics. With this one, there's actually kind of ideas and humor in the songs themselves, like in the words. Like, the songs are actually about things. Not all of them, but I would say a lot of the songs on the first record weren’t. They were style, like, let's do a song in the style of this kind of music and the lyrics are almost intentionally meaningless, you know? Highlighting that it doesn't matter what you sing in some of these songs because you never listen to the lyrics. If you really looked at those lyrics, they didn't make any sense. [Laughs] I try to be subtle and let people figure it out.
What does subtle humor allow you to accomplish?
I mean I don't know that it needs to do very much, you know? [Laughs] I don't have like bold—I'm not going to solve any problems. For example, that song "Cocaine"—the joke would be this is a song that's unambiguously a pro‑cocaine song. It's just a positive song about cocaine. Like all songs about cocaine are generally like, better watch out, like it's good but it's got a dark side. It's always like this—and I've never done cocaine, but I wanted to do a song that's like—
Wait. You've never done cocaine?
No, I've never done cocaine. I'll say that for the record. I've done other drugs. I was the one person with the Nancy Reagan "just say no to drugs" like that worked on me. I was like, all right, okay, I won't. I've always been so hyper anyway; I didn't think I needed it.
It's kind of dangerous if you're energetic.
Yeah. [Laughs] But yeah, so that—I forgot what I was saying—but yeah, that idea of just this character that's writing this song is in the sort of honeymoon period of his addiction to cocaine where it's like, "Hey, what's wrong with this? It keeps me up all night and gets me through the day. Like what's the problem?" And even the bridge, has got to have some sort of counterpoint to this, but no, it's just another further endorsement. [Laughs]
Yeah, you don't have that like moment of regret. [Laughs]
Right. So what does it accomplish? I would argue a lot of these songs are catchy and kind of like, you know, you're gonna get some of these songs stuck in your head. It’s fun to make music, you know? And that's it. But I try to do it in a way that's going to be satisfying to fans of my humor. And fans of my humor are going to like appreciate the subtlety of some of the ideas or maybe not. And sometimes these songs might just be okay as just songs, you know, they are just more songs out there that like come on and you're like, "Oh, yeah, I like that song."
What does music let you do that sketch comedy doesn’t?
Music, in a way, comes a little more naturally to me in the form of expression than anything else. my whole life. Comedy requires a fair amount of writing and a lot of work. And it's fun but it's work and it requires a different part of your brain. And music, sitting down and writing music is leaving your conscious mind a little bit. I love the idea of creating confusion about what is sincere and what is not, and what's a joke and what is not. With this stuff, to really just put it out there without lot of sort of masks and hiding behind a character, being this guy that you have a perception of based on one thing, whether it’s the Tim and Eric stuff or my personality on Twitter or my On Cinema show or whatever it is. And then there's this other thing that I'm doing where I'm singing this straight‑up sentimental love song with no winking at all. I think it’s cool to be like, who is this guy?
I definitely wondered while listening to this record if you were fucking with everyone or not.
Yeah, I mean it depends. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. I'm a human being so there's feeling in the record. There's emotion that goes into these songs. But I like blurring the lines. The best satire of something is to do it very well and do it close to the real thing. What’s the point of making something that's just kind of crappy? We try to make things as real and good sounding as possible. And that can kind of live on—if you're not paying too close attention it just kind of blends in as regular music.
Do you have a favorite genre that you spoofed on this record?
There’s a slide guitar part on this song "Get Away Man" that like every time I hear it. I'm like, that is exactly evocative of this, like Jackson Brown or you know, something that's like very, very specific kind of playing—I feel like very proud that we nailed.
It’s weird to me because you're kind of spoofing but kind of not spoofing music that you earnestly love, right?
Yeah, I mean, I do love a lot of that music and then a lot of that music I find pretentious and super over self‑serious and precious. But you do have to love something secretly to make fun of it. I don't care about Britney Spears at all, so it's not very fun or satisfying to make a Britney Spears parody record, you know what I mean? It goes back to writing the kinds of songs that I write. They lend themselves to this era of production, or this sound. It might feed itself a little bit because I'm listening to this kind of music, and I write this kind of music and then once the songs are there, it's like, well, okay, how can we sculpt this in a way that's evocative of this kind of sound? And then what is the song about and can we find something funny to sing about? And maybe we don't find something funny to sing about. You know, doesn't matter to me. Well, sometimes.
What music now are you listening to that's not '70's songwriter?
[Laughs] Oh, god, it's pretty grim out there. I don't know. I don't like a lot of—I've been listening to a lot of Beethoven with my baby around.
Dude. Your kid is going to be so smart.
Symphonies. All night.
But, yeah, I like that Father John Misty record. But that’s it, you know? It sounds pretty much like an old record. I like new stuff but I don't like what you might consider new music, or the way current things sound. A lot of it's boring and droney. I don't need a lot of drone music.
What? Drone? What?
Yeah, I mean it doesn't feel like people are saying anything in their songs either. You know, like there's so much—does anybody listen to the lyrics of songs anymore of new bands? I don't know. Is there anything left to say in those three-minute songs?
Maybe you're proving that with your record.
Yeah, I think that's exactly. They don't seem very important. A lot of times the vocals are so buried. Like, "Don't listen to what we have to say because we know it's embarrassing." you know?
That makes sense. Last question: since we had a great conversation, and because my name is Eric, could I be Eric on Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show? Only for like, one episode?
I'll tell you what, you can absolutely be Eric.
I can be Eric?!
But not that Eric.
Take care, Eric.
Eric Sundermann’s name is Eric but he is not that Eric. He’s on Twitter — @ericsundy